In the early 1900’s, around the same time that vacuums were introduced, electric powered floor cleaning machines, called divided-weight machines, were introduced. These machines were used for polishing and scrubbing floors; they moved in a push-pull manner & were equipped with vegetable fiber brushes. They were designed to carry the bulk of their weight on the rear wheels, which stayed on the floor while operating. Later, when it came to keeping wooden floors shiny wax was applied to the floors and then polished to a lustrous gleam with the machine. Divided-weight machines were slow and rather heavy, but not heavy enough to put the right amount pressure on the brush to optimize the performance of the machine. Nevertheless, using one of these machines took a lot less time and effort than manually washing the floor. Floor cleaning machine makers quickly realized that they needed to develop a machine with more pad pressure to get the best buffing and scrubbing results…this is how the swing machine came into creation. Unlike the rear weighted divided-weight machine, the swing machines weight was centered & its rear wheels lifted off the floor during operation. These machines were difficult to maneuver and users often lost control of them, leaving the machine to run into the nearest wall or any other object in its path. It took a lot of training to learn how to properly operate a swing machine correctly. Not surprisingly, this seemingly erratic machine was bound for more improvements and before long the 175 rpm electric buffer appeared.
In the late 1950’s the first variable and high speed machines arrived. Rotation could be adjusted to between 175 to 350 rpm, by the operator. These machines were very popular in the 1960’s when manufacturers started selling different varieties of floor finishes that resulted in a high gloss shine when cleaned by a floor machine with fast rotation. By the 1970’s rotation speeds were up to between 750 and 1000 rpm’s. However, floor pads and floor finishes were not designed to withstand the increased rotation speed. Therefore, the floor pads deteriorated quickly and certain floor finishes would crack or break. After a few years of trial and error, pads and floor finishes that could withstand between 1500 and 2000 rpm’s were developed.
Jump ahead to today and there is a wide range of machines available for industrial and commercial floor cleaning purposes. From ride on and walk behind floor sweepers and scrubbers to burnishers, wide area vacuums and all purpose floor cleaning machines, there is currently a machine for almost every application. These machines are incredibly effective and efficient, with companies constantly coming out with new and innovative technologies and cleaning solutions.