End users appreciate the ability to strip floors without chemicals
When discussing the merits of orbital floor cleaning machines, jan/san distributors don’t oscillate: These units – also referred to as oscillating floor machines – have revolutionized floor care by cutting labor costs and chemical usage, as well as drastically improving cleaning outcomes. Square Scrub Surface Preparation Machines are a prime example of a money saving, cost effective way of stripping floors using no harsh chemicals.
“Orbital technology is a game changing technology in terms of labor efficiencies,” says Tom Tipton, owner of 4 State Maintenance in Coffeyville, Kansas.
In today’s world, we don’t get into the strip cycle as often as we did 10 to 15 years ago, so this machine plays and instrumental role in being a restorative tool for our industry,” Tipton adds.
In many cases, Tipton sees the orbital floor machine replacing conventional machines, such as swing buffers.
“By design the orbital machines we sell are square, and most of our rooms are square, so edge work and detail work become much easier,” he says. “Labor is reduced, and that’s what creates the benefit and popularity of the machine.”
In addition to design efficiencies that decrease the need for manual detail work, orbital floor cleaning machines operate at high speeds, oscillating the pad drive in tiny, quarter-inch circles between 2,250 and 3,500 revolutions per minute (RPM).
Conventional machines, on the other hand, rotate at significantly slower speeds between 175 and 300 RPM. Furthermore, orbital scrubbers are heavier, and this additional weight contributes to the machine’s efficiency, says Tipton.
The mechanical action of the machine also ensures that floors are cleaned more thoroughly.
“Instead of turning in a circle in one direction like a rotary machine, the orbital machine cleans in all directions,” says Keith Schneringer, marketing manager for Waxie Sanitary Supply in San Diego, California. “It cleans forward, backward, and side-to-side all at the same time. It provides a more concentrated cleaning, which also helps you to clean areas faster.”
The mechanics also make the orbital scrubber easier to maneuver, says Schneringer, which in turn increases speed, as well as worker safety.
“It’s potentially easier to operate than a rotary floor machine,” says Schneringer, “Typically the first time you operate a rotary floor machine, it can kick off to the side, and people can’t control them. With the orbital machine, the operator can become more proficient at using it faster than a rotary floor machine. It’s also potentially safer because it’s stable, and it’s not pulling the operator in different directions.”
Dealing With Dust
Orbital floor machines reduce or eliminate the need for chemicals used in the stripping process.
“Orbital floor machines in increase the effectiveness of mechanical cleaning, so that compensates for the removal of the chemical reaction.” says Schneringer. “In other words, with previous technologies you had a certain mechanical action that was augmented by using chemicals. Because the orbital machine increases the mechanical action you can now decrease the chemistry required to do the same cleaning function.”
Stripping a floor without chemicals saves end uses the added expense of purchasing stripping solution and supports green initiatives.
There’s also a safety component because you don’t have to work around the chemical, and you don’t have to dispose of the stripper solution,” says Schneringer.
Instead of chemicals, custodians use water and achieve the same results.
“Water is actually a natural surfactant, but in the case of removing finish, the water provides a place for the finish to go to,” says Schneringer. “So once you remove it from the floor you suspend it in the water.”
However, other distributors say using water isn’t always necessary. Dan Houle, president of Regent Supply in Edmonton, Canada recommends using a vacuum attachment for the orbital machine and a maroon surface prep pad.
“When you hook a backpack vacuum to the machine it sucks up any dust it’s making and takes off the finish,” he says. “You probably have to go over it two or three times, depending on the amount of finish on the floor. You can use water, but it makes more of a mess.”
In addition, when stripping wood floors, such as those found in gyms, orbital floor cleaning machines are best used without chemicals or water. One of the models Tipton sells has been outfitted with a ride-along vacuum assembly for dust-free operation.
“It’s a great advantage because if you’re going chemical-free or dry sometimes you get into some pretty labor-intensive efforts in dust-recovery.” he says. “It can become more costly than the job itself.”
Reaching The Finish
As more and more users learn the benefits of stripping floors without chemicals, distributors are seeing an increase in sales of orbital floor machines. Houle sells a lot of orbital machines to customers who need to deep scrub floors with a surface prep pad – and most of them use the machine without chemicals or water, he says.
Tipton notes that within the first six months of stocking orbital floor machines, he sold more than 200 units.
“My whole customer base bought into the value of the machine and made multiple unit purchases,” says Tipton. “It really is a game-changing, restorative piece of equipment.”
Although jan/san distributors agree that orbital floor cleaning machines do an excellent job of stripping floors without chemicals, they also point out that chemicals are in fact necessary to strip a floor completely.
“Without chemicals you can scrub off several coats of finish, but you won’t get deep into the floor.” Says Tipton. “You can take three to five coats off the floor by physically abrading them off, but there’s always going to be one to three coats in the tile that you have to remove chemically.”
As such, orbital machines can be used without chemicals to remove damaged finish on an interim basis between regular stripping cycles.
Given their versatility, orbital floor machines are a simple sell, say distributors. Not only are they easy to use, but the can successfully clean a variety of hard flooring as well as carpeting – a bonus for contractors saddled with cleaning and maintaining a wide range of hard and soft flooring surfaces in a variety ofmarkets.
“The machine identifies itself as a multi-floor tool,” says Tipton. “So it can do everything from cleaning and restoring structure tiles and abrading and top-scrubbing VCT tiles to screening hardwood floors.”
Schneringer also sees the machine being used for stone polishing and to clean grout lines in restrooms.
It’s a very versatile piece of equipment that could be used in any market.” he says. “Schools, hospitality, healthcare, office buildings … any place that needs a good cleaning result quickly and safely.”
End users are frequently sold on the machine’s versatility, but for those who are still on the fence distributors prefer to let the machine do the talking.
“The best way to sell the machines is to demonstrate them,” says Schneringer. “we recently brought in one of our orbital cleaning machines. We cleaned an area of their restroom with a focus on tile and grout. It was one of those demos where our contact got people from admin to come and see how clean we were able to get the bathroom. They see how easy it is to get results in a short amount of time, and seeing is believing.”
Kassandra Kania is a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.