Floor pads and brushes are available in dozens of shapes, sizes, and colors — each one serving a particular function. It can be easy for building service contractors to get confused about which is the right pad or brush to buy, but each choice depends on the floor surface and cleaning situation.

Each pad is designated a different color based on its aggressiveness — the lighter the color, the less aggressive the pad.

Light-colored pads are used for polishing, buffing and burnishing. White pads have little or no abrasive material in them and are good for polishing clean, dry floors. Tan pads, for dry buffing and light cleaning, remove light scuffmarks and dirt while polishing floors. Red pads are a little more abrasive and have different synthetic resin combinations, which keep the fibers and resins together. They remove light scuff marks and dirt while producing a smooth, glossy finish.

Blue pads are used for wet scrubbing or heavy-duty spray cleaning. They aggressively remove heavy dirt and scuff marks. Green pads are utilized for heavy-duty wet scrubbing or light stripping. They remove dirt and scuff marks from heavily soiled floors.

Dark-colored pads have coarse fibers and are used for scrubbing and stripping. Brown pads are designed for wet or dry stripping, while black pads are for heavy-duty wet stripping. They each aggressively remove wax, dirt and finish.

The more aggressive the pad, the more easily it can damage the floor surface. Cleaning workers need to make sure they have selected the appropriate pad before use. Most pads are designed to be used more than once, and contractors should always use both sides of a floor pad before discarding it.

Pads are used best on even floors such as terrazzo or vinyl tile. When it comes to stripping uneven surfaces, such as concrete, tile and grout, it’s better to use a brush.

Brushes, like pads, come in a variety of options. They vary based on the type and amount of bristles used. The aggressiveness of the brush depends on the thickness of the bristles, which range from fine and soft to thick and stiff, with about a dozen other choices in between. For stripping floors, contractors should use a nylo-grit brush, which features nylon fibers impregnated with a carbide grit. It is aggressive enough to lift floor wax and coating off a floor without damaging its surface. Cleaning or scrubbing brushes feature either nylon or bassine bristles.

One drawback to brushes is they are expensive and need to be cleaned after each use to remain in good condition. Pads, on the other hand, are cheap by comparison and can be tossed after a few uses. However, brushes are worth the investment if they’re taken care of.

Excerpted from the August 2005 and August 2006 issues of Sanitary Maintenance.