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Commercial Floor Buffers 101: What is a Floor Buffer?

Commercial Floor Buffers 101: What is a Floor Buffer?

Maintaining your hard floors is not just about appearances; it’s a critical aspect of effective facility management. 

Clean floors not only leave a lasting positive impression on customers but also contribute to a healthier environment for building occupants.  Of the many tools available for a floor maintenance program, one stands out as versatile and essential: the floor buffer, also known as a swing machine.

Below, we’ll delve into the world of commercial floor buffers, exploring their functionalities, applications, and the pivotal role they play in maintaining the cleanliness and appearance of your floors.

Often interchangeably referred to as swing machines, side-by-side machines, or rotary floor machines, floor buffers consist of a motor that drives a set of rotating brushes or pads, allowing it to perform a range of tasks on different floor substrates. 


A swing machine is a motorized machine designed for stripping, cleaning, and polishing different types of floors. It works by utilizing the rotational motion of its pad or brush to agitate the floor’s surface, lifting from it dirt, grime, and layers of old wax. 

To dispel any potential confusion, it’s crucial to note that floor burnishers, while similar in appearance, serve a different purpose

Distinguishing between floor buffers and floor burnishers is pivotal for understanding their applications. While both can be used to polish your floors, a floor buffer moves side to side, providing versatility in its applications, whereas a burnisher moves forward and backward, limiting its use to floor shining.

Throughout this article, we’ll stick to the term floor buffer or swing machine to avoid confusion and encompass the wide array of floor maintenance tasks a floor buffer is capable of.

Floor buffers are widely used in both residential and commercial settings to enhance the appearance and cleanliness of floors. They are designed to handle tasks such as removing dirt and stains, stripping old wax or finish, and buffing to create a smooth and glossy surface.

PRO TIP: Check out how to use a floor buffer in our article, Commercial Floor Buffers: How Do You Use a Floor Buffer? 

Let’s take a closer look at each of the floor care routines a floor buffer is capable of performing. 

First and foremost swing machines are an indispensable tool used by custodial staff and professional cleaners to ensure optimal cleanliness and appearances.

The mechanical action of brushes or pads, along with the use of cleaning solutions or detergents, enables the floor buffer to reach deep into the pores of the flooring material, ensuring a thorough and effective cleaning process. 

This capability proves particularly useful for hard flooring surfaces like tile, concrete, marble, and vinyl, where conventional mopping is unable to remove deeply embedded dirt.

In commercial settings, floor buffer are often utilized for stripping, a process that involves the removal of old wax or finish from the floor surface to prepare it for reapplication. 

This is achieved by using abrasive stripping pads or brushes in conjunction with floor stripping chemicals. This task is essential for maintaining a polished appearance and ensuring that new wax or finish adheres properly to the floor.

Buffing is another key function of floor buffers. 

This process involves the even distribution of polishing compounds through the rotational movement of the floor buffer’s pads, resulting in a glossy finish that not only improves the visual appeal of the floor but also provides a protective layer against future stains and wear.

A swing machine operates through the use of an electric motor that powers rotating a brushe or pad attachment. 

The brush or pad, in direct contact with the floor, play a crucial role in the floor buffer’s effectiveness. The machine’s ability to engage with different textures and materials is due to a combination of the floor pad or brush and the floor buffer’s rotational movement. The right combination of pad and movement speed ensures a thorough cleaning process. 

Commercial floor buffers typically operate on cord-electric power, with cords spanning 50 to 75 feet. Most commonly found in low-speed configurations, some models offer dual-speed functionality. Low speeds, hovering around 175 rpm, excel in tough scrubbing tasks like dirt and grime removal, while the higher speeds, approximately 300 rpm, are reserved for polishing floor finish.

To accomplish a range of tasks, swing machines employ an assortment of floor pads

These pads, distinguished by color, indicate their level of abrasiveness. For example, a black pad is best for stripping multiple layers of finish from the floor surface, a green pad is for deep heavy scrubbing, a blue pad is slightly less aggressive but still a good scrubbing pad, a red pad is best for removing everyday dirt and grime from the floor surface, while a white pad can be used to buff your hard floors.

From black pads for stripping multiple layers of finish to white pads for buffing hard floors, the versatility of swing machines becomes evident.

If you want to learn more about each of the different color floor pads and what they’re used for, check out our comprehensive guide on the subject

While the frequency of floor buffing depends on factors such as foot traffic and the specific needs of your facility, a general guideline is to incorporate buffing into your routine maintenance schedule. 

Regular buffing not only enhances the visual appeal of your floors but also extends their lifespan. Daily buffing for light maintenance and periodic buffing for more intensive tasks contribute to the overall health and longevity of your floors.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re tackling routine cleaning tasks, such as buffing out minor scratches, or engaging in periodic maintenance, like stripping or deep cleaning, the versatility of a swing machine is unparalleled. 

The combination of selecting the appropriate floor pad and utilizing the adjustable speed settings on the swing machine allows for a tailored approach to various cleaning and maintenance challenges.

If you’re interested in exploring the extensive benefits of swing machines, or want to seek expert guidance on choosing the ideal commercial swing machine for your facility, we encourage you to reach out to a nearby Imperial Dade facility.

Our dedicated janitorial equipment specialists are ready to offer a complimentary evaluation of your facility’s floors. They’re equipped to help you realize the potential advantages of adopting a swing machine into your floor maintenance program. 

Elevate the standard of your floor care by embracing the efficiency and effectiveness of a swing machine today!

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