Are there times when a large autoscrubber is a bit too much machine for the job at-hand? There’s plenty of smaller floor cleaning equipment that can maximize productivity and reduce labor costs just as efficiently as the big boys. Here’s what cleaning managers need to know before making a purchase.  

Managers who are responsible for servicing wide expanses of hard flooring are probably well-acquainted with the autoscrubber. These machines lay down a precise mixture of cleaning chemicals and water, agitate the mix with a pad or brush and vacuum the slurry up all in one pass. Large autoscrubbers increase productivity, reduce labor costs, and deliver wide expanses of sparkling clean floors so efficiently that justifying their eye-popping price tags is easy. 

But what if departments have a smaller space? Or a big floor with lots of obstacles to navigate? A mop and bucket system may seem like an obvious choice for these cases. But there are smaller floor care machines that deliver a more complete clean without breaking the budget.   

Some version of the mop and bucket system has likely been around since humans started tracking dirt on their hard surface floors. But the modern deck mop is a fairly recent invention, patented by African American inventor Thomas W. Steward in 1893. Since then, there have been some improvements, but the tool has basically remained the same.  

Mops and buckets are popular and common cleaning tools because they are inexpensive to buy and (relatively) easy to use. While mopping, workers can easily reach under furniture and around fixtures and other barriers. 

The advantages, however, stop there.  

Manual mopping can be inefficient, labor intensive, and hard on the body if done incorrectly. Even worse, these tools don’t really clean as much as they spread dirty water around the floor. Because of this, mopping creates more opportunities for cross-contamination and more chances for a slip-and-fall accident on a wet floor.  

Leaving mop water on the floor to dry also leads to dirt and chemical buildup, something Stan Hulin, president of Future Floor Technology, Inc., calls “tacky floor syndrome. Even microfiber mops leave residue on floors,” he says. “Over time, this film attracts and holds on to more dirt and leaves floors sticky.” 

Versatility on a Budget 

A productivity advantage over traditional mopping, say experts, is a floor buffer, which delivers a more hygienic clean than mopping and with far less effort. They range in size from 12 to 20 inches and rotate at slow speeds (175 RPM). Swing machines can be used to strip floor finish as well as buff, clean, and scrub a hard surface floor.  

"These machines are very versatile,” says Charles Wood, Redwood Vacuum & Janitorial Supply, Santa Rosa, California. “All you have to do is change the pad and be sure to use the right cleaning chemistry.”  

Wood points to other benefits of a swing buffers’ small size.  

“Smaller equipment is much easier to move around and easily fits into a van,” he says. “This also means swing machines can effortlessly squeeze into smaller elevators and tiny supply closets.”   

However, there are disadvantages to cleaning hard floors with a swing buffer. These machines require many steps to get the job done, starting with removing loose soils with a vacuum or dust mop. If there is no onboard tank to apply solution, technicians must hand apply cleaning chemistry with a pump spray or mop.  

It’s also imperative that workers choose the right pad for the right job. Use the wrong color and cleaning personnel may prematurely damage the floor’s finish. The general rule of thumb is the darker the color, the more aggressive the pad. Brush pads offer a good option for cleaning grout and tile floors as the brush bristles reach into the grout to scrub out dirt and bacteria.  

Finally, after cleaning with a swing machine, technicians must remove the wet slurry, preferably with a wet/dry vac — but a bucket and mop could work in a pinch. All of these steps add up to a labor-intensive process that requires more than one piece of equipment. 

Despite the somewhat detailed process, Wood still feels this technology offers a lot of benefits.  

“The price of a swing buffer, wet/dry vacuum, and a bucket ringer and damp mop is considerably less money than a walk behind scrubber.” 

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Autoscrubbers Offer Advantages for Hard Surfaces