Skip to content Skip to navigation menu


Orbital Scrubbing: How to Strip Floors Without Chemicals

January 31, 2019 1:13 PM by Tennant Company



Removing Floor Finish with an Orbital Scrubber


When it is time to strip your floor, you have several decisions to make. Traditionally, floor stripping involved harsh chemicals and very hard, physical labor. Technology has made floor finish removal easier, but it can also be chemical-free as well. This guide will walk you through how to create glossy floors without using chemicals by using a top scrub and recoat technique. It’s important to notate that you will not be able to pull floor finish out of crevices without chemical. Top scrub and recoat is intended to remove the top 1-2 coats of floor finish saving time and labor!

Chemical-Free Finish Removal 

The chemicals used to strip flooring are harsh and can be damaging not only to the people performing this task, but to the environment as well. In addition, traditional stripping is very time consuming and expensive due to labor hours involved. Using an orbital scrubber to perform a top scrub and recoat project, means a safer, more economical floor finish removal solution. In a 24/7 environment, this also means less down time for customers, patients, and guests, and more uptime for facilities.  

Removing floor finish without chemicals obviously reduces chemical cost.  In addition, scrubbers also use less water, which is another cost-saving advantage, particularly in drought ravaged areas. This method poses less risk to your operators and prevents chemicals from being released into the environment. It is the safer, easier, floor finish removal option that will save you money.

Preparing the Floor for Finish Removal

The first step in finish removal is to prepare the area and surface. Remove all obstacles so the entire floor is clear. Clear the floor’s surface of any debris. Sweeping and using a dust mop can do this job fairly easily.

Steps to Removing Floor Finish

Use an orbital scrubber to remove floor finish following these simple steps.

  1. Make sure the abrasive rectangular pad (Surface Prep Pad) is properly attached to your orbital scrubber or floor machine.
  2. Utilizing your orbital automatic scrubber, set your solution flow to low, squeegee in the down position, and scrub over the entire hard floor surface. This will remove the top 1 to 2 layers of floor finish to prepare your floor for additional coats. Removing too much finish will require more re-coating to achieve a high shine. Orbital floor machines are often paired with orbital scrubbers for optimal productivity. Floor machines are particularly good at getting in tight or awkward areas such as under drinking fountains, doorways and creating cut lines. 
  3. Important:  Remember, the entire surface must be scrubbed and the top layer(s) of finish removed. If dirt/debris is embedded in lower layers of floor finish, this may require a second pass to ensure the floor is prepared for fresh floor finish. Not doing so may result in the appearance of a dirty spot (dirt trapped).

Cleaning Up After Finish Removal

When utilizing your orbital automatic scrubber, cleanup is almost completely done for you! The orbital scrubber uses minimal solution to reduce any airborne debris while the squeegee recovers all remnants of floor finish in one pass. A wet/dry vacuum should be utilized when using a floor machine and in obstructed areas (under drinking fountain, doorways, etc). Lastly, it’s recommended to use a microfiber cloth to ensure that all dust particulate has been recovered from this area before laying new floor finish regardless of removal method.

Recoating Your Floor

After removing your top layers of floor finish the floor may appear dull, but the base coats of finish should still be intact. You should not be able to see any defects such as scratches, shoe marks, snow salt, or cleaning residue. Now you are ready to reapply new coats of finish to add shine and protection to your floor.

With the introduction orbital scrubbing technology, traditional stripping of floors should only be considered when it is truly needed. An orbital scrubber makes the process of “stripping” much easier, faster and less labor intensive, all without using any chemicals.

Brands marked with ® are registered in the United States and/or other countries. Brands marked with the TM are not registered and protected under applicable law.