Should You Choose Floor Machine Pads or Brushes?

Floor pads, rotary brushes, and cylindrical brushes do many of the same jobs – cleaning, scrubbing and stripping. Why use one with your floor scrubber instead of the other?

Carlisle rotary brush, 3M pad, and Tornado cylindrical brush.Cylindrical Brushes

If you want to use a cylindrical brush you have to have a floor machine built for that purpose. Cylindrical brushes are better at working soil and material out of grout lines and indentions. This is because the brushing action is linear and can be aligned with the depressions between tiles. The bristles go into and follow the grout line along the length of the brush. First you move the brush parallel to one direction the tiles are aligned, then at a right angle to clear the other grout lines. 

To rotate a cylindrical brush, there are mechanics in place at both ends of the cylinder  to convert the torque from the machine shaft to the brush. Because of this, cylindrical machines generally require more frequent repairs, a trade-off with the improved cleaning. More moving parts may mean longer repair times. In the long run, many consider cylindrical brushing for tiles worth the additional attention the machine may require. A cylindrical floor machine can also be used on flat floors.

Floor Pads

To use pads, your scrubber or burnisher must have the pad driver attached, a plate with short bristles or nubs, usually extending outward from the center to grip the pad. One advantage to pads is that they are relatively quick to change. You pull one pad off an unplugged machine, following instructions. Then you settle the pad driver down on the next pad before re-starting the machine. The initial cost of pads is lower than brushes. (In the long-run, rotary brushes are almost always worth the investment. See below.) 

Pads are not as good cleaning where there are height variations or grout lines. The pad slides along the highest surface, so depressions don’t get as much attention.

Most machines use a pad size that is 1 inch smaller in diameter than the machine cleaning swath is listed as. That number often follows or is incorporated into the machine name.

200 pads or one rotary brush to store? - Carlisle BrushRotary Brushes

The rotary brush will attach directly to the shaft of the scrubber. So each change takes a little more time than it would with pads, but generally less time than changing a cylindrical brush. Rotary brushes will then do a more aggressive cleaning job. The brush tips are angled and on some brushes cut to varying lengths to work into grout lines and crevices.

Rotary brushes will cost more initially than a box of pads, but last much longer and are the most economical choice in the long-run. Carlisle Colortech (TM) rotary brushes were tested by the University of Illinois and found to last as long as 200 pads in doing the same job.

Rotary brushes are generally sized 2 inches smaller than the machine, because of the flare of the brush fibers.

Orbital brush movements dramatically increase brush effectiveness. Here is information on an orbiting rotary brush machine

Breaking in a Rotary Brush

Rotary brushes need to be broken in so they are ready for use, particularly on carpet. Burrs and imperfections in manufacturing can cut into carpeting strands (called “tipping”) if this important step is omitted.

1. Mount the brush following the owner’s manual.

2. Find a rough surface like unfinished concrete that will not be damaged by the brush.

3. Operate the machine without chemicals for 15 minutes. Note that after this has taken place, the brush fibers will be “set” into place in the direction of rotation.

4. Rinse the brush to clean away any dirt or particles.