A good floor cleaning machine can be like an extra member of staff for a busy cleaning team, if carefully chosen. However a bad choice can lead to a machine that gives you headaches with regular breakdowns and worse still, a machine that sits at the back of the cupboard and rarely gets used.
Thinking about buying a Scrubber Dryer? What do you need to know?
1) Mains Powered
A mains powered machine will be cheaper to buy and to run, but won’t be any good if there are people around to trip over your cable.
Mains power is a good choice if you need to use the machine for several hours at a time; it’s got no battery to run out of charge!
2) Battery Powered
A Battery powered machine is perfect if you have to move it around and clean a number of floors. Not having to worry about the cable speeds everything up.
If you are going for battery powered, make sure you get a machine with a long enough run time to do the job in one charge. With most battery types you have to leave them on charge, uninterrupted for several hours.
If this is not practical, go for one of the new Li-ion battery machines. Still in its early stages in cleaning machines, Li-ion batteries have no memory and can be part-charged without damaging them. Also they are often slot-in batteries like a power tool, which means you can run one battery while another ones charging. At the moment it’s mainly smaller machines that are available in Li-ion.
If the area to clean is large (+2000m²) or there are not many/any power points, then a battery machine is a must.
If you do go for battery powered, only consider maintenance-free batteries and whatever you do make sure your staff know how easy it is to damage a battery.
3) Disc or Cylindrical
Disc type floor scrubbers have a disc like brush or pad holder and these are the most popular.
A disc machine with a pad holder is the most versatile because you can change the floor pad to suit the floor. This is the type you want if you have a relatively smooth floor, a floor that marks easily or a range of different flooring.
Cylindrical machines usually have two roller type brushes and are really good at cleaning ingrained dirt out of Safety floors like Altro floor and other rough finishes. Large cylindrical machines are also idea for floors with very heavy soiling as they have a much higher contact pressure on the floor.
They do, however, wear out brushes very quickly, so runing costs are high.
4) Walk or Ride
Until recent years you would part with £10-15K for a Ride-on. The new Micro Ride-Ons brings riding within the reach of nearly everyone with a price bracket of well under £6K and a footprint no bigger than a 20” walk-behind.
For the really big spaces (+3000m²) a Ride-on is the only serious consideration and a full sized machine as well. For the smaller areas (2000 -3000m²) like secondary schools and college corridors and halls, a Micro Ride-on could be a good option. As long as one person doing the main floors can clean then in 4 hours or less.
However don’t get carried away by the thought of cruising around, two basic 20” walk behind machines cost the same as one 21” Micro Ride-on. Both have about 4 hours run time. So it all depends on what you have got to clean, how many staff you have and how much time you’ve got.
5) Size matters (a bit)
If you have too big a machine it won’t get used enough and you will end up having to do the edges and corners with a mop.
Obviously you don’t want to go too small either, however if it’s a battery powered machine, run time is more important than cleaning width.
There’s no hard and fast here, go with what feels right for the area. Check the run time, check the theoretical productivity rates, but don’t go too big.
6) Bells & Whistles
Endless options? Very few are worth having and they crank up the cost alarmingly.
You probably don’t need a fancy chemical dosing system. 20” walk behinds and under don’t need traction (Powered drive). Go for the base model. The more electronic gadgets you have the more expensive the parts you will potentially be paying for when the machine is out of warranty.
Thankfully some of the new machines are now surprisingly simple and basic and guess what? They do the same job and are easier to use than machines twice their price!
The choice of chemicals is simple. You must have a low foaming scrubber dryer chemical if the machine has a vacuum pick up (which most have), and you must not make the chemical solution too strong. Otherwise you will foam up the recovery tank and burn out the vacuum motor (and it won’t be covered by most warranties).
The main options in a Scrubber Dryer chemical are
- a) Alkaline – for non-sealed floors
- b) Neutral – for Polished and delicate floors. If in doubt use a neutral product.
Make sure you have an easy way to get the dilution of the solution right and avoid guesswork – Guesswork = foam = machine damage. Ideally have dosing charts up on the wall.
8) User Training
Most suppliers offer some sort of training, particularly with the bigger machines and most cleaning machine manufacturers give a very poor, sketchy instruction manual.
Training is good, however the problem is you forget it because there is so much to take in and often someone ends up using a machine that they haven’t been trained for.
The best way of making sure the machine is used and cared for, is to have a good photo instruction guide of the correct use and care of the machine. Have a laminated copy of this with the machine.
The key thing with maintenance is to keep the machine cleaned properly after each use. The lack of this is the biggest cause of break downs and problems.
Always give yourself time at the end of using a machine to empty the dirty water and clean everything thoroughly. It’s very important to keep the squeegee blades and hose clear and clean.
As long as you do this and you have maintenance-free batteries, there is not a lot of maintenance to do. Keep a close eye on the squeegee blades and replace them as soon as the flat on the edge wears to a point.
Of course it’s a good idea to have the machine checked over once a year by a service engineer.
10) Do you really need a Scrubber Dryer?
Bit of a strange question to ask right at the end! The thing I hate is going around cleaning cupboards and seeing very nice machines at the back of the cupboard not being used.
Before investing in a machine ask yourself the following;
- Will it be used regularly?
- Is it easy to use?
- Will it save time? (think about the time it takes to set up & clean down as well as using)
- Could I use anything else?
If it is a smaller area, think twice about investing in a floor cleaning machine, Look at some of the flat mop systems, one of these may do just as good a job and get a lot more use!