We differentiate surfaces with different properties with simple low-cost IR emitters and detectors in a location-invariant manner. The intensity readings obtained with such sensors are highly dependent on the location and properties of the surface, which complicates the differentiation and localization process. Our approach, which models IR intensity scans parametrically, can distinguish different surfaces independent of their positions. Once the surface type is identified, its position (r,θ) can also be estimated. The method is verified experimentally with wood; Styrofoam packaging material; white painted matte wall; white and black cloth; and white, brown, and violet paper. A correct differentiation rate of 100% is achieved for six surfaces, and the surfaces are localized within absolute range and azimuth errors of 0.2 cm and 1.1 deg, respectively. The differentiation rate decreases to 86% for seven surfaces and to 73% for eight surfaces. The method demonstrated shows that simple IR sensors, when coupled with appropriate signal processing, can be used to recognize different types of surfaces in a location-invariant manner.