$1,200 for a floor burnisher???  No, I’ll just make one.”  … And other idiotic quotes that came out of my very own mouth will all be discussed today on the blog.

First I have to tell you that there’s a difference between buffing your floor and burnishing it.  Buffing is like rubbing your floor with cotton ball kisses while wearing a floral print dress, drunk on lemonade.  BURNISHING your floor is like letting six trillion Tasmanian Devils break dance on it.

Buffing doesn’t do much of anything by the way.  Burnishing will make your floor shine like a dimpled 6 year  on Star Search.



Which explains why when I bought my vintage buffer I was less than impressed with the results.  I figured it was because I bought a 50 year old buffing machine from a flea market.  As it turns out that machine isn’t really meant to make a floor shine, it’s just meant to clean it.  A Burnishing machine is what you need to make your floor so shiny you consider putting orange cones around the perimeter to warn people of the hazard.

I wanted a hazardous floor.

Once I realized this, I of course immediately looked into getting a burnishing machine.  They’re, like, $1,200, minimum.  And generally not made in sizes appropriate for home use unless your home is something that was handed down to you by your great, great, grandfather Lord Bumblebum.

A floor buffer runs at 175 revolutions per minute.  A floor burnisher runs at a minimum of 1,500 revolutions per minute.  Cotton ball versus Tasmanian Devil.  Dull floor versus dangerous floor.

I thought there had to be a way to make a floor burnisher that didn’t cast $1,200.

I mean, $1,200 for a floor burnisher?  I’ll just make one.”  Said no one, other than me. Ever.

But I did it.  And it kindda worked.  And here’s how.



I laid VCT tiles in my mud room, kitchen and bathroom for the low, low price of $265 for everything a few years ago.  That even included the glue and snacks.  I still love the floor. It’s soft, comfortable and easy to clean.  I love it a million times more than the ceramic tile that used to be down.

But it’s taken me a while to get the hang of cleaning it.  It has a “wax” finish which isn’t really wax like they used in the olden days, it’s some type of water based acrylic shiner-upper.  This finish means you have to use a cleaner that has a neutral pH.  I use an industrial neutral pH floor cleaner that I got at Home Depot.

To clean it, I use my vintage floor buffer with just the brushes attached for a light clean, or with these green scrubbing pads for a more vigorous (Karen’s been walking through the house in her chicken shoes again) clean.

But no matter how clean I kept my floor the finish kept getting duller and duller.

That’s when I learned about burnishing.  A few Googles and I understood my floor was never going to be super shiny unless I either re-waxed it, or burnished it.  I do re-wax my floor about once a year, but I wanted something to shine it up in between floor waxings.  I needed a  $1,200 burnishing machine that has 1,500 revolutions per minute.

After checking the pockets of all of my winter coats, I’d come up with $1.27 and an already chewed piece of gum.

HEY WAIT A MINUTE.  My car polisher that I’ve never used once has 1,500 revolutions per minute.  At this moment my brain started to misfire a bit and I almost thought I could Turtle Wax my kitchen floors.  Luckily my brain righted itself and I realized I might be able to fit my car polisher with a floor burnishing pad.



Most car polishers are the same.  They have high RPMs but not a huge amount of power. They have a soft sponge at the bottom of them that you normally fit a terry cloth bonnet over which you use to polish the wax on your car.  Burnish it really.


I thought I’ll never know until I try and even worse I’ll never be able to get it out of my mind until I try … so I tried.  I ordered these 3M synthetic/natural burnishing pads off of Amazon.



They were a bit big. In fact I could probably turn one burnishing pad into 3 if I was careful.



I traced the size I needed onto the burnishing pad and then cut it out with regular scissors.


Now that I had a burnishing pad that was the right size I just had to figure out how to attach it to my car polisher.

I was really hoping I could use a blow torch and welding mask but spray adhesive ended up being the answer.




I sprayed a bit of adhesive to the foam on the car polisher and a bit onto the burnishing pad.



I didn’t need it to stick forever, I just needed it to stick a little bit.  Because when you polish the floor you’re applying pressure down onto the polisher which basically keeps the burnishing pad from flying off.  The spray adhesive is extra insurance.




So did it work??!!

Yes!!!!  And No!!!!!!




