How to Choose Floor Pads

25 April 2023

You have floor cleaning machines to keep your floors in great shape, but equally important is selecting the best floor scrubber pads for your needs. Choosing a floor cleaning machine pad that's too weak will have no effect and will waste both time and money, while choosing a pad that's too aggressive can cause damage that leads to costly repairs. Check out our floor scrubber pad buying guide so you can skip the guesswork and buy with confidence.

What Type of Pads Do I Need for My Floor Buffer?

Consider that all floor pads have different intentions and not all pads should be used with every type of floor. You will also have to ensure that the type of pad you buy is compatible with your floor buffer. Some key questions to ask before you purchase buffing pads are below.

  • What type of floor do I have?
  • What do I want to do to my floor?
  • Will the pad work with my machine?

Color-Coding System for Floor Scrubber Pads

Floor pads have an industry standard color-coding system to help you understand how aggressive a specific pad will be on your floor. Lighter color pads are considered light duty, while darker colored pads are typically more aggressive. Floor burnishing pads do not follow the industry standard color-coding system but are usually aggressive in general as they are used to buff at very high speeds.

Remember, if you purchase a floor pad that is too weak, it wastes time and money. Additionally, if you choose a pad that is too aggressive, it could ruin your floors and cost you extra money to fix. It is important to understand your floor, cleaning machine, and the color of your pads in order to efficiently clean your floors.

Floor Pad Guide

While the color-coding system for floor pads may be confusing, it is important to have a basic understanding of the colors as well as the types of pads. Some pads can be used interchangeably, while others have a distinct purpose. Low speed pads are 1,000 RPM and lower and high-speed pads are anything over 1,000 RPM. High speed pads may be used on low pad machines, but not vice versa.

Once you have a basic understanding of your floor type and how aggressive you want to be with your cleaning, you can choose what type of floor pad you want to buy. Below, we outline the seven different types of floor pads that you can purchase for your floor scrubber machines.

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Polishing Pads

Polishing pads are the softest floor pad you can choose from and are great for daily tasks. Use white polishing pads with a low-speed floor polisher and a fine water mist to add a sleek gloss to your floors. The pads should be used on dry, clean floors to add a soft wax on finishes. White polishing pads will not last on textured surfaces and are not designed for high-speed machines.

  • Floor Types: VCT, VAT, Sheet Vinyl, Terrazzo, Granite and Concrete Surfaces
  • Tolerance: 350 - 800 RPM
  • Frequency: 1-5 times per week

Buffing Pads

Buffing pads remove light scuff marks and dirt while producing a sparkling finish and shine. Buffing pads are perfect for light-duty use as they will not damage most floors. They are suitable for most daily cleaning tasks and are designed for a low-speed buffing machine. Red buffing pads are known as most aggressive and can be used with dry or spray buffing.

  • Floor Types: VCT, VAT, Sheet Vinyl, Terrazzo, Granite and Concrete Surfaces
  • Tolerance: 350 - 800 RPM
  • Frequency: 1-5 times per week

Burnishing Pads

Burnishing pads dry buff at ultra-high speeds after the floor has been cleaned to bring out a gloss shine. These pads should be used with high-speed floor cleaning machines. Burnishing pads do not follow the traditional color-coding system, so it is best to read the product description in detail to understand the pad's usage. Common colors are green, blue, tan, and grey.

  • Floor Types: VCT, VAT, Sheet Vinyl, Terrazzo, Granite and Concrete Surfaces
  • Tolerance: Up to 3000 RPM
  • Frequency: Varies

Conditioning / Surface Preparation Pads

Conditioning and surface preparation pads are used between finishing coats of wooden floors, or for removing finish from VCT floors to prepare the surface for recoating. Surface preparation pads are a maroon color and are considered aggressive.

  • Floor Types: Wood and VCT Surfaces
  • Tolerance: 175 - 300 RPM
  • Frequency: 1-5 times per week

Scrubbing Pads

Scrubbing pads are designed to be aggressive without removing the finish of a floor. Use scrubbing pads to remove heavy dirt and scuff marks with a low speed machine. These are best used for heavy traffic areas and walkways and are intended for wet scrubbing.

Because of scrubbing pads' aggressive nature, they can be used for light stripping of old, soiled finishes. Dark green scrubbing pads are considered to be the most aggressive.

  • Floor Types: VCT, VAT, Sheet Vinyl, Terrazzo, Granite and Concrete Surfaces
  • Tolerance: 175-350 RPM
  • Frequency: Quarterly

Stripping Pads

Stripping pads completely remove finish, sealer, waxes and dirt so you can refinish your floor. They are very aggressive and abrasive and should be used with low speed machines.

Black is the standard color for stripping pads but other common colors are purple and brown. Depending on what type of floor stripping you are completing, you can choose the right color stripping pad for you.

  • Floor Types: VCT, VAT, Sheet Vinyl, Terrazo, Granite and Concrete Surfaces
  • Tolerance: 175-350 RPM
  • Frequency: 18-36 months

Carpet Cleaning Pads

Use carpet cleaning pads for maintenance cleaning after vacuuming. Use with a mist of chemical cleaner or shampoo to loosen any dirt.

  • Floor Types: Looped Carpets and Coated Hardwood
  • Tolerance: 175 - 300 RPM
  • Frequency: Once a week

Choosing a floor pad does require some research to ensure you are buying the right pad for your machine and floor. By understanding the floor pad types and color-coding system, buying a floor pad can be an easy purchase for your janitorial closet.


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