Many would argue wet polishing is still the most effective and beneficial method. In this post, we’ll walk you through the advantages of mechanical wet polishing and what Runyon Surface Prep does to dismantle any disadvantages you may find while using this method.

History of Wet Polishing

Wet polishing is the oldest known method of concrete surface prep, dating back to the early 1900s. It wasn’t until the 1990s that dry polishing was introduced to the industry, and it happened by accident. 

A polishing contractor left his new crew to do a job, assuming they understood the polishing process. When he returned, he found they were polishing without water. Happy with the results, dry polishing became his go-to method, and it eventually spread throughout the industry.

What Is the Wet Polishing Method?

The wet polishing method uses water to cool the concrete surface and control dust during polishing. This approach ensures a high-quality finish and makes the workplace safer by reducing the risk of respiratory problems from dust, a common issue with dry polishing techniques.

Wet vs Dry Polishing Concrete

Comparing wet and dry polishing, one of the standout features of wet polishing is its lower environmental impact. It significantly reduces airborne dust, making the workspace cleaner and safer. 

Plus, wet polishing often leads to a better-quality finish on concrete, avoiding problems like warping or cracking found with dry polishing.

7 Reasons Wet Polishing Is Best for Concrete

The practice of wet polishing has been a cornerstone in the field of concrete surface preparation for over a century. It’s a method that has historically offered numerous benefits, from preventing surface overheating to ensuring the safety of workers from hazardous silica dust. 

Despite the rise of dry polishing in the late 20th century, due to its compatibility with modern machines, the inherent advantages of wet polishing continue to make it a preferred choice for many professionals. 

Wet polishing enhances safety compliance and operational efficiency and significantly reduces wear and tear on equipment. Following are seven compelling reasons that illustrate why wet polishing remains a relevant and advantageous method for contemporary surface prep projects.

1. 100% Dust-Free Operation and Crystalline Silica Safety

Wet polishing offers a dust-free environment and significantly reduces the risk of crystalline silica exposure. Unlike dry polishing, which releases silica particles into the air, wet polishing interrupts silica dust at its source by liquefying it, thus preventing it from becoming airborne.

This method is crucial for worker safety, as inhaled silica can lead to severe lung diseases. However, even with these advantages, it’s important to remember that wet polishing produces concrete slurry, which requires proper disposal.

2. Tooling Longevity and Efficiency

Wet polishing extends the life of diamond tooling. The water prevents tools from overheating and reduces friction, maintaining the tooling in good condition for longer than dry polishing.

This aspect mainly benefits surface preppers who often deal with tool wear and tear. We recommend higher grit levels to achieve a smoother gloss, similar to dry polishing results. Specialized diamond tooling products are also available for wet polishing.

3. Reduced Overheating and Pitting

Lower operational temperatures in wet polishing prevent the melting of tools and reduce pitting in the concrete surface, resulting in a smoother and more durable polished surface, addressing one common issue in dry polishing.

4. Abundance of Expert Guidance and Resources for Amateurs

With its long-standing tradition and history, wet polishing offers abundant resources and best practices. Even for those new to wet polishing, the transition from dry polishing is straightforward, as the fundamental principles remain similar. 

The primary learning curve involves managing the slurry and mess created during the process.

5. Surface Quality and High Gloss

Wet polishing avoids surface abrasion and can achieve a high gloss and refined surface finish. This method provides quality results on par with dry polishing, ensuring an aesthetically pleasing and durable polished concrete surface.

6. Simplified Slurry Management

Modern advancements in slurry management have made the cleanup process associated with wet polishing much more manageable. Products like wet vacuums with pre-separators and solidification agents help efficiently separate and dispose of the slurry, turning what was once a cumbersome process into a more straightforward task.

7. Resources for Amateurs

The extensive history of wet polishing ensures a wealth of information and guidance is available, particularly beneficial for beginners. This historical advantage means there’s a plethora of advice on best practices and troubleshooting, making it an accessible technique for those new to concrete polishing.

Wet Polishing Challenges

While wet polishing is highly beneficial, it has its challenges. Concerns such as cleanup times, slurry management, and water wastefulness are valid, but advancements in technology and products have made these issues more manageable.

  • Slurry Solutions and Management. As OSHA’s new standard for silica exposure in 2017, there has been a rise in wet polishing and the need for slurry solutions. Runyon combats hazardous concrete slurry using slurry solution products like SlurrySep, which allows you to separate the solids from the water, creating a sludge that can be disposed of as solid construction waste material.
  • Prosoco First Cut with Densifier. This product helps harden the surface while suspending slurry to keep tools clean. It also minimizes scratches created during lower grit diamond tooling steps and is ideal for power trowel polishing.
  • High Gloss. Some say wet polishing does not make the same high shine and gloss that dry polishing accomplishes. But with Runyon tooling, you can reach a very high gloss with maximum surface refinement.

Wet Concrete Polishing Pads

Runyon Surface Prep carries a range of diamond tooling at various grits and pads to meet the needs of your project. For example, the Runyon Wet Slick polishing pads are ideal for wet polishing. With a long lifespan and serious flexibility, these pads pair well with heavy grinders or power trowel machines. Their unique design easily allows water and debris to pass through the pad channels. Runyon’s range of tooling includes: 

  • Metals (Wet or dry): 4-seg (16 or 30 grit) or 8-seg + 10-seg (30, 70, or 120 grit)
  • Coppers (Wet or Dry): 30 – 800 grit
  • Resin (Dry): SP3 Pads or Race Resins (800 – 3,000 grit)