You can see in the photo above (which was a really hard picture to take by the way) the top portion of the black tile has been “burnished” and the bottom portion hasn’t been.  So there is a visible difference.  So that’s the portion of this experiment that came out as a YES!!!!!!

But it took quite a while to do and no one would ever walk into the kitchen and say WOW THOSE ARE SOME HAZARDOUS FLOORS!

The car polisher just isn’t heavy enough or powerful enough to burnish a floor the way a real burnisher would.  Also, this car polisher of mine is a “random orbital polisher”.  So it doesn’t go around and around really fast, it kind of jiggles side to side and around a bit like a dashboard hula girl.  Having said that, it did improve the shine on the floor.  It just didn’t make them dangerous.

I’ve now looked into this Makita polisher that doesn’t seem to be a random orbital polisher, just a regular round and round polisher.  For the sake of experimentation I might buy it to test out for you and everyone else who says things like “$1,200??!!!  I’LL MAKE THAT INSTEAD!” from the comfort of their mental health facility rec. room.




In the end I slapped a couple coats of wax on the floors and called it a success because even if the burnisher didn’t make my floors as shiny as I wanted it to, it did prod me into waxing my floors.  Sneaky burnisher.

When I test the Makita car polisher on my floors you will be the first to know. I have the orange safety cones at the ready.





  1. Michael Goff says:

    Dewalt makes a big sander that you can fit with a hook and latch pad. It is A really fast. Cost about 160 bucks. I use it on my detail work. It works great!

  2. john Smith says:

    A 20-inch floor buffer typically ranges from $750.00 to $2,950.00. There are many factors that will ultimately affect the price. When evaluating the cost of a floor buffer, you should consider the machine features and the total cost of ownership to help determine if you are making the right investment.

  3. Kea says:

    Back in my army days we used armor-all (you know, to shine up your dashboard etc in your car) and it made VERY DANGEROUS floors. Shiny. and you could skate in sneakers if you used enough….

    • Karen says:

      UM, yup, that sounds almost pathological on the part of the army, lol. Armor-all. Well it could be fun under the right circumstances I guess. ~ karen!

  4. David R. says:

    You can always rent a burnisher. If you make friends with a janitorial company, or a janitor, they may even come out to burnish your floors for a the same price as a rental, one of your pretty craft projects,…or for a nice home cooked meal. I know I would. I own a decorative concrete company.

  5. Peggy says:

    Do you know that you can buy wet-floor look acrylic floor finish at Home Depot? Just mop it onto a clean floor (a commercial mop with acrylic mop heads works best), and the more coats you mop on, the shinier the floor gets. Same stuff they use in stores. In between deep cleanings and reapplying, just give your floor a second mopping (after a first mopping to remove dirt) with some of the sealer in your clean mop water. I used to own a store, and that is what we used. Dust mopping in between wet moppings helped keep the shine up!

    • Karen says:

      NO. NO I DID NOT! I’ve looked up that brand before for some reason but I didn’t think we had it in Canada at the time. However … NOW WE DO! Thanks Peggy! ~ karen!

  6. Janet says:

    I have these floors in my apartment too (just around the corner from you!) As a grad student, even a buffer is out of the budget – but maybe wax will fix these groaty babies? What kind do you use/how do you do it?

  7. martina says:

    If you want a used one you should definitely get this:



  8. Janelle says:

    They look pretty dangerous to me, actually. Well done!

  9. Jackie says:

    Whoa…..good job! I, too, love a good Dangerous Kitchen Floor. My Mom used to wax the kitchen floor periodically, and I would assume the job of Shiny Floor Tester with my little white ankle socks. So much fun!

    Now, I have the honor of taking care of said kitchen floor, which is asphalt tile laid in a rug pattern (dark green with marbled cream and black, with a cream tile border). I never asked Mom what products she used to heavy-duty clean this floor, but remember she used Future liquid wax to wax it. Karen, do you have any ideas of what products I can used to clean and wax my wonderful asphalt tile floor? I do not want to replace it—it is smooth and cool in the summer, and smooth and warm in the winter. It feels way too good on the feet to cover it — and that is what the Hubster wants to do. I will not let him touch the floor. *smile*

  10. Anne says:

    I applaud your imagination and determination in creating a home burnisher at a sane price. It overrides the comically insane somewhat compulsive tendency in completing the mission. Thanks for sharing. I’m still wiping the tears of laughter away.

