Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Selecting the Right Pads or Brushes Will Save Time & Money

Our industry is highly dependent on floor maintenance pads and brushes. The beautiful resilient floors you see every day are a direct result of these indispensable tools. It is essential that you understand the different pads and brushes, as well as their uses and impact on you and technician’s work.

In terms of cost, pads and brushed can be a considerable expense. Pad or brush selection is more than a casual purchase — it requires evaluation of productivity ratios as well as monetary considerations. Look at these tools closely to see if you are getting all that you expect from them.

It would be wonderful if only one pad or brush was necessary to complete all floor maintenance operations, but this isn’t possible. Stripping, scrubbing, spray buffing, burnishing and ultra high-speed burnishing require different pads or brushes.

Within each of these service types, different soils and floor coatings come into play that also affect pad or brush selection. Pads or brushes used for the wrong service, or inconsistent for the floor coatings or finishes used, will yield unsatisfactory results. Understanding which selection of pads or brushes to use, and why, will save many dollars and hours of trial and error.

Pads and brushes come in different sizes and shapes. Pads for standard floor machines and auto scrubbers are round and come in various sizes, while smaller pads used for hand work come in a rectangular shape and are available by the box. Sometimes, the center hole of a floor pad or an old pad cut into sections is useful for detailing.

Pads vs. Brushes

Although pads and brushes perform the same function, there is some debate as to which is better. I believe both have a place in floor maintenance. Ultimately, it boils down to a choice by the individual technician.

Depending on the situation, you may find that a pad performs better than a brush, or vice versa. If you are part of a small maintenance company or facility and do not perform a great deal of floor maintenance, the cost of the brushes may restrict you from buying them. Likewise, if the only service you perform is scrubbing on a concrete surface, then brushes become the only economic choice.

Regardless of which you use, or if you use both, be sure to thoroughly investigate the quality of the product as well as the cost. A poorly constructed product will yield poor results. Also, the most expensive item is not necessarily the best.

Primarily made of synthetic fibers, abrasives and adhesives, the floor maintenance pad dominates today’s floor maintenance market. The brush contains abrasive agents adhered to, or impregnated within, nylon bristles. For burnishing applications, some pads and brushes have combinations of natural animal hair and synthetic fibers.

Manufactured by several companies, both of these products are designed for a variety of uses and applications. Most manufacturers have a wide selection of products from which to choose, but they all fall into one of two categories: cleaning (removing soils or finishes or polishing (highlighting the surface or coating). Some superficial periodic maintenance services combine cleaning and polishing in one process.


The design of cleaning pads or brushes is specific to removal of soils, or floor seals and finishes. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand that the abrasives in the cleaning pads and brushes are generally more aggressive than those used for polishing. Because there is more than one classification of cleaning, and these categories break down even further, we will evaluate each cleaning service individually.

Stripping of a floor requires the removal of all floor finish and seal through use of a stripping pad or brush. Stripping pads are usually coded in black or brown, while stripping brushes are blue, green or gray. The amount and type of floor finish or sealer on the floor will determine the aggressiveness of the pad or brush. It is important to use the appropriate abrasive for the job at hand — too aggressive, and you may damage some floors; not aggressive enough, and the job may take much longer.

Standard black and brown stripping pads or brushes handle most average or periodic stripping operations. Used black and brown pads are excellent for light to moderate stripping services. For heavy build-up and extremely durable floor finishes, high-productivity pads or aggressive stripping brushes are useful in reducing labor time.

Most manufacturers of pads and brushes carry items classified for removal of excessive build-up. Although these tools are great for their designed purposes, they can cause damage to the surface of some floors. Exercise care and caution when using this type of pad and brush.

The scrubbing classification covers a range of pads that vary according to the amount of agitation required. A red or light green pad, or used green or blue pad, is perfect for removing daily superficial soils from floor surfaces. More aggressive removal of floor finish top coats requires a green or blue pad.

In the case of an aggressive scrub (removal of several layers of floor finish), a new blue or green pad, or used brown pad, will suffice. Scrubbing brushes may be color-coded as light gray, rust or light blue.

Selection of the proper scrubbing pad or brush is also important for the floor maintenance technician. The purpose of the scrubbing procedure is to clean the floor in preparation for additional coats or burnishing. If the floor is not sufficiently clean for the second part of the operation, then it will appear dirty, or worse, dirt will be encapsulated in the finish.

Spray buffing is a wet-to-dry operation. This service repairs scuffs and black marks caused by objects, such as chair glides and shoe heels. Application of a spray buff mixture, buffed on the floor with a red pad until it is dry and polished, is the traditional method. This service is excellent for repairing worn traffic areas. Be careful though. If the floor is not clean, encapsulation of dirt may occur.


Polishing a floor is the act of smoothing the surface to produce a shine. The degree of shine is dependent on the type of chemical and coating system used. Some durable floor finishes do not require polishing, while softer floor finishes demand frequent service. Polishing, buffing and burnishing pads are available in the broadest selections.

Soft bristle brushes, mostly used to maintain the softer carnauba waxes, fell by the wayside with the invention of polymer-based floor finishes. Since that time, the synthetic pads have dominated the polishing, buffing and burnishing sectors of the market. However, burnishing brush is now available for use in this arena.

Buffing pads are designed for use with lower-RPM floor machines (175-300) and softer floor finishes. White pads are predominant in this category, although soft bristle brushes can accomplish some tasks. Buffing pads and brushes are perfect for maintaining most wood floors and softer floor finishes.

High-Speed Burnishing machines are classified as units that produce 300-1,500 RPM. The additional rotations per minute help the burnishing pad produce heat and friction that smoothes and hardens the finish. Burnishing pads designed for these machines are usually yellow or gold, and are used for spray or dry buffing. If you are dry burnishing, a natural hair or a blended brush can produce excellent results.

Ultra High-Speed Burnishing is currently the most popular method of floor maintenance polishing. The productivity ratio, expressed as square feet per hour, and the quality of the finished product accounts for its popularity.

Manufactured for use with machines (electric, battery or propane) ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 RPM, these pads produce the “wet look” shone that is so much in demand. A variety of pads are available for these functions. Pad colors include: pink and white, beige, tan and crème, as well as natural hair or natural hair and synthetic blends.

Thermoplastic and polythermal finishes require heat and friction. Ultra high-speed pads satisfy both requirements. Used with conditioners, restorers or by themselves, these pads produce the ultimate in floor gloss.


It’s obvious that floor maintenance pads and brushes are necessities for the floor maintenance technician — it’s impossible to produce good results without them.

Obtain more information regarding pads and brushes from your supplier, distributor or the manufacturer. Knowledge of floor pads and brushes will help you and your staff perform services more efficiently, and more profitably.


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