Polishers are found in homes, workshops and in the utility closets of businesses of all types. Whether to return marble flooring to its lustrous, reflective state, finish slabs of granite to be used for new countertops or buff out a coat of wax on a car, polishers have many purposes. Despite the variety of applications, polishers essentially perform the same basic task: to give a dull, cloudy surface a brilliant finish. Virtually all materials are polishable. That includes every type of flooring such as hardwoods, linoleum, concrete, granite, marble, ceramic tile, vinyl, brick and laminate. In addition, plastic, fiberglass, porcelain, acrylic, glass and every kind of metal can be polished given the right tool and solution.
Floor polishers are most commonly used to brighten the appearance of the flooring surface in grocery stores, banks, government buildings, schools and anywhere else, public or private, with ample solid flooring that sees a lot of foot traffic. After days of use, floors get scuffed, stained, dirty and dull. Floor polishers go over the surface quickly and efficiently, giving it a brand-new, sparkly clean look. In the home, too, floor polishers come in handy, although commercial and residential floor polishers differ in terms of price and design.
Commercial Floor Polisher Design and Features
Commercial floor polishers often weigh more than 100 pounds and feature a durable, all-metal chassis equipped with a 1.5-horsepower dual- or multi-speed motor. The weighty, balanced chassis leads to a faster, brighter polish. The polisher is controlled by a pivoting T-bar handle that is adjustable to accommodate operators of different heights. The pivot allows the tool easy access under tables and counters. A wraparound bumper protects walls and furniture, while heavy-duty casters allow for easy movement without marking the finished floors. Non-conductive triggers and an interlock mechanism add to the safety of the device, and the 50-foot detachable power cord provides a lot of range. The orbiter comes in different diameters ranging commonly from 15 to 21 inches for commercial units. With the corresponding attachment, commercial floor polishers can alternatively be used for scrubbing, stripping, polishing and buffing.
Brands and Prices
Other polishers used to finish flooring include home units such as the Gloss Boss by Pullman-Holt and models offered by Koblenz and Oreck. Home polishers cost anywhere from $100 to $500 but are not typically as heavy duty in design. They are able to polish and buff all types of solid flooring and in some cases clean carpeting. Commercial-strength floor polishers are produced by Powr Flite, Mercury, Sanitaire and Intertool, among others. Depending on the make and model of the polisher, commercial units typically start around $1,000 and can cost up to $5,000.
Another frequently used polisher is for automotive, marine and other vehicle applications. Car polishers are smaller, hand-held tools used to apply polish or wax to a car's exterior. Typically weighing no more than 10 pounds, car polishers are available in AC-powered and cordless varieties. AC-powered polishers offer more torque and can often be used for other purposes. Car polishers come in different shapes and styles including straight-shaft, horizontally-configured polishers and vertical polishers. Standard and random orbit car polishers are two options. Like standard polishers, random orbit units feature a rotating disc which holds the polishing pad, but they more closely imitate the hand-polishing motion. Thanks to an offset backing plate and counterbalance, random orbit polishers feature a jiggling motion during operation that prevents paint burn-through. They also generate less heat, making them easier to use and safer for the car.
Car Polisher Specifications
Meguiar's G110 polishers as well as Porter-Cable's line of 7424XP units are both random orbit polishers. The Porter-Cable polisher accepts a 6-inch polishing pad, features a 100 percent ball bearing design and includes a reversible side handle for increased support. The G110 from Meguiar's features a non-removable D-shaped handle, but both models have a variable-speed motor maxing out at 6800 RPM. Other car polishers include 6- to 10-inch, dual-handled orbiting units designed solely for auto and marine vehicle polishing. Priced as low as $30, these tools are made by Craftsman, Performance Tool and Road Xpedition. The Meguiar's and Porter-Cable polishers cost between $120 and $150.
Some polishers such as the Milwaukee 5540 and the Makita 9227 can polish, buff, sand and grind with the right attachment. These powerful tools draw 10 or 11 amps and feature a variable-speed motor that runs as fast as 3000 RPM. They feature a 7-inch backing plate with a spindle thread measurement of 5/8-11. Any pads or brushes with that same measurement and diameter will work. Both makes of polisher include a spindle lock for easy changing of attachments, a trigger lock to reduce finger fatigue and a speed control selector dial. The Milwaukee tool features their patented Quik-Lok detachable power cord for easy storage, transport and replacement. Built with a helical, fully-sealed aluminum gearbox, the 5540 and 9227 are designed for long-lasting use, and both cost around $200. At less than 10 pounds, the polisher/sander can be held for longer periods, whether buffing a car's exterior or sanding down a tabletop.
MK Diamond, Makita, Flex, Diteq and Barranca offer polishers designed for wet or dry polishing of granite, marble or other types of stone. These tools typically accept a smaller polishing pad of 3 to 5 inches in diameter. With a built-in water line and faucet or hose adaptor, wet polishers are used to lightly shape edges, polish and buff hard stone surfaces. Used with special diamond resin polishing pads, the face of granite countertops can quickly be brightened. With grits of 50 to 3000, diamond resin pads come in wet and dry varieties and attach to the polisher with Velcro. Capable of up to 5500 RPM, granite polishers feature special bearings for dust protection and are useful for grinding as well. Costing up to $425, this type of polisher is often sold in a kit complete with polishing and buffing pads.
Polishing and buffing pads are the primary accessories used with polishers. From foam to lambswool, polishing pads come in diameters suitable to every machine including floor, car and stone polishers. Other accessories include replacement backing plates and the appropriate attachment hardware. Additionally, numerous types of polish and wax are available to protect and increase the shine on a floor, car paint job, metal or practically any other surface, although electric polishers are not always necessary for application.