300 RPM vs 3000 RPM

Floor Maintenance | 2019 | Buffing vs Burnishing

In the janitorial industry “slang” is king which leads to confusion.  So much so that many janitorial “pros” don’t even know the difference between a buffer and a burnisher and pretty much call everything “buffing.”

In short a buffer is used for multi-purpose operations from stripping / refinishing to creating / maintaining a low level shine on finished floors while a burnisher is for finish quality / shine maintenance only.

Floor Equipment


This multi-purpose machine comes in 175 & 300 RPM versions.  Don’t spend money on the 175 RPM version as it’s too slow and you’ll waste more labor than the $50 you’ll save going with the cheaper, slower version.

Buffers are heavy and the weight is concentrated over the center of the pad driver where the motor sits directly over.  Buffers are more durable and the motor bearings are designed to handle extreme resistance when scrubbing floors.  They can be used to:

  • Strip floors
  • As carpet cleaning machines with bonnets
  • Create a low level shine on finished floors
  • Repair finish damage from scuffs/etc
  • Clean floors

Note that buffers are limited on how well they repair floor finish because of the low speed operation.  They also cannot handle more modern “high speed” burnishable finishes.


Burnishers range between 1500-3000 RPM with the top of the range – 3000 – coming in monster gas powered versions.  Most use between 1500-2000 electric versions that are more reasonable.

Burnishers are lighter and the weight and motor is concentrated on the back of the machine towards the back wheels.  The pad driver has almost no weight on it by design as the bearings are designed to handle high speed but can’t handle any resistance or they’ll burn out fast.  They can be used to:

  • Maintain high speed floor finishes
  • Maintain all burnishable finishes

Burnishers are the best overall for maintaining modern floor finishes but are limited to this only – nothing else.  They also are unforgiving when using over dirty floors so do not try and burnish a dirty floor – you’ll ruin the finish and possibly burn up the motor bearings as well.