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Mat cleaners have come a long way from the 1960s, when they became popularized during the transition from thin rubber matting to carpet mats, but didn’t always accomplish the job they were designed for. Bud Abraham, president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, said that back then, the thing that people always said about mat cleaners was “those things will eat your mat.”
Mat cleaners have improved greatly in quality in recent years, said J-KO Company owner, Jon Kolquist. Every year he said that companies make improvements and advancements in the cleaning technology involved in the equipment. He originally got involved in the mat cleaning business 14 years ago by building his own machine after becoming disappointed in equipment that he had purchased. However, even with the improvements there are still important steps that owners must take in properly marketing and monetizing their mat cleaner investment.
Full-serve, exterior and self-serve carwash mat cleaning services
Mat cleaners aren’t only an important part of a carwash, Abraham said, but they are something people have grown accustomed to in the carwash experience. “When people come to you for an inside/outside carwash, they expect you to clean the mats,” he continued. Washes that vacuum the mats, but do not use a mat cleaner, have struggled to provide a proper mat cleaning experience, Abraham said.
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Most full-serves will offer mat cleaning as a value added service, Abraham said, and will charge an additional fee, usually $1 or $2, to have each mat shampooed, he said. In the express market, mat cleaning will either be a value added service, or an additional charge, usually for the same price as that of a mat shampoo at a full-serve. It’s important for full-serves to have an adequate number of machines to clean all of the car mats. “A lot of people start out with one machine," said Kolquist, “and then they find out on the busy days that’s not enough” and end up getting another two or three machines for that location.”
While a mat cleaning machine will do a basic cleaning job, Abraham warned that a mat that is very dirty should not be put directly into the machine. “It’s really important that the full-service people don’t sell a mat shampoo to a mat that is really trashed unless it is pressure washed first, and then dried in a mat cleaner.” When your wash is experiencing a particularly busy day, Kolquist recommends letting the machine run all day to avoid slowing down the process.
At a self-serve carwash, the mat cleaning is usually a pay service, which is done by the customer personally using the mat cleaner, Kolquist said. A standard amount of time to give a customer for a $1 or $2 mat cleaning, would be two minutes. The self-serve market is really geared towards people who like do-it-yourself services, so offering a self-serve mat cleaner is likely to appeal to them more than customers at other wash types.
Marketing your mat cleaning services
In the full-service model, Abraham said that it is easier to market mat cleaning services. If your wash is charging for a shampoo, he recommended that you train your employees to ask things like, “Would you like us to shampoo all your floor mats for an additional $2?” Full-serves can have mat shampooing available in some wash packages as well, to increase the likelihood of an upsell, he added. Shampoo can be a great à la carte service, according to Kolquist, who said shampoo service can add additional value for a customer, and profit for a wash owner.
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At express/self-serves, mat cleaners are a relatively new phenomenon, and Abraham recommends giving out some free mat cleaning tokens to generate a buzz about your product. “That’s the fastest way to get your customers to use a mat cleaner,” he said. If the customer likes the service the first time around when it’s free, they’re more likely to pay for it the next time they visit your wash. Another way to market your mat cleaner, according to Kolquist, is to offer a free mat cleaning with the purchase of a specialty wash package or other item.
With self-serves, which often don’t have an attendant, it is important that the machines are in a place that is visible to potential customers, or they are unlikely to receive much use, Abraham said. For additional exposure, he recommends that you can put signs in your self-serve bays to inform your customers that you offer mat cleaning services.
Working with the manufacturer or distributor to find the mat cleaner that works best for your business is an important step, said Kolquist. If the customers are the ones using your mat cleaner, Abraham said it’s a good idea to limit the number of options your machine offers. By doings so, you can ensure that it continues to run properly, and it is also a way to maximize your return on investment.
For your customers to fully understand how your mat cleaner works, and the services that it offers, a good instruction sign must accompany it, Bud Abraham, president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, said. The supplier of the machine should be able to provide you with an effective sign that shows off all the value of getting a mat cleaning while you’re at the wash.
One recent improvement is machines that are able to wash mats faster, sometimes in as little as 10 seconds, said Jon Kolquist, owner of J-KO Company. The experts also said that mat cleaners now allow the operators to choose to select specific options for mat cleaning depending on the job, or what the time of year calls for.
Mat cleaners are a reliable service that can add value to a wash or be used as an additional revenue source. When marketed correctly, your wash will benefit from this piece of equipment that is a major component of a successful wash experience.
Mat cleaner maintenance
One of the best things about mat cleaners, according to the experts, is that there’s really nothing to maintain. “When you can have a machine for 10 years, and have very little repairs that’s a good thing,” said J-KO Company owner, Jon Kolquist. Here are some basics a wash owner needs to know about mat cleaner maintenance:
- Water and the dirt in the machines will build, and should be flushed out daily, especially at full-serves and busy locations.
- Rubber rollers tend to wear out in 1 to 2 years.
- Bearings will need to be replaced around every 2 years, and should be greased once a week.
- Brushes rarely need to be replaced, but should be checked weekly to make sure nothing has become stuck in them.