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Disc vs. Cylindrical Brushes 101

You can purchase floors scrubbers with both disc and cylindrical heads, making your machine suitable for a variety of applications. In this article, we’ll cover the differences between disc and cylindrical brushes, including applications, benefits, and maintenance.

How They Work


Disc scrubbers are commonly used in smaller walk-behind scrubbers and larger battery-powered ride-on scrubbers. These cleaners may use a disc pad to polish a floor or a hard-bristled brush for a deeper clean. Disc brushes can be made of a variety of materials, including nylon, polypropylene, and abrasive bristle. The best material will depend on the floor type. 

During cleaning, water is dispensed down into the centre of the brush(es). These brushes sit flat against the floor, rotating at speeds of 250-300 RPM. The main intended use of the brushes is to wash a floor or strip wax from a floor. Because scrubber machines have no mechanism to pick up debris, floors must be manually swept before using a disc brush.


Cylindrical brushes consist of two identical brushes that turn in opposite directions at speeds between 600-800 RPM. Water is spread via a drip tray that sits in front of the brushes. 
The motion of the brushes throws loose dirt and particles into a tray that's emptied by the operator after cleaning is completed. This eliminates the need for pre-sweeping before scrubbing. Cylindrical brushes are made from the same types of materials as disc brushes. 

Floor Applications for Disc and Cylindrical Brushes


​Ideal Use
​Disc brushes are best used on finished floors that are prone to scuffing and need regular polishing.
​Schools, retail stores, and healthcare facilities
Floor Type
​Flat surfaces, Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT), Sheet Vinyl, and Polished Concrete


​Ideal Use
​Cylindrical brushes are great for large, open areas that aren't conducive to pre-sweeping. It’s also ideal for floors with grout or cracks where dirt can become trapped.
​Food and beverage manufacturers, parking facilities, warehouses, and other types of production facilities
​Floor Type
​Natural stone, rubber studded, safety floors, carpet, and laminate

Benefits of Each Type of Brush

While each brush type is effective at cleaning in the right applications, there are clear advantages to each. Here are a few differences to consider when deciding which is right for your facility:
​Disc Brushes
​Cylindrical Brushes
​•Can accommodate pad drivers, which are used for maintaining waxed floors
•Can remove thick build-up due to increased downward pressure
•More versatile cleaning and polishing options, with different available tools (pads and brushes)
​•Can sweep and scrub simultaneously.
•Wet sweeping avoids airborne dust and debris
•Can clean grout lines
•Works at a higher RPM, enabling more effective cleaning overall

Properly Maintaining Disc and Cylindrical Brushes

Both brush types will need to be replaced periodically. Like anything that comes into contact with hard surfaces on a regular basis, the brush bristles will wear down over time. 

There's no magic formula to determine how long a brush will last. The lifespan of your brush will depend on how often it's used, the type of floor it's used on, the condition of the floor, how dirty it is, and how fast the operator cleans the floor.

Most disc brushes will have a wear indicator built into the brush itself that will show when the brush needs to be changed. If you use a cylindrical brush, you should replace the brush when the bristle length gets down to about 1cm. Another sign that your brush needs changing is if your cleans are taking longer or more passes are needed to clean the same floor. 

You can prolong the life of brushes by cleaning them after each use. Removing dirt, stripper, finish, wax, and any debris that’s wrapped around the brush will help it stay in good working condition. To clean your brush, simply spray it off using hot water and hang it to dry. You can also rotate your cylindrical brushes (front to back and back to front) on a weekly basis to prolong the lifespan.

Both cylindrical and disc machines are effective tools to clean a wide variety of floors. Each offers distinct advantages, but ultimately the right choice will come down to the type of floor you need to clean.

Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With a vision to become a global leader in sustainable cleaning innovation that empowers our customers to create a cleaner, safer and healthier world, Tennant creates solutions that are changing the way the world cleans. Tennant products include equipment used to maintain indoor and outdoor surfaces, as well as TennantTrue® financing solutions, equipment parts, service, and maintenance to help ensure superior cleaning performance from your Tennant machines.

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