There are many various types of cleaning machines or equipment on the market today for both commercial and residential use.  This is a brief overview of the type, power sources and uses for floor cleaning equipment. For effective cleaning results of any floor or surface, there are four basic and simple principles to follow.

  1. Time
  2. Agitation
  3. Chemical
  4.  Temperature


Using these four simple principles will allow anyone to end up with good cleaning results. Relative to this topic – floor cleaning machines, we will be discussing the second principle; agitation. Most floor cleaning machines and equipment are designed to provide the agitation needed to perform the cleaning procedure. Prior to machines, agitation was accomplished with elbow grease. However, manual agitation is burdensome to the person cleaning and increases labor.

The introduction of cleaning machines made the janitor’s life easier and increased cleaning efficiency while dramatically reducing the labor of the task.

The following is an overview of the primary pieces of floor cleaning machines and does not cover each one. But the ones discussed in this article will cover over 90% of all floor cleaning equipment designed to clean hard floors. When we state the cleaning of hard floors; we mean daily or normal cleaning. Although, some of the floor cleaning machines outlined in this article can also provide periodic or project type cleaning functions as well. We will be covering machines to clean carpeting and specialty cleaning machines in future articles.


Floor Cleaning Machines – Commercial and Residential Types


Types and Uses

  • Single Disc Floor Machines – Commercial & Residential: Electric Plug Powered equipment. These machines operate by a single motor that turns a pad driver installed on the bottom of the machine. Either brushes or floor cleaning pads are installed. It is the brushes or pads that provide the agitation while the motor provides a circular motion. These machines were some of the first on the market and run between 175 to 350 RPM. These same machines were also used to spray buff floors. This versatile machine could be used to clean all hard floors (resilient and non-resilient) as well as carpeting.
  • Automatic Scrubbers – Commercial: Battery or Electric Plug Powered, these machines normal run between 110 to 175 RPM. Units with slightly higher RPM are on the market.
    This equipment combines to include several steps in one operation. 

    • Application of the cleaning solution
    • The agitation principle utilizing either pads or brushes
    • Pick up of the cleaning solution
      This equipment made the life of the janitor even easier because it accomplishes several steps in one operation and further reduced the labor factor of cleaning floors. To our understanding the very first automatic scrubber was first introduced 1905 by Finnell System, Inc. Finnell is no longer in business but received many patents during its corporate life. These early machines were nothing like today’s automatic scrubbers. It was made with ¼ inch plate steel, extremely heavy and was somewhat difficult to maneuver and operate mechanically. Nevertheless, it revolutionized the floor cleaning industry from its first introductio
      Today’s machines are state of the art with computerized controls, advanced battery technology, high grade lightweight plastics, etc. They are simple to use and still a labor saver. This versatile machine could be used to clean all hard floors (resilient and non-resilient).
  • Wet/Dry Vacuums – Commercial & Residential: While this simple and effective machine may not be classified as a cleaning floor machine, it does provide increased efficiency for manual floor cleaning and Single Disc Floor Machines. This equipment picks up cleaning solution from the floor. Speeding up the cleaning operation. These units are normally electric plug powered but there are some available in mechanical operation (no power source required – Aztec’s Guzzler) and battery power. These units are also great to use in hard to reach and smaller areas being cleaned. This versatile machine could be used to clean all hard floors (resilient and non-resilient).
  • Specialty – Grout Cleaning Machines – Commercial: These units are normally Electric plug powered and the most effective performance units employ a cylinder brush system that allows the brush bristles to get into the grout lines of the floor. These units are used on all types of Non-Resilient tile floors that use grout lines.
  • Specialty – Steam Cleaning Machines – Residential: these units generate steam or hot water to provide the cleaning action to the floors. They are primarily used in the residences and provide principle number 4 – Temperature to clean the floor instead of agitation. They are lightweight, relatively inexpensive and built for the soil levels found in the residential market. This versatile machine that could be used to clean all hard floors (resilient and non-resilient).

Helpful Additional Reference Websites


ISSA Buyers Guide – Floor Cleaning Equipment

Aztec Products, Inc. – The Guzzler

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