Once all details are in hand, a distributor can offer floor pad recommendations. It’s important to specify the right pad for the function, Wood notes. Stripping, cleaning, scrubbing, buffing, polishing and burnishing are distinct functions that use specific pads.

The industry has developed a standard color-coding system to simplify pad selection. The system moves from light to dark with light-colored pads being the least aggressive and dark-color pads being the most aggressive.

White pads are non-abrasive polishing pads that work well with slower-speed floor machines. These pads level scratches for a high luster look. Technicians can even use them with polished concrete to create a shine.

Red options are light-abrasive pads that work well for spray buffing to a satin sheen. Manufacturers designed these pads for light cleaning, and they work well with VCT and LVT tile. But McGarvey encourages end users to pay attention to machine speeds because often manufacturers do not design red pads for higher-speed equipment.

“Sometimes I see red swirl marks on the floor,” he says. “Now you have another project — removing marks from the floor.” Blue pads offer medium abrasion for lightly soiled floors and work well for deep cleans. Green pads also offer medium abrasion for wet scrubbing and can remove embedded soil and black marks in heavy traffic areas.

“If a floor is filthy and a customer wants to clean it, you will want to use green or blue floor pads. These are cleaning pads,” Wood adds.

When stripping the finish, an aggressive stripping pad or black pad does the trick, but pay attention to manufacturer instructions. These are aggressive pad options and some manufacturers discourage their use because they can damage floors if used incorrectly.

“If you use too coarse of a pad, you can scratch the finish,” Wood explains. “Then the floor won’t be shiny and it won’t look clean.”

Although color can direct choice, McGarvey warns that all pads are not created equal — the manufacturing process is a factor. For example, some manufacturers mix the grit into the pad composition, whereas others only apply grit to the pad’s surface.

“When it’s cooked throughout the pad, as the top surface wears down, it exposes fresh grit,” he says. “Pads where grit is sprayed on may cost less, but you get what you pay for. They will not last as long.”

With sustainability playing an increasingly significant role, McGarvey also suggests picking a floor pad that has Green Seal GS-20 certification. These pads perform as well as other pads but have a longer life to help reduce solid waste generation.

“This is just another area where we can look for sustainable products for our customers,” he says.

Specifying the right floor pads is a critically important job. Knowing the customer, their equipment and flooring, as well as the specifics of their operation and what they want to accomplish will help distributors make floor pad recommendations.

Ronnie Wendt is a freelance writer based in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

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