Just as different recipes require different cooking utensils, floors require specific buffing pads to produce the best, brightest and glossiest results. While these pads are available in a wide variety of textures, the two basic types are cutting pads and polishing pads [source: Mrs. Clean].
As the name suggests, cutting pads are more abrasive. These might be used for a floor with deep scuffmarks or scratches where a gentler pad wouldn't be powerful enough to level the finish to its optimal shine [source: Parish Supply]. Cutting pads are usually made of natural fibers like wool [source: Fitzel].
The rough surface of the cutting pad is what makes it so effective at its job, but it also makes the pad slightly more difficult to use. If you've ever been ice skating at a rink that's been in use all day, you might have noticed that it's hard to get up to the speeds you might achieve on a newly smoothed rink. That's because a rougher surface creates more friction between itself and anything it touches than does a smooth plane.
Just like you need a sharper knife to cut a watermelon than you do a piece of cake, softer floors and finishes simply don't require cutting pads to achieve a glossy finish, and a cutting pad can do damage if it's used on the wrong floor. Polishing pads, which are less abrasive, are better for polishing soft waxes or finishes [source: Parish Supply]. These pads are made of softer materials like foam rubber, which is smoother than the wool fibers of a cutting pad [source: Mrs. Clean].
If you didn't want to read up on which pads work best on which floors, however, there's a cheat sheet: Floor buffer pads are color coded. As a rule, the darker the pad is, the flatter and more aggressive its cut will be; harshest of all is the maroon pad, which contains additional abrasive materials woven into its fabric [source: Fitzel]. While delicate jobs may require a bit more research into the appropriate pad, you can still identify basic classes of buffing pad using this rule of thumb.
So we know that floor buffers can polish a floor, but what about cleaning? Read on to find out about a floor buffer's role in cleaning and how tap water can ruin your floor.