  11. Kelli says:

    Gosh, if burnishing is like having 6 trillion breakdancing tasmanian devils all over it, then our office floor is must be burnished already! Seriously, we have gorgeous dark hardwoods (courtesy of the former owners, Red Bull), that are now in horrible condition after walking all over them, moving chairs and tables, catering mishaps and other spills, plus various and sundry parties and gatherings. It’s almost embarrassing when we have guests come in. Not that I want to get on my knees to create 2,700 square feet of burnishment by hand, but you’ve definitely given me some ideas. Tho I can already hear the workplace comp claims being filed after we all wipe out or go blind from so much glowing beauty!

  12. barbee says:

    I HATE cleaning my kitchen floors! Especially since the finish is shot & they still look like crap even when clean. Once when my sister wiped up a spill, I said “great-now you made a clean spot!” Looking for a solution that doesn’t involve having them completely sanded & refinished.

  13. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    How much do you think you will spend buying all of these products to try and build your own burnisher because you are to stubborn to hire someone to do it??..Call the guy Karen…lol..

    • Karen says:

      Well no, its something I want to be able to do once a month. I’m definitely not hiring someone to come in and burnish my floors once a month, lol. ~ karen!

  14. Jan says:

    Can’t you rent those things?

    • Karen says:

      Sure you can, but it’d be commercial sized which would be pretty hard to get home in a car and it’d cost quite a bit to do it once a month which is how often I’d be burnishing. ~ karen!

  15. Ma Kettle says:

    I think I`ll use `Sneaky burnisher`from now on instead of the other b-words. Child-safe, you know ; )

  16. Su says:

    IDK – I love your I can do that myself attitude, but sometimes it makes sense to hire it done….. I mean afterall the people who that type of work got electric bills to pay and fabulous shoes to buy too….. maybe I’m getting old and lazy….

  17. Jody says:

    I love your kitchen. I lust after your kitchen. Seeing the floor polisher brings back such great memories of coming home from school and my mom had waxed all the floors in the house. I love the smell of floor wax.

  18. Kathy Hartzell says:

    I am still kicking myself that I didn’t spring for real linoleum flooring in my beach house…but instead I opted for large hybrid tiles by a major maker that have a little texture to them and look quite realistically like stone, yet happily leave you without the shin splints after a day of kitchen fun. I installed them with help of my contractor…..and love them, mostly.

    So one day I spilled something really nasty and got down to scrub it up. Omg, I was convinced the pattern was coming up. Just with my 65 year old self scrubbing!!! I called the company, wrote to them, cried that the product was worthless. Etc etc. the. Stumbled upon my box of leftover tiles….and discovered that my floor was simply unbelievably filthy…….and all I had done with my hot jam spill was clean off the house renovation dirt in a small area.

    Fast forward, The texture means it is a b*#%£ to scrub off that dirt, so I brought out my vintage floor polisher and burned out its motor last week trying to use the natural brushes as scrubbers. I applied pressure as it was dancing over the floor. DUH. I needed those green pads, not the polishing brushes.

    Why didn’t you write this two weeks ago??? I would still have a functioning vintage polisher. That I haven’t used in 29 years!!!! I could have mailed it to you for your collection. Now it will have to be a door stop, as was mentioned a few letters back.

  19. Dot says:

    Don’t throw those old floor polishers out. They are great for cleaning your wooden deck in the spring!

  20. Cred says:

    I’m wondering if it’s possible for the car polisher motor to fit within the housing of the floor buffer? That would be cool if you could retrofit it. Then you would have a floor burnisher that still has the cool retro look with the bonus of a long handle for less back-breaking labour.

  21. Judy O says:

    If you really want a burnisher and don’t mind a used one, keep an eye out on eBay — or janitorial supply companies — for one. Just for kicks I searched eBay and found a few (at 1,500 rpm) between $350 and $400, without the shipping cost.

  22. Patsy says:

    Brilliant Karen. I grew up with helping my mother polish our floors with the old fashioned one like in your picture. In fact, she still has it at home as a doorstop!! I wonder if I put burnishing pads on mom’s polisher with adhesive… could I do the same thing??

