use a floor buffing machine

Floor buffers are not as easy to operate as you may think. They can be unwieldy and bulky, seeming to operate with a mind all their own. Here are a few techniques that will help you to operate one safely and efficiently.

First, in order to have a lasting shine on the floor, it must be cleaned and stripped. Use a chemical floor stripper and apply it to the floor to remove all traces of wax and dirt. Lift the buffer base and install a stripping pad. Center this pad under the machine’s rotating mechanism. Make sure that the buffer wheels are raised and locked in the upright position.

Examine your extension cord for any breaks or abrasions before use. Secure the extension cord to the buffer power cord with duct tape or loop the cords together. Plug the power cord into a grounded outlet and let it trail behind you.

The buffer is quite heavy and exerts a lot of force when you start it, lurching to the right in the direction of the spinning pad. Brace your weight and use a firm two-handed grip, or the buffer will quickly leap out of your hand and smash into the nearest wall. The key to successful operation is to let the buffer do the work, not fight it, controlling direction using tilts of your wrists. Tilting the base of the buffer will change its direction. Tilt it to the right and the machine will travel right. Tilt it left and it will travel left. Practice will develop expertise.

It’s important not to overextend your reach or tilt the buffer forward at too sharp of an angle because it can yank you off your feet and you could fall face-first to the floor. Tilt it forward slightly to advance. Test drive it for a few minutes to get a feel for how the machine works.

Work forward through the stripping solution a section at a time. Apply more as needed.

Once the floor has been stripped and is dry, sweep up all loosened dirt. Whatever is missed will be ground into the floor and sealed with wax, making the floor appear dull and ruining the job.

Change the buffer pad from stripper to wax applicator. Each pad should have a different color. Read the manufacturer’s manual for a description of color codes. Using a narrow putty knife, apply dabs of paste floor wax onto the floor in a small section. Center the buffer over a dab, start the machine and work the wax slowly back and forth with a gentle side-to-side motion. Work backwards from the end of a corridor or section of floor so you don’t step onto the applied wax. Let dry.

Once the floor is dry, change pads again to a polisher and start at the same end where you applied the wax. Let the machine do the work. Gently guide it so it sweeps side-to-side. As you gain expertise you’ll be surprised how little effort is required to control the motion. Don’t become overconfident–a bump in the floor can suddenly send the buffer off in a new direction.

Check the pad and change it if it becomes clogged. For an outstanding shine, one trick used by experienced maintenance people is to take a square of the woolen army issue blanket slightly larger than the buffer pad and set the buffer pad on top of it. Polish with the blanket. This results in a high gloss shine. Work backward coiling the cord as you go.

Once done, secure the buffer’s cord to the handle. Coil extension cords. Lift the buffer onto its wheels, remove the pad and store the buffer in a maintenance closet, or return it to the rental center.

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