Small, but beautifully formed scrubber dryers?

22nd of March 2018
Small, but beautifully formed scrubber dryers?
Small, but beautifully formed scrubber dryers?

Is there a growing trend towards smaller scrubber dryers, and how do the latest compact models compare in performance with traditional-sized machines? Ann Laffeaty asks the question.

How important is size? It is often a question of fashion and the dimensions of the equipment we use largely depends on current trends.

For instance, when technology made it possible to create ever-smaller electronic gadgets it became something of a status symbol to own a tiny mobile phone or MP3 player. At around the same time, television screens were becoming larger as we sought to recreate a cinematic experience in our own living rooms. And over-sized “airport exclusive” books became popular as they gave the impression of providing more value.

However convenience has its own role to play in the size of the equipment we buy. Many people are now purchasing books electronically in order to avoid having to cart around that “airport exclusive” on holiday. And our phones are increasing in size again as we recognise the convenience of having a larger screen to work with.

It is against this background that smaller, lighter cleaning machines are being manufactured as modern electronics and slimmer batteries make them possible. But is there significant demand for these new compact machines? And how can manufacturers incorporate all the elements of a functional scrubber dryer into a smaller footprint?

Kärcher’s scrubber dryer product manager Daniel Friz believes the growing demand for smaller, more compact machines over the past five years has been mainly for practical reasons.

“Customers need lightweight machines that offer a high cleaning performance and good mobility and that can also operate quietly in noise-sensitive areas,” he said. “Compact machines facilitate efficient cleaning in restricted areas while lightweight models are easier to handle, particularly when overcoming obstacles such as steps and thresholds.”

Smaller machines are also easier to store than larger models, he points out. “And the clean, dry result produced by a small scrubber dryer outperforms that of a mop.”

However it is a challenge for manufacturers to incorporate the same level of features into a machine with a smaller footprint, according to Friz. “Sometimes we need to think differently and alter some elements to offer a customer-centric solution that provides additional value,” he said.

Compact Kärcher models have a 200° turnable brush head and can work both forwards and backwards, he says. “We also use a lithium-ion battery in our newest model which can be completely charged in just three hours, tripling the service life,” said Friz. ”This allows the user to work uninterrupted for at least an hour. And if the machine is operated using the resource-saving eco!efficiency mode, battery life can be increased by around 50 per cent.”

Agility trend

According to Friz the current trend is for agile machines that can be used in restricted spaces and narrow corridors. “The larger the scrubber dryer, the more cumbersome it is when cleaning in confined areas,” he said. “Also, a machine that is too big for its purpose will not work in an efficient way. But the converse is also true: a machine that is too small for use in a large area will reduce cleaning efficiency. So there is a future for machines of all sizes, but for different applications.”

Kärcher’s smallest machine is the BR 30/4 C which has a 30cm working width. The company also offers the BR 35/12 C, a small walk-behind machine with foldable push handle, as well as a micro ride-on machine with a 51cm working width and a 70-litre freshwater tank. “This can easily be transported via an escalator which means it can be used on different floors in a hospital or shopping centre,” said Friz.

Nilfisk’s global floor care product manager Anders Sandstrom agrees that customers are increasingly demanding smaller, more compact machines.“The main reason for using a scrubber dryer is to improve on the result that can be achieved with a mop or similar tool,” he said. “Better cleaning performance and faster access to the cleaned area afterwards are the main benefits of a compact machine.”

But smaller, lighter machines can never offer the same mechanical cleaning capabilities as a larger, heavier scrubber dryer, he says. “This is because the ground pressure for the cleaning tool will be lower,” he explained. “Also, a smaller machine will carry less cleaning solution and the tank capacity will be lower. So while smaller machines are expected to out-compete larger ones they will be more useful in congested areas and for spot cleaning.”

According to Sandstrom it is difficult to manufacture a small machine that behaves and acts like a large one. “However as batteries become smaller and more powerful this will help to improve
the design of small scrubbers along with their productivity.”

Growing demand

He believes the market for compact scrubber dryers will only expand in future. “At Nilfisk we believe the consumer side will grow significantly as people increasingly choose to optimise their cleaning at home,” he said. “The choice of machine size is connected to area size, application and how often cleaning will be performed. Since the labour cost is higher than the cost of the machine, cleaning time needs to be optimised by using the correct machine type and size.”

The company’s compact models include the Nilfisk SC100 and the Nilfisk SC250. The SC100 cord machine can easily switch from cleaning hard floors to carpets which means it works well in small shops, restaurants and hotels that have different types of flooring, according to Sandstrom. And the SC250 lithium battery model is capable of removing loose debris and is aimed at fast food restaurants, bakeries, gas stations and coffee shops.