    • Karen says:

      I’m afraid not. What your mom has is a polisher, like mine. A burnisher is much stronger and faster. That’s why I could never get my floors super shiny with the polisher. ~ karen!

  23. Mary W says:

    I love the look of super wax shiny floors. I especially love how I see the reflection of your cabinets in your floors – just beautiful. It’s like visiting the Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina – beautiful and where I would host wonderful parties filled with interesting people. Dreamland beautiful. Just not lifeland real – I love visiting but would rather visit a blog and laugh than get up and clean. Now if you could DIY more hours in my day – more energy in my body – more want to in my soul – that would be something.

  24. Ann says:

    I am with the one that said, she just kicks the cheerios out of the middle of the floor. Our old ceramic floor tiles need replaced. But we are saving it for a bigger project, our kitchen remodel.. Until then, I just try to keep the dirty spots mopped up nightly.

  25. Sia says:

    Star Search!!!!!!

  26. Paula says:

    Karen, I think the floors turned out fabulously!
    Christie’s on Saturday :)

  27. Judy D. says:

    This is a floor burnisher available for ‘rent’ at the Home Depot down here in California. Perhaps your store has them for rent also.


  28. robert says:

    This is so SO weird, in something totally unrelated to you (that is, rewatching gossip girl from the beginning while I read the recaps of the episodes from Nymag where at some point the recaps point out that the floor at Blair’s are so “slippery and lawsuit inviting”) I haven’t stopped thinking for about a week now in very shiny floors and other things that might make one fall, slip or even fall on, and here you are talking about slippery shiny black and white floors. Are you been listening to my thoughts Karen???

  29. Catt in Kentucky says:

    Love your floors! Did you remove your old ceramic tile floors yourself?

  30. Wendy W says:

    Rent one? Home Depot has a great rental program. Not sure if they have a burnisher, but they might bring one in for you? Worth a call, maybe. Good luck!

  31. Laura Bee says:

    Whew – I thought you were going to go the Tim the Toolman Taylor way & give the buffer “More power!!” Aaghhh grrr uhgg hh. . .

  32. whitequeen96 says:

    I’m really glad I don’t care about shiny floors.
    I have enough to do just kicking the Cheerios out of my way.

  33. Moose says:

    For $30, you can get a cheap air-powered sander/polisher that will do 2,000 RPM. Or you can get a more meaty sander that spins at 20,000 RPM, which might move from “so shiny you need safety cones” to “where the hell did the floor tiles go?” The heads are only 7″ in diameter, so it’s not ideal, and they aren’t going to be as comfortable to use, but for lots of spinny for not much money, what the heck.

  34. Cynthia Jones says:

    Bloody hell, now you tell me why my fabulous vintage floor polisher didnt do squat. I got all excited when you mentioned a car polisher, but then you say it didn’t work well enough either.

    There’s one more option. I have a hand held grinder in the shed. It is small and goes like the clappers. Don’t ask me RPM’s and stuff like that, I am not even sure how to turn it on without picturing myself grinding my own head off at the stump.

    Surely, it could have a burnishing pad whacked onto it and surely you also have a grinder in your shed. Here in Oz you can also buy the finest of hobby grade steel wool. I wonder how that would go on it. I think it is worth a try.

    You do it and let me know. OK? I dont know how on earth you are going to attach it to the spinning pad though.

    I’m off for a coffee. Hope your weekend brings you some lovely.

  35. Raymonde says:

    After waxing the wood ceilings and beams in my very old house (and yes I make my own beeswax mixture) I needed to rub that wax a lot to give it a nice glow and to make sure the dust didn’t stick to it. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to do that? I mean it’s up there, over your head… Well, after trying a few things, I found that I could only use a really light hand held waxer. That meant that I had to compensate the lack of power with a rougher surface to burnish with. Finally, I settled on some rough scouring pads, the kind that are meant to clean BBQ grills. Those pads made the wood shine like crazy.
    Yeah… That reminds me it’s been quite a while, I should probably give them a quick go over…

  36. Sandra Brooks says:

    idk my mom used that same model back in the 50s and after she buffed our tile floors we all fell down for at least a week after.

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