3 things to look for when selecting pads for floorcare

As more housekeeping professionals venture into commercial cleaning, one of the tasks they will likely need to perform is floorcare.  When selecting floorcare equipment, cleaning professionals typically put their greatest emphasis on the machines, tools, and procedures used to perform the floor care tasks, such as cleaning, scrubbing, stripping, buffing, and burnishing or polishing.  What is invariably overlooked – and is actually one of the most important elements when it comes to floorcare – is the pad.

The quality of floor pads can vary and this can have a very big impact on worker productivity, the difficulty of the floor cleaning task at hand, and for the cleaning professional, how much the floorcare task costs.

We should also note that even though different floor pads may be marketed as “green” or promoting sustainability, some are greener and more sustainable than others.  If a green cleaning strategy is in place in a commercial facility, and because floor pads typically have a short lifespan making them an unsustainable product, this is something cleaning professionals must pay attention to.

Floor Pad Basics

Just so we are all on the same page when it comes to floor pads, these are typically placed under a low-speed (175 rpms or 350 rpms) floor machine or a burnisher. In most cases, a housekeeping professional will do well – and save a lot of money – by using a low-speed machine.

The colors of the pad are very important because it indicates exactly what the pad is designed to do.  For instance, if a “green” scrubbing floor pad is mistakenly used when the task at hand is to strip a floor, which would require a “black” pad, the result can be a lot of wasted time, labor, materials, frustration, and even damage the floor.

Over the years, industry standards have determined the colors used for pads.  In general, the darker the pad, the more abrasive, scrubbing and stripping capabilities it will have. However, a red pad manufactured by one company may not perform the same as a red pad manufactured by another.  As a result, when selecting floor pads, it is often a good idea to ask your supplier to let you “test” a couple of different pads from different manufacturers.

Another floor pad basic we should point out is that proper care of the pad along with cleaning after use can have an impact on the useful life of the pad.  However, the key factor in how long a pad lasts is how it is used.  Stripping pads have a very heavy workload and invariably the shortest life span. Conversely, polishing, buffing, and even burnishing pads should wear more slowly and last longer.

What Pads are Made Of

Most floor pads are t made of three key components:

  1. Fibers
  2. Resin binders
  3. Abrasive (for stripping and scrubbing


Very often the fibers in a typical floor pad are made from polyester.  The quality of the polyester fiber can vary – another reason to test drive a pad or two before making a selection – and some are made from varying percentages of petroleum, non-renewable, as well as recycled materials.

While this does help promote sustainability and minimize the use of natural resources, a new generation of floor pads has taken this a step further.  These pads are made from “biobased” plant and agricultural materials.  Not only are these materials totally renewable, biobased products are produced by using less polluting processes than products made with petroleum or other non-renewable resources.


Resin binders are the glue that holds the pad together as well as abrasives to the pad.  Many binders are made from non-renewable materials but some are water-based, making them more environmentally responsible.


All pads have varying amounts of abrasive materials in them. It can be difficult to detect the quality of the abrasives in a pad and even after it has been used, it may “look” the same but the abrasive materials – and the effectiveness of the pad – have been diminished.  With the abrasives gone, cleaning professionals must flip the pad and use the other side or select a new pad.

Pad Selection

If there is one key takeaway of this article it is that floor pads can vary in many different ways.  While they may look the same and cost about the same, that does not mean they are the same. So what should cleaning pros look for when selecting floor pads?  For most floorcare tasks, these are the things to look for:

An open web design.  All floor pads have thousands of crisscrossing fibers.  A pad with an open web design allows soil from the floor to lodge in between those fibers.  This helps remove soils from the floor, maintains the effectiveness of the pad, and allows soil to be washed out, helping to reduce supply costs.

Resiliency.  To the naked eye, most all floors look flat with little variation in height.  However, there are often areas where a floor is higher or lower than other areas. We can call these imperfections and due to the weight of the machine, as the floor pad is used over these imperfections, it can damage the pad or shorten its lifespan. Look for a pad with resiliency and this can be termed using the following quick and easy trick: pinch the edge of the pad between your thumb and index finger.  If the pad bounces back to its original shape almost immediately, it’s a higher quality, resilient pad.

Denier. This term refers to the gauge or thickness of the fibers in the pad. While all pads will have some fibers which are thinner, a long-lasting pad will have a higher percentage of heaver, thicker fibers.

A final thought on floor pad selection is to pay attention to changes and new technologies in floor machines and the cleaning solutions used to clean and maintain floors.  As these technologies change, it may necessitate using different types of pads.  Always view the equipment used in floorcare as part of a system: the machine; the chemicals; and the pads.

Dennis Knapp is Director of Product Development at Impact Products, LLC.  His focus is jansan related products, tools, and equipment.  He can be reached through his company website at www.impact-products.com

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