Is There a Difference Between Buffing and Polishing?

Is there a difference between buffing and polishing, you ask? Yes! Although both terms are often used as synonyms in our daily life, they have different meanings from an industrial point of view. 

Buffing and polishing are treatment methods for large facilities’ floors. Although the latter uses a heavier technique to get rid of chips and pits, the major difference lies in the used janitorial cleaning equipment. 

To know which equipment you need, you should know how each process goes and what it achieves. So, let’s check what these terms refer to and how each of them has a different impact on your building’s flooring material. 

What’s Buffing?

Buffing is a deep-clean and treatment procedure that removes the topmost layer of your floor. Just like exfoliating the top layer of skin to reveal the fresh layers below, buffing gets rid of the upper layer, eliminating the scratches, stubborn stains, and imperfections of your floor.

The process can also freshen up your floor’s appearance and add an attractive lustrous shine to it, though not like polishing; more on that later.

The machine required for buffing is called a buffer or rotatory machine. That’s because it looks like a vacuum cleaner and spins in a clockwise direction. The control buttons are placed on the large handlebar. 

To operate the buffer, you have to move from side to side as it can’t be moved vertically. The best way to do that is to start from right to left in a sweeping motion and take extra care not to linger on one spot for too long, or else you’ll ruin the floor’s inner layers. 

The operating speed of buffers lies between 175 and 300 RPM. While this speed is a long way from fast, it makes the machine less harsh on floors, rendering it suitable for various floorings like vinyl, concrete, tile, hardwood, and laminate.

Another factor that influences this procedure’s speed is that cleaning is required before running the machine on the floor. That, of course, consumes more time and effort.

What’s Polishing?

Polishing, also referred to as burnishing, is another treatment procedure for floors. The difference is that while buffing can treat and polish a floor, polishing only does the latter, but it does it better. Hence, it’s usually performed after buffing for extra shine. 

The piece of equipment used in polishing is called a burnisher. Although their purpose seems simpler than buffers, they are way more complicated in their construction and technique.

Burnishers are heavier, provide more pressure and run at higher speeds, usually between 1500-3000 RPM. They drive in a straight line, so their operation is more effortless, and thanks to their speedy operation, they cover larger areas in less time.  

There are many types of burnishers, and their size and power depend on the scale of cleaning you demand. They come with a wide array of attachments and may have more than one brush for extra efficiency. In short, they’re more practical for larger facilities if your goal is to achieve a glossy look with less labor time.

Although people may argue that burnishers are a waste of money since buffers can do their job and more, you get many benefits from a burnisher apart from getting rid of the floor’s worn and tired appearance.

For instance, they keep the floor cleaner for longer and minimize dirt damage. Moreover, they close the floor’s pores, making it tight enough to repel water, dust, and soil.

The Difference Between Buffing and Polishing

After digging into the details of each process, we can sum everything up as follows:

Buffing and polishing are two processes that work hand in hand to keep your floor’s condition in a tip-top shape. Large facilities use both methods as they achieve different levels of glossiness and protection. 

Buffers are versatile, low-speed machines that can be used on any type of flooring. They work in a side-to-side motion, and not only do they polish the floor, but they also clean, strip and scrub the soil from it.

Burnishers, on the other hand, only restore the floor’s luster. However, they’re large-scale machines designed to polish and protect large facilities’ floors in the least amount of time. While a buffer can take more than 24 labor hours to finish a 10,000 square foot floor, a burnisher can complete the job in no more than five hours.

The Bottom Line

Knowing the right ways to clean your facility’s hard floors makes the job easier, saves you money on labor, and protects your employees from potential slipping and falling accidents. 

Not to mention the pride that fills your chest every time you stroll down the halls and find the light glinting off of your marble floor and covering the whole area.

Buffing and polishing help you achieve these goals but with different machines. Both methods should be included in your facility’s cleaning routine.

However, if the task you have in mind is only to strip the floor, you need a buffer to get the job done. On the other hand, a burnisher is what you’re looking for if all you need is to restore the floor’s luster and produce maximum shine.