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A Guide to Floor buffers Vs Burnishers. Pictured is a Buffer.

Mastering Floor Care: The Ultimate Guide to Buffers and Burnishers

Welcome to Okum Supply's definitive guide on the heroes of the commercial floor care world: buffers and burnishers. Whether you’re stepping into the realm of floor maintenance for the first time or you’re a seasoned pro looking to upgrade your equipment arsenal, understanding these essential machines is key to achieving spotless, gleaming floors. Let’s dive deep into the world of floor buffers and burnishers, uncovering how they operate, their ideal jobs, and much more—in our signature friendly, informative, and collaborative tone.

What Are Floor Buffers and How Do They Operate?

Often known by several names—swing machines, floor machines, or side by sides—floor buffers are the multitaskers in floor care, designed to strip wax or finish from hard surface floors and maintain their appearance through scrubbing. Operating at lower speeds, typically around 150-300 RPM, with dual-speed machines reaching up to 400 RPM, these powerful tools consist of a single motor that rotates a pad driver. This pad makes 100% contact with the floor, thanks to a design where the wheels lift off the ground during operation and are only used for transporting the machine.

The Jobs of a Buffer

Floor buffers are versatile, handling a variety of tasks:

  • Bonnet cleaning carpets
  • Stripping coatings and wax off hard surfaces
  • Scrubbing floors for routine maintenance
  • Tile and grout cleaning

With cleaning paths ranging from 13 to 20 inches and most commercial machines boasting a 1.5 HP motor, the power behind a buffer ensures effective rotation and cleaning action. It’s crucial to select the right buffer for your needs, as not all are suited for every job. The gearbox, providing power and stability, plays a pivotal role in the balanced motion of the pad, with triple planetary gearboxes offering superior balance control and torque.

Burnishers: Bringing the Shine

In contrast, burnishers specialize in producing that coveted "wet look" shine on hard floors. Unlike buffers, burnishers move back and forth, relying on the wheels for movement, which results in about 50% of the floor pad making contact with the floor. Commonly found in a 20” size for basic models, burnishers operate at higher speeds—1000 to 3000 RPM—perfect for achieving a high gloss finish.

Advanced Features for Enhanced Performance

While the corded electric models are the most common and cost-effective, advanced burnishers offer features that can significantly boost productivity and ease of use, including:

  • Cleaning paths from 12 to 35 inches
  • Automatic height adjustment
  • Dust control to keep the work environment clean
  • Noise control for less disruption
  • Options for battery or propane power, with propane models providing the highest speed and power

When considering a burnisher, it’s important to weigh the options against your specific needs, especially considering factors like dust production and the type of shine desired.

Buffers vs. Burnishers: Complementary Forces in Floor Care

The relationship between buffers and burnishers is symbiotic. Start with a buffer to deep clean and prepare a hard surface floor, then follow up with a burnisher to unlock that gleaming, polished finish. Each machine has its place in a comprehensive floor maintenance program, with buffers laying the groundwork and burnishers bringing the aesthetic appeal.

Choosing the Right Equipment for Your Floors

When selecting floor care equipment, consider the types of floors you're maintaining, the desired outcome, and the efficiency of the machines. Remember, the key to optimal floor care lies in understanding the capabilities and best use cases for buffers and burnishers. Okum Supply is here to guide you through the selection process, ensuring you have the right tools to keep your floors not just clean, but impressively shiny and well-preserved.


Navigating the world of commercial floor machines doesn’t have to be daunting. With a clear understanding of the functions and benefits of buffers and burnishers, you’re well on your way to elevating your floor care routine. Whether you’re aiming for deep cleaning or a high-gloss finish, the right equipment can make all the difference.

At Okum Supply, we’re committed to providing you with the knowledge, tools, and support needed to achieve and maintain pristine floors. Dive into our selection of floor care equipment, and let’s achieve those cleaning goals together. Because when it comes to floor care, knowledge isn’t just power—it’s shine.

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