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Buffers versus Burnishers: Which one do you need?

What is the difference between a buffer and a burnisher? While they can look similar from the naked eye, they have very different uses and capabilities in order to get the job done.

Low Speed Buffers are made as an all purpose machine, kind of a "jack of all trades, master of none." Normally a floor machine will spin around 175 RPMs, operates with the wheels off of the floor and uses a 110v cord. Depending on the pad, a low speed floor machine may be able to work in several different ways. If used with a black pad, it could help strip a floor. If used with a red pad, it could clean a floor and with a white pad, it could help polish a floor. A low speed floor machine gives you flexibility as you can have one machine that is able to do most things. While it gives that flexibility, if you are doing more scrubbing of the floor, a floor scrubber would be more efficient. If mainly stripping the floor, then perhaps a propane strip machine would be better. A low speed floor machine is best for the individual who has a small area of coverage, but still needs to clean, polish, and strip a floor. Some other terms used to refer to these units are swing machine, motor-on-stick, or scrubber. It's best to refer to them as a low-speed buffer and steer clear of a miscommunication.

Low-Speed Floor Buffer (Floor Machine)

High Speed Burnishers, whether electric or propane, have but one purpose -- to polish the floor. While a low speed floor machine will polish at low RPMs, a burnisher operates at a much higher RPM (usually 1,500 RPMs but can range between 1,200 and 2,000). Since it spins so much faster than a low speed machine, the effect it has on the floor wax is completely different. A burnisher, going over a waxed floor, generates heat on the floor. The heat melts the wax on the floor and restores the wax to its original luster, which provides in most cases a more polished shine on the floor as the light reflects off of the floor. You'll notice burnishers always operate with the wheels ON the floor and runs in a straight line -- not side to side like a low-speed buffer. These units can be purchased to run off of battery power, electric cord to a power outlet, or a propane (LPG) tank.
High-Speed Floor Buffer

If you’re looking at a piece of equipment and you’re not sure if it’s a high speed burnisher or a low speed buffer, just check where the motor is. Any floor machine/buffer is low speed and would have the motor directly over the pad/brush. A high speed machine has an offset motor, so the pad area is out front of the motor. Terms like buffer and polisher are often used interchangeably, so make sure when talking about these units you use a more specific name or give context in order to avoid confusion.

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