The Principles of Rotary Floor Cleaning & Choosing the Right Equipment

Rotary Floor Cleaning Machines

In Knowledge Resource, Floor Care, guide, Rotary Machines

Rotary Floor Cleaning Machines


Rotary Floor MachineAlong with vacuum cleaners, rotary cleaning machines are the most common machines used by cleaning operatives throughout the industry. They could be accurately described as the workhorses of the industry, given the range of tasks they can be used to perform.

Although they may all look similar, the specifications of the different type of rotary machines will dictate their suitability for certain tasks. For instance, machines that rotate at slower speeds are more suitable for scrubbing tasks, whereas the faster machines are more suited to floor polishing procedures.

The Principles of Rotary Cleaning

Therefore, it is crucial that the correct machine is chosen to carry out any given task efficiently. The most common varieties of machine used have a single rotating head, onto which can be attached brushes, pads, bonnet mops, sanding discs and scarifying assemblies (more on these later).

The head itself is driven by an electric motor or, in the case of non-electric versions, propane and petrol. The power is transmitted to the rotating head in one of the following ways:

Direct drive - where the motor is situated directly above the head with the power being transmitted by means of a gear box.

Belt drive - where the motor is situated off centre or the rear of the rotating head with the head itself being driven by a drive belt.

The Range of Tasks Performed


Impacted soil deposits can be removed from hard floors by scrubbing, which requires the use of a suitable cleaning solution in conjunction with the machine. Brushes or a suitably graded abrasive pad can be used to dislodge the soil once it has been softened by the cleaning solution.


The tips of a rotary brush or the surface of an abrasive pad will scratch and cut at the floor surface to create a smooth surface with a gloss finish. If this process is used on a floor that has had polish applied, it will lead to the removal of the surface layer of polish to achieve the same results.

Spray Cleaning

Again, like scrubbing, the rotary machine is used in conjunction with a cleaning solution. It differs from scrubbing in that a buffable detergent is used and it is applied using a trigger spray or pump up bottle spray in the form of a fine mist, which, when subjected the action of the machine, will leave a gloss film on the surface of the floor. This process can be used to maintain unpolished floors or to maintain the appearance of floor treated with polish.


A soft grade abrasive pad is used to create a gloss finish on the floor. If a floor has been recently treated with wax, emulsion or seal finish, buffing will enhance the appearance of the floor by generating heat on the surface which will harden waxes and resins present in the newly laid polish.

Spray Burnishing

In essence, this is very similar to spray cleaning but the term is applied to the maintenance procedures required of floors where a buffable polish has been applied and the abrasive pad will remove soil along with the surface layer of polish to leave a glossy finish. Waxes and resins present in the product applied form part of the eventual finish, further enhancing the appearance of the floor.


This is the most aggressive way of removing impacted soil from a surface. A scarifying attachment is fitted to the machine that incorporates a series of sharp cutting tools that will remove soil deposits by means of a chisel like action.

Light Sanding

This can be done with the use of abrasive mesh discs used in conjunction with a slow speed machine. They can be used to lightly sand an uneven or damaged surface or strip back multiple layers of polish that cannot be removed by conventional stripping.

Bonnet Mopping

A cleaning process for carpets or hard floors using a standard speed rotary machine fitted with the appropriate bonnet mop. Each surface has its own particular technique and involves a surface-specific bonnet mop.


Floor_Bonnet_Mop A carpet bonnet is manufactured from a mixture of polyester and viscose and is an extremely effective cleaning technique. For best results the carpet should first be vacuum cleaned and pre- sprayed to tackle any heavy soiling. A solution of the appropriate detergent is used to pre-soak the bonnet mop which is then wrung out before being used to "buff" the carpet.

Hard Floors

Bonnet Mop - FloorsWith hard floor bonnet cleaning the rotary machine should have a centre feed facility and be fitted with a solution tank A hard floors bonnet is manufactured from a mixture of nylon and high tensile nylon which ensures that it is hard wearing and the mop does not hold too much water. To distinguish it from carpet bonnets the hard surface bonnet generally contains easily identified coloured fleck, and has a mesh centre to allow water to feed through to the bonnet.

The cleaning technique here is different to carpets. The bonnet is put onto the drive board in a dry state, and dampened by feeding water through from the solution tank. Only sufficient cleaning solution should be fed to the bonnet, and as the bonnet dries out more solution can be fed through. If done correctly the floor should be air dried in two or three minutes.


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Types of Machine

As previously stated, although the rotary machines may look similar, they do perform a number of separate tasks, depending on their individual properties. In this section we will look at the various types of machines available.

Single Brush Machines

Single brush machines have, as the name implies, a single rotating drive pulley driven, powered by an electric motor. The drive pulley itself can be driven via a belt linking it to the rotor of the motor or through a gearbox.

All machines apart from the Ultra High Speed machines are designed to be used in conjunction with drive brushes, abrasive pads and a wide range of other accessories and assemblies. Ultra High Speed machines, due to their speed configuration tend to be fitted with a fixed drive board which is not removed after use.

The working width of these machines can vary from 28 to 60 cm and the speed at which it is driven falls into one of the following categories:

• Slow or Standard Speed 120 - 250 rpm

• High Speed 260 - 360 rpm

• Super Speed 370 - 490 rpm

• Ultra High Speed 500 - 2000+ rpm

As a general rule, machines in the Standard, High and Super Speed categories, will tend to be swing machines which are operated in a side to side motion. They will have a head weight on the floor of anything between 20 to 45 kilos, depending on working diameter, size and weight of motor and general construction of the machine. The machines operate on the principal that at a point of equilibrium or in a horizontal position to the floor the machine will ‘hover’ in the same spot. By gently raising the handle the machine will move to the right, and by gently lowering the handle the machine will move to the left. It is a combination of this slight upward and downward movement on the handle that allows the machine to swing in a side to side action.


With Ultra High Speed machines, these are known as divided weight machines and tend to be operated in a straight line method. In order to facilitate these higher speeds the rear wheels will be in contact with the floor when in use and possibly the machine will also have a front or central castor wheel to give further ease of mobility. Ultra High Speed machines usually have a pad pressure of between 3 to 9 kilos, depending on the diameter and speed of the machine. This is why they are particularly effective in polishing or burnishing hard floor surfaces, but cannot be used for more aggressive cleaning methods such as scrubbing or stripping.


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