When it comes to hard surface floor maintenance, perhaps no machine has had more of an impact in the past 20 years than the propane-powered floor burnisher.

As sanitary maintenance suppliers can attest, these machines continue to be strong sellers.

Why? Because propane burnishers do the job faster and better than conventional floor buffers and polishers.

Propane burnishers have been in production more than 25 years now, and over time they have improved considerably. Early prototypes were loud and produced excessive levels of carbon monoxide and other dangerous emissions.

Today, manufacturers build equipment that is superior in many respects

The Great Wide Open
Bigger is better when it comes to maintaining large, open floor space. And propane burnishers generally come in floor pad sizes from 21 to 28 inches. The larger the floor pad, the greater the floor area that can be buffed in a shorter amount of time. Some burnishers can reportedly buff 45,000 square feet per hour.

The time saved by using a larger burnisher increases productivity and saves labor time.

When selecting a product line for burnishers, consider ergonomics, or ease of use, as necessary features. Burnishers with engines as large as 16 to 20 horsepower, with in-line design, have less torque and stress on operators and engines. It is also useful to have burnishers with pad drivers that are designed so that quick and easy pad changing is possible.

Other helpful features include handles that adjust to the operator’s height, and offset design of the pad housing, which allows for buffing under shelves and other recessed areas.

Basic Upkeep
Sanitary/janitorial suppliers often offer equipment maintenance services. This is a necessity for many of the end users that don’t have in-house maintenance departments. It’s good to have your maintenance personnel trained and certified to provide manufacturer specifications on all repair work for floor care equipment.

Propane burnishers need periodic oil changes, air filter and spark plug checks, and they need engine pulley belts adjusted. Grease fittings should be serviced with a grease gun; the pad driver checked for wear or slippage; and wheel bolts, engine mount bolts and handle bolts all checked and tightened. Regulators and fuel lines need close inspection to prevent fuel leaks.

Any maintenance work on propane burnishers should be concluded with an emissions check, to ensure emissions fall within acceptable OSHA guidelines for hazardous gases. Give the customer a printout listing the test results and maintenance work performed.

Many sanitary suppliers also offer end users one-day training sessions on the use and care of propane burnishers. Training includes safe-operating techniques and direction on what facilities in which propane burnishers may or may not be safely used in. For example, small enclosed areas with low ceilings and poor air flow circulation are not ideal places to use propane burnishers, since carbon monoxide may build to dangerous levels.

During these training sessions, end users are taught how to properly care for propane burnishers, including checking oil levels daily, cleaning and shaking out dust filters after each hour of use, and directions for changing floor pads.

Emphasizing regular maintenance of equipment can save the end user a lot of trouble later on. Providing floor care equipment maintenance is also an excellent opportunity for sanitary/janitorial suppliers to increase profit margins with a valuable add-on service.

Add-On Value
There are propane-powered stripping machines built exclusively for floor stripping tasks. These machines are very effective, and can reach higher rpms than standard floor machines. Propane-powered stripping machines can reportedly strip up to 10,000 square feet per hour under ideal conditions.

Ultra high-speed (UHS) burnishers require use of a UHS-rated finish on floors. For best results, buffing pads must be compatible with the floor finish. A harder finish requires a more aggressive polishing pad, where a softer finish should be polished with a softer pad. It is helpful to consult floor finish manufacturers for their recommendations on what type of buffing pads to use on their finish.

Floors buffed with UHS-propane burnishers can sometimes make the finish difficult to remove, so it’s important to emphasize to the customer the need for staying with one chemical product line for strippers and finishes. Cleaning chemicals and finish restorers should all be part of a total package that goes with a floor maintenance program.

A great reason for using propane burnishers is that the former strip-and-refinish cycles of the past are kept to a minimum, since floors can be polished to a glossy, wet-look shine with high-speed buffing, rather than constantly having to reapply floor finish. Floor finish buildup is reduced and so is necessary stripping frequency.

While floor maintenance technology continues to produce vast improvements in floor care equipment and chemicals, it appears propane burnishers will continue to be a vital component in hard surface floor care programs.