In the self-serve carwash industry, the owners and managers of each facility face a critical decision when installing the foaming brushes used by customers to remove surface dirt and debris. The choice: install low cost, coarse, synthetic brushes that customers suspect might scratch their paint jobs if applied too vigorously; or pay a little more for a higher end, natural foaming brush that is gentle and stands up to prolonged use.
For a more in depth look at the choice facing self-serve operators, we interviewed Dan Pecora, owner of Erie Brush and Manufacturing Corporation (www.eriebrush.com). In business since 1948, the Chicago, IL-based company the carwash industry with a variety of brushes and auto detailing supplies. Erie’s foaming brushes, which include hog’s hair options, include a patented design for better foam dispensing.
Q: Why is it so important to pay attention to the type of foaming brush installed in self-serve bays?
A: Foaming brushes are the single most important item the customer sees and touches when entering a self serve. They essentially serve as a calling card for the business and speak directly to the care and attention to detail the customer will receive.
Q: What are the most common types of brushes available for this purpose?
A: Foaming brushes are typically constructed of nylon, polyester, and polypropylene. These options save a few dollars on the front end, but tend to wear out quickly, bend out of shape, and require frequent replacement. They can also be quite coarse, and if they scratch the vehicle’s paint it is a sure-fire way to lose a customer for life, and even generate negative word-of-mouth.
Q: Is paint scratching really an issue?
A: Painted vehicle surfaces have become much softer in recent decades, so it’s even more important to use a gentler brush to wash cars today. Plus, there are always some customers that brush too vigorously and with a coarser bristle it can damage their paint job.
Q: You also offer hog’s hair products, considered by many as the high end of foaming brushes. Why are hog’s hair bristles superior?
A: Hog’s hair is the perfect material when made into a brush. Hog’s hair is very soft and gentle. Since the hairs are tapered, they are much softer at the tips for gentle washing, yet retain stiffness for washing up close if scrubbing is needed. At the same time, it is durable and resilient despite bending and prolonged use.
Q: How do customers react to hog’s hair foaming brushes?
A: When a customer comes into a self-serve, the first thing they do usually is grab the brush and feel it with their hands. Customers can feel the difference with hog’s hair and they appreciate the extra gentleness. They quickly realize it is not something that’s going to scratch their paint job so they aren’t afraid to use it.
Q: Are there differences between Hog’s Hair foaming brushes?
A: There can be. Some of the hog’s hair brushes from overseas and even domestically are less dense, meaning there are fewer hairs per brush head. You want to watch out for that. There can also be design differences when it comes to the design of the soap delivery system.
Q: How does foaming brush design come to play in this?
A: Traditional foaming brushes typically are designed with a couple of holes per brush for the soapy foam. However, this doesn’t always provide proper lubrication between brush and car, or between the brush hairs themselves. Foaming brushes with more holes spread the soapy foam more thoroughly. It also lubricates the brush so it cleans better and glides over the car surface.
Q: Are Hog’s Hair Brushes only for self-serve?
A: No, hog’s hair brushes are also effective for use at automatic, conveyor car washes. These non-foaming options provide a soft, safe detailing touch up of tough-to-reach spots such as around headlights, license plates, or around rear wiper arms.
Q: Since so much of equipment selections is price driven, what do you say to those that are going to make a decision simply on price?
A: The business world is filled with products that cost less, but need to be replaced so often they end up actually costing more in the long run. In this case, one hog’s hair brush can outlive 3-4 less expensive options. In part, this is due to an ability to quickly recover their natural shape even when bent 90-degrees. Once traditional brushes are bent, they remain out of shape and at some point have to be replaced.
Q: Are there any other ways that hog’s hair makes for a better return on investment?
A: By paying more attention to the choice of foaming brush, self-serve operators can develop a competitive edge over those that supply lower end options. Softer brushes, like hog’s hair, keep customers satisfied and earn repeat business and strong word-of-mouth. Ultimately, the choice of foaming brush can contribute to the success, or lack of success, of the entire self-serve operation.