Lindhaus claims to be something of a pioneer of compact scrubber dryers. “Our LW30-38 electric and LW30 L-ion models - developed in 2007 – are still the market reference,” says president Michele Massaro. “The new battery version is aimed at high-traffic areas such as airport washrooms and trade shows while the electric version is suitable for office buildings, restaurants and hotels.”

He agrees with other manufacturers that compact scrubber dryers are replacing mops and buckets in some facilities. “This is because they are faster and more productive and they leave the floor dry immediately,” he said. “They are also eco-friendly since they use less water and detergent than manual tools. And they can be used on difficult-to-clean floors.”

But he says some manufacturers’ small machines are simply large machines with a smaller footprint. “In my opinion a compact scrubber dryer should be made to a totally different concept,” he said. “For example, the tank size should be smaller to create a lighter machine with a sleek profile and the suction should work in both directions. And the base should be very low to enable it to fit under furniture.”

Managers of smaller premises are increasingly replacing mops and buckets with compact scrubber dryers according to Truvox international sales and marketing director Gordon McVean.“They share the growing realisation that manual mopping does not effectively clean floors and is an inefficient use of labour,” he said. “And it doesn’t present a very professional image to the public either.”

He says the increasingly popularity of non-slip floors in place of hard, shiny and potentially slippery surfaces has been another factor. “This type of flooring is harder to maintain without an appropriately equipped scrubber dryer, and a compact machine is the best entry point for someone deciding to mechanise their floor cleaning,” he said.

“Not only are smaller premises upgrading from mops to scrubber dryers, so too are establishments where mops have been used in areas such as in kitchens, behind counters, in toilets and in receptions.

Daytime cleaning boost

“Compact scrubber dryers are sufficiently manoeuvrable and flexible for these tight situations –particularly if they can clean under tables and furniture. And they’re also easy to store.”
According to McVean the shift towards daytime cleaning has boosted demand for machines that are smaller, quieter and less obtrusive. “Hence the popularity of cordless compact scrubber dryers,” he said.

A small scrubber dryer can still wash, mop, scrub and dry floors in one pass argues McVean. “The advances made in design over the years means they are still productive, while the application of lithium ion battery technology adds further flexibility without compromising productivity.”

He believes all signs point to the continued popularity of smaller scrubber dryers. “The switch to battery power with all its advantages is fuelling this trend,” he said. “The challenge is to make smaller scrubber dryers that are ever more efficient while ensuring that they are still manoeuvrable, versatile and capable of low-level cleaning. Further improvements in the running time of lithium ion batteries must also be harnessed.”

Truvox offers the Multiwash 340 which has a 34cm cleaning width plus the Multiwash 240 - the company’s most compact model - with a 24cm cleaning width. Both machines have cylindrical brushes said to be capable of scrubbing into grout lines and on uneven floors.

Like other manufacturers, Hako is witnessing a strong trend towards smaller, more compact scrubber dryers according to application technology trainer and consultant Klaus Serfezi. “Machines with a solution tank capacity of less than 10 litres are particularly popular with customers,” he said.

“There are a number of reasons for this trend. For one thing, there is less unoccupied floor space than there used to be. Even large shopping centres now tend to rent out the corridor space between shops to small vendors and the few remaining free areas are full of nooks and crannies. Therefore the outdated two-step cleaning process has had to be replaced with the cleaning and drying method that small scrubber dryers can provide.”

Easier to use

He adds that compact machines are easier to use than a mop and bucket. “However, considering the relatively high initial purchase price, the decision as to whether or not a machine will pay off economically needs to be weighed up on a case-by-case basis.”

According to Serfezi, today’s smart technologies make it easy to integrate all the necessary features into a smaller machine such as an efficient water pump and suction system.

“However it is often wrongly believed these smaller machines will have a sufficient capacity to carry out intensive cleaning tasks, which is not the case,” he adds.

Compromises need to be made when configuring a smaller machine, says Serfezi. “What is omitted essentially is the option to adjust the water flow,” he said. “And more often than not the drying performance of a smaller machine will leave a lot to be desired.”

Hako offers a 10-litre machine with cylindrical brushes for cleaning structured or tiled floors in locker rooms, indoor swimming pools and kitchens. Also available is a 12-litre disc brush machine for use in small entrance areas, narrow corridors and confined spaces.

Whether or not more compact scrubber dryers will grow in popularity in future remains to be seen, he says. “If they do it will need to be proved that these smaller models are economically efficient,” he said.


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