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Walk –behind scrubber 101

Thursday, May 26, 2016

For those of you planning to purchase, operate or just want to learn more about a walk-behind scrubber, this article may be up your alley.

First of all, there are many, many manufacturers of wb scrubbers. Some of them are well known names as Tennant, Clarke, Nilfisk-Advance and Minuteman to name a few. Some are NOT as well known, however this should not be a reflection of the quality of the equipment. Karcher is one such example. Even though this company is global, many people from my experience have not heard of them. Viper, Pullman-Holt and Betco are other less known, but I encourage you to do your “due-diligence” when buying a new piece of equipment.

So let’s talk about the major components which make up a wb scrubber. In order to be a legitimate wb scrubber they must have the following. 1. Solution and recovery tank. 2. A vacuum motor. 3. Scrub deck or sometimes referred to as a brush deck. 4. Drive tires. 5. Solution control valve. 6. Squeegee assembly. 7. Battery pak. 8. Self-charging system. 9. Operator control handle. So let’s discuss these more in detail.

1. Solution and recovery tank. These tanks are a must for a scrubber. The solution tank is also known as the clean water tank. One can fill this tank with a combination of liquid detergent, pre-mixed detergent or just plain water. There are plenty of examples for any one of these combinations and there is nothing wrong with experimenting to see what works best for a particular application. The recovery tank fits its description very well. This is a tank that recovers the clean dirty water or solution that was used to clean the surface.

2. Vacuum motor. The vacuum motor provides the suction power to suck the dirty water from the floor to the recovery tank. Certainly, a must have for a scrubber.

3. Scrub deck or brush deck. This compartment is where the scrub brushes are contained. There are two styles of brush: disc brush, aka rotary brush and the second are cylindrical brush, aka tube brush. They both meet their particular purposes and I would suggest to do your homework on this point of what to choose.

4. Drive tires. Of course every mobile piece of equipment has to have tires. I noted this item because my suggestion is always two points. Use non-marking tires on your wb scrubber and have your tires foam-filled. You would not imagine the countless hours saved by not having to repair flat tires.

5. Solution control valve. This valve controls the amount of detergent/water released to the surface of the floor. For dirtier floors you put it down heavy and floors needing less detergent you can put less.

6. Squeegee assembly. Well, what can I say. Your scrubber must be equipped with one of these. However one point I want to make here is some scrubber manufacturers offer one of two types. A squeegee assembly that is curved/convex and a squeegee assembly that is straight. Go with the curved squeegee as it contains the dirty water better as it is vacuumed into the recovery tank.

7. Battery pack. Every wb scrubber has to be equipped with batteries. Typically they have six 6-volt when combined make the machine a 36-volt unit. Traction motors, scrub brush motors and scrub deck actuators are among some of the electrical units that must be powered.

8. Self-charging system. Many also know this system as an on-board charger. Just plug into an ordinary 110V outlet. Some required 220V. The other style would be to have a battery charger separate from the machine. You have to plug this into an electrical outlet and then plug your machine into this charger. One problem with this set-up is that if you are operating the machine on the other side of your facility and batteries have a low charge you have to make it back to your maintenance department before your batteries die. With a built-in charger, no worries. You can charge anywhere there is an 110V outlet in the building.

9. Operator control handle. This control allows the operator forward and reverse movement. I remember the day, way back when, some manufacturers didn’t offer reverse so one had to be very mindful of their surroundings.

Even though I covered much information, there are still some items I didn’t mention. One would be the recycling systems. This system is simply the recycling of detergent/water back onto the surface. This system does have its applications and limits.

In closing, the wb scrubber can be your friend. Finding the right combination of performances for your machine takes time and patience. There are some very good scrubbers offered and some not so much. Do your homework and I hope you take away a better sense of the walk-behind scrubber.

Thanks for reading.

Creamer’s Corner is a monthly conversation with Hi-Gear’s Mike Creamer giving you advise, technical assistance, brand comparisons and on the job stories on repairing, maintaining or replacing your sweeper/scrubber. For your comments or questions, please e-mail Mike at

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