This is part one of a three-part article about new floor pads.

From polishing to stripping, janitors spend a lot of time using floor-care machines. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right pad or brush for the task at hand. But with more options than ever, many building service contractors find it easiest to simply stick with what they know.

“Most manufacturers offer upwards of 25 different pads,” says Rory Beaudette, vice president sales and COO for ACS Industries Inc., Lincoln, Rhode Island. “That’s complex for most operators, so they may need to spend some time educating themselves.”

Although there will always be a need for the basic pads, learning about myriad new colors and shapes is worthwhile. Many are designed to improve productivity and reduce floor damage, both of which can boost the bottom line.

 

Color Play

Generally, the various cleaning application of pads are distinguished by different colors, with increasing aggressiveness as the shades get darker. The most frequently used pads are white or tan for polishing, red for spray buffing, blue for cleaning/burnishing, green for scrubbing (or light stripping and recoating), brown for dry scrubbing, and black for stripping.

There’s typically not much variation between manufacturers in the most common colors. That doesn’t make it much simpler to choose a pad, though.

"While pad quality can vary significantly, the color of a pad and its function is relatively consistent across manufacturers," says Thomas Neu, marketing manager for 3M Commercial Solutions Division, St. Paul, Minnesota. "For example, all manufacturer’s red pads are used for buffing."


The pad not only needs to match the task at hand, but also the machine being used and the type of floor finish being treated.

Basic pads are designed for conventional 175- to 300-rpm machines. For newer, high-speed equipment, for example 1,000 to 3,000 rpm, manufacturers offer corresponding high-speed burnishing and buffing pads.

These ultra-smooth pads are typically pastel shades (powder blue, peach, pink or champagne). The lighter colors not only distinguish them from the more aggressive pads, but also reduce the possibility of color transfer at high speed.

Another important consideration is the floor finish. The softer the surface, the smoother the pad required. Harder finishes need rougher pads, and the other pads are made for everything in between.

“Gloss achievement is another thing — how much gloss do you want to bring back to the floor finish?” says Neu. “You take all that into consideration, and then use the matrix of products to choose the best pad for your needs. Sales reps can help with that process.”

In a high-profile environment, such as a shopping mall, a brighter shine is often the goal. To keep from removing too much finish, janitors may want a softer pad. On the other hand, many schools that only burnish once a month or quarter worry less about gloss and use more aggressive pads. The middle-ground pads are often used somewhere like an office, where the concern is equally balanced between appearance and durability.

“The biggest thing is to use the least aggressive pad to do the intended task,” says Rick Mazzoli, president of Treleoni, Manning, South Carolina. “Using a pad that’s too aggressive will take up more finish than needed. Then the floor surface won’t be as protected or shine as much. You may have to strip and recoat, which takes more time and time costs money.”