Buffer vs Burnisher: Which Machine is Right for the Job?

by Lawton Brothers | May 13, 2023

Floor maintenance is an essential task in any facility, and it can make a significant difference in the appearance and lifespan of your hard flooring. However, it is crucial to choose the right machine for the job. Using the wrong machine can cause damage to your flooring or equipment, and can even create safety hazards. When it comes to maintaining hard floors, the two most commonly used machines are buffers and burnishers. 

A buffer is a low-speed, rotary machine that is also known as a "swing machine" because of its side-to-side motion. Buffers typically spin at 150-330 rotations per minute (RPMs), and they can be used for scrubbing/cleaning, stripping, and buffing hard floor surfaces. The buffer rests directly on a pad, creating 100% contact between the pad and the floor. The machine does not rest on hind wheels, and wheels should only be used for transport. Buffers are always corded machines that have wheels for transportation. 

On the other hand, a burnisher is a higher-speed machine that spins at 1000-3000 RPMs. Burnishers are used for polishing hard floors. Due to the faster rotation, the burnisher creates friction on your floor, creating a "wet look" shine. Burnishers rest on the wheels of the machine 24/7, driving the machine straight. On most machines, about 50% of the pad will touch the floor, but some advanced models offer better pad-to-floor contact. Just like buffers, burnishers come in a variety of sizes, but they also have different power options. Burnishers can come corded, battery-operated, and propane-powered. 

The primary difference between a buffer and a burnisher is the RPMs they spin at and the tasks they are used for. Buffers are used for cleaning, stripping, and buffing, while burnishers are used for polishing. It is crucial to choose the right machine for the job because using the wrong machine can cause damage to your flooring or equipment. For instance, using a buffer for polishing can cause swirls and scratches on your floor, and using a burnisher for cleaning can leave behind dirt and grime. 

When choosing between a buffer and a burnisher, consider the type of flooring you have, the level of maintenance required, and the frequency of use. Both machines have their advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right one depends on your specific needs. For instance, if you have a high-traffic area that requires daily maintenance, a burnisher might be a better option because it creates a glossy finish that is ideal for high-end retail spaces. If you have a smaller area that requires occasional maintenance, a buffer might be a better option because it can perform multiple tasks such as cleaning, stripping, and buffing. 

Floor maintenance is a crucial task that should not be overlooked. Choosing the right machine for the job is essential to ensure that your flooring looks its best and has a long lifespan. Buffers and burnishers are both valuable tools in floor maintenance, but they have different functions and cannot be used interchangeably. When selecting a machine, consider the type of flooring you have, the level of maintenance required, and the frequency of use to make an informed decision. 

Tips from the Pros

At Lawton Brothers, we know a thing or two about clean. Whether you’re looking for a buffer, burnisher, or other piece of cleaning equipment, we’ve got you covered. And we even offer equipment repair and rentals! Give us a call today and see how we can help: 800.432.0813

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