Autoscrubbers offer the easiest, safest and most efficient way to clean a hard surface floor, say experts. They finish the job in one pass, leaving floors dry and ready to walk on, eliminating the chance of slipping on a wet floor. Modern machines are so efficient that they also save on cleaning chemicals and water, making them an environmentally conscious choice.  

They range in size from 45-inch ride on models to 12-inch micro models. And yes, the smaller machines are just as efficient as their bigger cousin and far more effective than a bucket and mop.  

According to “The Official ISSA 612 Cleaning Times & Tasks”, a 17-inch non-propelled walk-behind unit will clean more than 12,700 square feet per hour. Meanwhile, a 16-ounce damp mop and single bucket and wringer will only clean 4,100 square feet per hour. Efficiencies and return on investment are obvious when comparing these findings. The smaller equipment can also easily maneuver in and around corners and into crevices that larger autoscrubbers cannot reach.  

“This allows better and more thorough cleaning where access is an issue,” says Hulin. “They are also great for restrooms where there is a lot of tile and grout. These are very effective in extracting dirt from grout lines.”   

Small autoscrubbers can be electric powered, featuring a cord. There are also newer units available that include Artificial Intelligence capabilities. But most distributors still recommend battery-powered equipment for its productivity advantages.  

“Battery operated equipment charges faster and lasts longer than in the past. And fewer cords mean fewer tripping hazards,” says Ken Horton, WCP Facility Solutions, Simpsonville, South Carolina. “Battery-powered floor scrubbers also provide freedom of motion and movement that is ideal when cleaning and maneuvering in tight spaces.” 

Horton adds that many of these machines are also “ergonomically designed to create less stress for the operator. This leads to less effort, which contributes to the larger value of protecting cleaning teammates from stress injuries or repetitive injuries. It also allows more efficient cleaning in all spaces no matter the size.” 

Training and Budgeting 

Guaranteeing frontline workers know exactly how to use machines correctly is imperative to getting the most value out of the purchase.  

“Training is the crux of the biscuit. Autoscrubbers are simple, but you must use the right pad and know how to safely fill the machine,” says Hulin. “Also, it’s really important to drain the tank every time or you will stink up your supply closet.” 

Hulin also warns against running degreasing chemicals or stripping agents through the machine. If this happens, machines should be well-rinsed before the next use, as chemical residuals can contaminate the next floor that is cleaned. 

To make sure departments capitalize on productivity advantages of incorporating equipment, training should extend to swing machines, too.  

“There are techniques that one must learn before using a swing buffer,” says Wood. “The rotation of a buffer can either move the water to the wall or away from the wall so letting workers know which direction to go when they get next to a wall is very important. For the best results I would take cleaners out into the field and show them how to use the equipment and then let them practice.” 

Building a Budget 

Incorporating equipment can offer a lot of benefits, but adding machines can be tough on the budget.  

“The price for microscrubbers range from $2,500 to $4,500. That price point will hold some people back,” says Wood. “Upright scrubbers, which look like vacuum cleaners with a cleaning path between 12-14 inches, run between $1,150 and $4,500.”  

While that is a lot of money up front, the return on investment (ROI) on these machines is  fast; particularly when considering how much more efficient and productive they are compared to mopping. 

“It’s about value versus worth,” says Hulin. “The worth is what you paid for the machine. The value is about how much you use it. The more you use a machine like this, the more value it has. Yes, it’s expensive, but so is a computer or a car. Technology like this makes cleaning easier and more effective.” 

Even with its high price tag, some departments find value in adding a small autoscrubber to an arsenal that already has a larger model. Wood has one customer that is tasked with cleaning a large resort/casino. To accommodate for both larger and small rooms, they utilize multiple walk-behind units; one bigger and one smaller. Ultimately, having multiple options depends on the building type and what work is required. And, of course, the level of clean the department is going after.  

“The industry itself is moving to higher levels of technology, and this impacts the smaller floorcare market,” explains Horton. “Vacuums are better prepared to filter while vacuuming, particularly in sensitive areas. Scrubbers use water more efficiently, and polishing is done more effectively in smaller areas. The entire building health profile is better cared for by using effective, efficient, and sustainable equipment.” 

Sometimes, there’s value to be found when thinking big but going small. 

Amy Milshtein is a freelancer based in Portland, Oregon. She is a frequent contributor to Facility Cleaning Decisions. 


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