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Home > Professional > Anatomy of an Auto-Scrubber

Of late, the medium to large sized commercial establishments are increasingly shifting to mechanized options for handling the task of floor cleaning. Though the conversion is still far from complete, one can observe a more focused transition by facility managers and housekeeping companies towards mechanization for optimizing manpower and a healthy bottom-line. Also, the development of commercial space in airports etc. is creating bigger floor spaces and enlarging the scope of floor cleaning machines.

Let us focus on the issue of maintenance of hard floors. When it comes to internal (hard) floors, options of wet cleaning have always been preferred as long as they did not interfere with the daily operations on the floor or undermine the occupants’ comfort or safety. Usually this is achieved by using machines known as Automatic Floor Scrubbers or Auto-Scrubbers which combine two important cleaning tasks – scrubbing and vacuuming – into a one-step operation that involves scrubbing the floor clean of light debris, dust, oil, grease and other kinds of floor stains and vacuuming the slurry using a ‘squeegee’ system. The result is a clean and dry floor, ready to walk on almost immediately.

Criteria in Selection

A decision on selecting an auto scrubber depends on the following questions:

• What is the total (carpet) area to be cleaned? (This is different from the floor’s built-up area)

• What is the available cleaning time? (in hours)

• Whether cleaning can be performed during operational hours?

• Are there constraints like adequate manpower, water supply, location of power outlets, etc.?


These machines have either rotary (disc) or cylindrical scrubbing head and an automated system for dispensing a cleaning solution and then sucking it up with an auto-scrubber squeegee attachment at the back of the machine. So, in one sweep over the floor, the operator can dispense the cleaning solution onto the floor, scrub the wet floor and then vacuum it dry. An Auto-scrubber usually has a separate dispensing (solution) tank and a collection (recovery) tank to store clean water separately from the dirty water. Some higher end models, in order to serve the dual purposes of reducing the machine size and improve water economy, use the advanced ‘membrane technology.’


Ride-on: Ride-on models, which are usually battery operated, are suitable for large areas like malls, airports and hyper markets which demand a cleaning efficiency ranging from 35,000 to 80,000sqft per hour. One needs to choose the right model after analyzing the site, the nature of dirt generated and other constraints in achieving the required cleanliness within the prescribed time. Of all available factors, one needs to specially look at the issue of the machine’s productivity in terms of water consumption and battery power, as these determine the cleaning time cycle. It is usually 70% of the productivity as shown in the sell sheets, since about 30% of the time cycle is spent on preparing the machine before and after operation.

Walk-behind: Walk-behind machines are preferred when the total cleanable area is less than 75,000sqft. Cable operated and battery operated versions are available. The battery operated versions is better suited for a floor area of more than 50,000sqft, where it would indeed be a cumbersome exercise looking for power outlets spread across the entire floor. The walk-behind machines usually start with a 10-litre tank capacity and can go up to 85 litres.

Whichever auto-scrubber one chooses, it will always be advisable to limit an individual machine’s operation to well under five hours per day. So, when the area is too large to be managed within five hours, it will be ideal to increase the number of machines. This will involve a higher capital cost but it will more than make up in terms of cheaper maintenance, higher productivity and lower running cost. The machines will survive longer beyond the period of amortization. One must also keep in view the fact that the machines will be used mainly by janitors with limited technical skills and a certain amount of rough usage is inevitable.


It is always advisable to get these machines covered under comprehensive or labor AMC, in order to ensure smooth operations and reduced down time.

For daily operations, after each use, the dispensing (solution) tank and especially the collection (recovery) tank should be emptied and rinsed out thoroughly to prevent dirt scale build up. All the maintenance parts are to be removed from the machine, cleaned and re-fixed. The consumable parts like the pads/brushes, vacuum hose and squeegee should also be rinsed clean to extend their life. If the squeegee is not cleaned, the chemical residue will harden the rubber over a period of time and cause loss of vacuum airflow, resulting in higher repair costs.


When storing an Auto-Scrubber, the solution and recovery tanks should be left open to allow ventilation and to prevent odours from building up. Storing the machine in areas which are open or unsecured, infested with rodents or other pests, which can damage the wiring and hoses, must be avoided. Floor pads and scrubbing brushes from the machine must be removed and on the wall hanged to air dry. The cables and hoses should be wound up in coils properly and it should be ensured that they do not fall on ground and remain intact with the machine. This would avoid damages. For battery operated machines, please see that the machine is placed in the ‘charging’ mode till it gets completely recharged. This would ensure that the desired number of charge-discharge cycles is achieved.

Auto Scrubbers combine two important cleaning tasks of scrubbing and vacuuming, resulting in a clean and dry floor.

Ramesh Kanna
Sr. Marketing Manager – Floor Care
Diversey India Pvt. Ltd

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