As the owner of a collector’s car, the way my car looks at all times is crucial to me. The car is covered when in storage, “quick” detailed after every outing and always detailed right before showing it off in a car show.

But, I have one problem: I cannot wash the car. I live in a high-rise condominium building in Chicago, and while it does have an area in the garage set up for tenants to wash their cars, the building no longer allows carwashing in the garage. Further, you can no longer pay one of the garage attendants to wash the car. Why they did this, I do not know. Maybe it’s for safety or insurance reasons.

So, this means I use various professional carwash facilities in my city. I am happy to report there are many excellent carwash companies in the Chicago area. But, I must also say, as someone who works in marketing and public relations, not one of them is taking advantage of a specific opportunity to better market and brand their carwashes.

What is the missed opportunity? None of them require their staff to wear uniforms, and uniforms can say a lot about a professional carwash.

Consumer reactions

A study several years back by J.D. Powers and Associates took a very in-depth look into the impact uniforms have on a company and its customers. Some of the bullet points of their findings are as follows:

  • Consumers associate positive traits when they see uniformed employees.
  • Wearing uniforms conveys to consumers a higher work ethic and instills a greater sense of trust and confidence.
  • When consumers see an employee in uniform, they feel that they receive a better product and higher quality of service.
  • Customers prefer to see uniformed employees in the following categories: Transportation/Storage Services; Utilities; Hospitality Services; Household Services; Healthcare Services; and Automotive Services, such as carwashes, parking lot attendants and valet services. In these settings, the customers surveyed indicate that, all other factors being equal, they would definitely or probably use the service where the employees were in uniform.

That final item is of special interest to the owners and managers of professional carwashes.

Why do customers believe all of these great things are possible just by seeing an employee in a uniform? It appears it all comes down to professionalism. When workers, such as those working in a carwash, wear the same uniforms, it provides a much more professional image of the staff compared to seeing the same crew clothed in whatever they decided to come to work wearing.

Further, it helps promote your brand, making it a marketing opportunity. This helps customers identify your uniformed staff with your carwash and can even bring in prospective employees because they like the way your crew looks and the professionalism the uniforms convey.

“Uniforms communicate [to your customers and your staff that] your business is professional, reliable, consistent and detail-oriented,” explains John Sedeski, district manager for Unifirst Corporation, a manufacturer of professional uniforms and workplace attire. “It’s fairly simple: When your employees look good, your business looks good.”

What to wear

If you hired a carpet cleaning technician or someone to fix your television cable system, the proper uniform would likely be a work shirt with the company logo on it, possibly with the worker’s name, and matching pants. With the pants, the goal is to make sure all workers wear the same type of pants; a logo is not necessary.

However, this may not work with a carwash staff just by the very nature of their work. What would work better is some type of overalls or “scrubs” with the same information imprinted on it. The uniform should also be more durable than those worn by a carpet cleaning or cable tech. The uniform would need to be waterproof or water-resistant and have flexibility, allowing for greater ease of motion and for more types of motion.

As to putting the person’s name on the uniform, this helps personalize the experience for the customer and allows the customer to see exactly who works — and does not work — in the facility. It is often a good idea to add a bit more than just the person’s name, such as a title. For instance:

  • Jeff Wilson, Auto Detailing Expert
  • Julia Gonzales, Interior Auto Care Professional
  • Donald O’Conner, Engine Cleaning Advisor
  • James Montero, Auto Washing Products Consultant
  • Al Montoya, Team Coordinator.

Adding this information and these titles further conveys an image of professionalism as well as branding. Your customers will feel — and they will know — that they are working with true carwash professionals when visiting.

What uniforms say to other workers

Uniforms do not “talk” just to customers — they talk to your staff as well. In the hospitality industry, it has been found that uniforms help workers “step into their business roles.”

It’s nonverbal, but it tells the worker he or she is now to consistently act and perform in a certain professional way that positively reflects on himself or herself and the company that person works for. Very likely, the same would be true of workers in a carwash.

Taking this a step further, the wearing of uniforms — again based on studies in the hospitality industry — impacts the way workers feel about themselves and their attitudes toward others. The uniform makes the worker feel more professional, and as a result, he or she treats others wearing the same uniforms with greater professionalism and respect.

Uniform selection

We mentioned earlier that a uniform that might be suitable for a home technician might not work for someone working in a carwash. Specialized work requires specialized uniforms that are comfortable and appropriate for the task. Carwash owners and managers who have decided they want their staff in uniform should contact one of many uniform manufacturing companies to explore their options.

Related: Wash Wisdom: Tips for choosing carwash uniforms

Among the things to discuss with them are the following:

  • What type of fabric will work best for my staff and the local climate?
  • What color should the uniforms be? This may depend on what colors your carwash uses for branding purposes.
  • The durability of the uniform: How well does it withstand water and cleaning agents, and how many times can it be washed?
  • Do you want embroidering or screen printing? Embroidering tends to work better with a small logo on the uniform, but in general, screen printing offers more flexibility as to sizes, colors, fabrics and designs.

Discuss the need for a uniform that allows your staff to move freely at work. These requirements may be much different than the ones for uniforms created for a technician or someone working in hospitality.

And, one final note: It is often a good idea to have two or three people working at the carwash help you with these design issues. Their input is valuable both in terms of identifying and meeting performance requirements and with regard to worker satisfaction.

You want the uniform to look good. This will help ensure that your staff not only wears the uniform but also wants to wear the uniform.


Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and building industries.