How to Burnish Floors


A clean floor is important, but if you want your floors to impress your occupants, they have to shine.  There’s something special about walking down a hallway and seeing the reflection of the overhead lights.  It gives the impression that the whole facility is well maintained.

It takes more than just scrubbing or mopping to make a shiny floor.  You have to burnish the floor to get the highest possible shine.

In this article, we’re going to cover all the topics you need to know to be a burnishing expert.  Follow these tips, and your floor will shine like never before.

What does a Burnisher do?

Infrared Image of Burnished Floor Showing Even Heating

Burnishers turn a pad at a very high speed, between 1500 and 2500 RPM.  The machine presses the pad firmly against the floor.  The burnishing pad heats and sands away a small portion of the top layer of the floor finish, leaving a smooth surface behind.  The smoother the surface, the more light reflects back to the viewer, and the shinier the floor looks.

Burnishing generates a lot of dust, so it is critically important to have a dust collection system.  All NSS battery burnishers have a highly efficient dust collection system, so if you’re using our equipment, you’re all set.

Burnishing’s Hidden Benefit

Did you know that burnishing helps your floor stay cleaner?  Burnishing smooths out the imperfections in the floor finish that can trap dirt and harm the floor’s appearance.  Nice!

How to Burnish a Floor

Step 1.  Prepare the area for burnishing.  Remove any furniture, rugs, or other obstructions from the area.

Step 2.  Dust mop and scrub the floor.  Before you burnish, you need to make sure that the floor is spotless.  Burnishing a dirty floor is a recipe for disaster.  Because burnishing heats up the floor and floor finish gets softer when heated, dirt on the floor can become embeded in the floor finish, and only stripping will take it out.

Step 3.  Prepare the burnisher.  Start by placing the burnishing pad in the exact center of the pad driver.  Because the burnisher spins very quickly, an off-center pad can cause unwanted vibrations.

Step 4.  Burnish the floor.  Move the burnisher across the floor at a consistent speed.  Overlap your passes by about two inches to help maintain a uniform appearance across the floor.  Keep moving while the pad is in motion.  Burnishing generates substantial heat, and staying in one place can cause the burnishing pad to overheat.  Stay in one place too long, and you might transfer the pad material onto the floor, leaving a difficult to remove mark.

Step 5.  Clean up the dust.  If you didn’t use a burnisher with an efficient dust collection system, you might need to dust mop the floor after burnishing.  For complete dust removal, consider another pass with your floor scrubber after dust mopping as well.

Step 6.  Reset the area.  Replace any furniture, mats, or other objects you moved while cleaning.

Step 7.  Clean up and store your equipment.  Get your burnisher ready for the next job.  Remove the pad and wipe away any dust from the machine.  If your equipment is battery-powered, you might need to service the battery pack and recharge the machine.  See this article for complete battery care instructions:  The Definitive Guide to Battery Maintenance.

Measuring Gloss

If you like the idea of putting some science into your cleaning program, you might want to get a gloss meter.  There are a couple of ways you can use a gloss meter in your floor burnishing program.  First, a gloss meter can be helpful when developing your burnishing procedure.  With side-by-side testing, you try out various pads and equipment and use a gloss meter to compare the results.  Second, you can incorporate gloss meter readings into your cleaning quality assurance program.  If you have a predetermined gloss level target, you can use the meter to see if your burnishing process is working as expected.  We use a Horiba IG-331 gloss meter in our lab, which retails for between $500 – $1,000. 

Troubleshooting Tip:  Bad results?  Check Your Floor Finish.

A deep, reflective shine after burnishing requires multiple layers of floor finish beneath the surface layer.  If your floors do not seem to respond well to burnishing, a lack of floor finish could be why.


If you need to talk to a burnishing expert, we can help.  NSS has regional managers throughout North America to help steer you in the right direction. Use the “Start a conversation” button on our homepage to let us know who you are and where you’re located. One of our regional managers will reach out to consult with you about your cleaning operations.

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