If you’ve shopped for car wash foam brushes, you’ve probably noticed that bristle type is one of the most important details when it comes to choosing your brushes. The choice for car wash operators is between hog hair bristles or synthetic bristles made from nylon, polyester, or polypropylene. Hog hair brushes are a more expensive, longer-lasting option that provides an exceptional experience. Synthetic bristle brushes are a more economical option but are quicker to become unusable and only offer a basic user experience. That is a simple breakdown, but what are the details that you should consider when buying your foam brushes? The Kleen-Scene looked into the pros and cons of each bristle type and even consulted John Mundo, president of Universal Brush Mfg. Co., for more insight.
Hog Hair Pros and Cons:
- Naturally tapered shape. The base of the bristle is thicker than the end, increasing strength and longevity.
- Maintain shape. Return to original shape when bent or manipulated, ensuring a long life.
- Naturally feathered bristle ends. These provide a soft touch that will not damage clear coats, gel coats, glass, or fiberglass.
- Accumulate virtually no grit. Hog filaments are excellent at absorbing water without grabbing grit.
- Grease resistant. Real hair is naturally resistant to oil and grease.
- Handmade. Each group of hog hair filaments is manually added to the brush. This adds to the quality construction of the brush.
- High up-front cost. Price may be a barrier for some car wash operators.
- No scrubbing ability. Hog hair works great for applying foam, but is not intended for use as a friction scrubber to remove dirt and grime.
Synthetic Bristle Pros and Cons:
- More economical price. Less up-front cost to the car wash operator.
- Scrubbing ability. Can be used to physically remove residue (should only be done on tires and other areas not vulnerable to damage).
- Bristles can be dyed different colors. Great for branding purposes or to color-code for different uses.
- Ethical materials. Some operators or customers may appreciate products not made with materials derived from animals.
- Poor shape retention. When bristles are bent, squished, or smashed, they likely won’t return to their original shape.
- Harder than hog hair. Increased danger of scratching and marking.
- Fewer filaments can fit on brush head.
- Absorb more oil and grease. As synthetic bristles are generally an oil-based product, they’re more likely to soak up oils and greases.
Thoughts on Pricing
It’s always tempting to go for a lower priced option when buying equipment and supplies, but the “you get what you pay for” adage usually rings true.
“You might use a couple synthetic bristle brushes over the lifetime of a boar hair brush,” Mundo said.
He made sure to point out that this is true if the brushes are being used in the same way. You can only compare the lifespan of the different brushes if they’re being used in the same applications. But it is important to recognize the longer-lasting capability of hog’s hair brushes and how that justifies the price.
“Over time, there’s really not a dramatic financial difference between the two types of brushes,” Mundo notes. “Cost is more of a mental hurdle to get over. You end up spending about the same amount of money, but with the boar hair brush you can offer that premium experience.”
Scarcity is an Issue
There’s a lot you might not think about when it comes to harvesting and sourcing hog hair. Mundo gave us a helpful summary of why it’s becoming more difficult to get natural hog hair for car wash foam brushes.
In addition to the car wash industry, hog hair is also used for things like paint brushes, make-up tools, and even electronics cleaning devices. Simply put, more industries are recognizing the benefits of these natural fibers and using them in their products, which greatly increases the demand for hog hair.
Boars are also being used more for livestock. The best hog hair is grown over the entire lifespan of a fully mature boar. When slaughtered for food, growth hormone is frequently used to make a boar grow to a large size at an unnatural rate. That means the boar can be slaughtered at an earlier age and processed into meat. Unfortunately, hair fiber growth is not accelerated by hormones. That means fewer boars are reaching a mature age where quality, usable hair can be harvested.
These factors all contribute to the status of the hog hair market and increase the cost to distributors and consumers.
When Synthetic Bristles Brushes Might Work Best
All of the praise for hog hair brushes doesn’t mean synthetic bristle brushes don’t have their place. Obviously, they’re useful when you simply can’t afford to buy an expensive brush. Even if this doesn’t become a regular choice, some less expensive brushes might get you through some lean times until you can buy higher quality.
You might also use synthetic for special projects “where the brush will get beat up and you only plan to use it once… or only a few times,” says Mundo.
In addition, synthetic might be best for very dirty, tough applications like cleaning a huge construction machine or farming vehicle (where there’s little concern about scratches or marks). You can apply foam and detergents while also using friction to scrub off crud.
Mundo mentioned that customers should always make sure that they are actually getting hog hair when they order a foam brush. Other types of animal hair might look similar but won’t offer the performance of hog hair. He adds that, “Some brushes also have a mixture of hair types. You’ll want brushes that have 100% authentic boar hair to truly get the best results.”
Universal Brush is a trusted brand for both genuine hog hair and synthetic products. Regardless of the type of brush and price point your business chooses, Universal Brush products provide the appropriate value for your money. That comes from being in the car wash brush industry for over 50 years.
Self-serve customers easily see and feel how a foam brush performs, and that experience often sets the tone for their overall opinion of your car wash. It’s important to figure out the most appropriate brush option for your budget, volume, and customer expectations. If you’re interested in more info about foam brushes, talk to one of Kleen-Rite’s knowledgeable sales reps by calling 1-800-233-3873. They’ve got the know-how to ensure you get just the right brush for your car wash. Thanks to John Mundo for sharing his knowledge with the Kleen-Scene!