Attract New Customers and Upsell on Existing Ones with Dry Steam

Attract New Customers and Upsell on Existing Ones with Dry Steam

By Yujn Yoo Anderson

Most of your customers come to you for the basics, but perhaps you’re seeing a stagnation in recent business.

Whether it’s related to the season, a rough local economy or just a matter of needing more customers, the objective of any aspiring business is to maximize on opportunities with your existing customers and to continuously attract new customers. You probably have a promotional item or two to attract customers whether it be a $5 express tunnel wash or a $1.99 hot dog. But that is probably not where you make the most profit. Typically the best profit margins are made in value-added services especially if you are the only or one of the few providers in the area. For car wash businesses, you may be missing out on revenue streams from services you haven’t considered or heard of because they are not typically seen in this market. Here are some add-on service ideas to give your car wash business a needed competitive edge. And dry steam might be one of the easiest ways to add more items to your service menu for car wash businesses with a minimal investment.

Express Interior Detail

Exterior wash places are dime a dozen, but it is hard to find a car wash that offers good interior cleaning services on demand. After all, drivers spend their time inside their car, not outside. If you operate a high volume tunnel wash and are thinking, “We don’t deal with interior. There is not enough volume,” then think again – there is a huge void in the high volume interior cleaning service market. This is not the same market automotive detailers are in. Most detailers are owner-operators aiming for a high ticket per wash business model, so an entry level interior detailing service is still very pricey for the mass market. Besides, customers have to make appointments days ahead, and it is not a quick job. So if a customer is just looking for a quick but good interior cleaning provider at a reasonable price who can take their car in right now and be done in 15-20 minutes, could you be “that” provider?

The answer is “absolutely!” if you have the right equipment and process in place. Dry steam has been very popular among detailers, but the downside has been that most steamers on the market were not made for high volume places. Thanks to recent advances made toward eco-friendly car cleaning methods and more awareness on the importance of sanitizing surfaces through the pandemic, there are more high volume dry steamer options available in the marketplace. In addition to its very effective cleaning performance on various interior surfaces, dry steam has the advantage of using a fraction of water (one to two litres per vehicle interior), no waste-water run-off, quick dry-time (=turnaround) and chemical-free sanitization. Some well-known high volume car wash companies in Canada and the U.S. have started adding industrial-grade dry steamers as the main interior service tool and achieve nine or 10 minute express detail. Abundant and continuous dry steam jets can wear many hats as an air compressor, upholstery cleaning tool, stain remover, natural sanitizer and deodorizer, salt remover, glass cleaner and more, which make it possible to achieve “an express detail” or high quality interior cleaning in minutes.

As an example, a large gas station/car wash company headquartered near Niagara Falls controls the speed and workflow of interior cleaning crews by putting vehicles on a conveyor belt that takes nine minutes to travel through their detail shop. In those nine minutes, a quick vacuum job is performed first as a dry cleaning process. Next, instead of traditional wet cleaning using water, chemical and extraction, powerful dry steam jets are used to clean and sanitize upholstery or leather seats, mats, dashboard, cup holders, glass, headliner, trunk door jambs and anything in between. Under 15 minutes, a vehicle can go through the tunnel wash for the exterior and put on the interior cleaning conveyor and be cleaned inside and out, sanitized and deodorized. An additional revenue stream of $30 – 40 for a nine minute interior job for sure will boost your income and profit margin. Using dry steam also helps you control your costs by reducing water and chemical consumption by over 90 per cent. It is truly a green way of cleaning. In addition, you do not need to train ever-revolving employees on multiple pieces of equipment, making the business model more sustainable for expansion or dealing with employee attrition.

Sanitizing Services

Through the pandemic, we learned that something we cannot even see can make us very ill and even kill us. Cleaning is removing visible soils and pollutants whereas sanitizing is removing things you cannot see with an naked eye. If you can sanitize while you clean without adding extra effort or time, why wouldn’t you advertise the value added service to your customers? Although the high surge for sanitization demand has plateaued since the beginning of the pandemic, the demand is still very much alive and up-trending compared to the pre-pandemic time. 

Car interiors are breeding grounds for all sorts of bacteria strains and health-related infestations, which is probably the cause of that funky odor fresheners can only mask. It is well documented that there is more bacteria found on a steering wheel than on a bathroom toilet. Bacteria and viruses can be killed either by disinfectant chemicals or high heat. Dry steam transfers high heat to surfaces in the most efficient and safest manner.

Whether you incorporate chemicals that are aimed at disinfecting, or you invest into equipment such as a steam cleaner that is designed for surface sanitization and cleaning, providing your customers with a sanitization add-on option – or even a unique sanitization service – can up your average sale amount and attract new customers who are worried about what they can’t see. The current trend is that customers want organic and eco-friendly cleaning methods, so look into natural and organic chemicals or chemical-free steam sanitization methods.

And to help show your customers that their car has been sanitized (and doesn’t just look clean), consider using a bacteria counter that you can swab surfaces with to show bacteria counts before and after. Show them how “dirty” their steering wheel, cupholders, and even seats are before you start, and then again after you finish. This way, they know it is sanitized and may even become a regular sanitizing service customer. And don’t forget to use social media to spread the word. Pictures say more than a thousand words. 

Services for Families with Children

Do you serve areas with many young families? Consider offering services specifically catered to their circumstances, providing a hassle-free experience that takes away those obstacles and makes their lives easier. 

Offerings for families might include care for car seats, chemical-free sanitizing, collecting clutter (perhaps putting everything removed from the car into reusable bags with your company logo on it), etc. Parents will most likely also be concerned about the sanitary aspect of their car, so combine this with disinfecting to add more value proposition. And while you are at it, offer to clean and sanitize strollers and highchairs. Using an industrial grade dry steamer makes this kind of cleaning job a piece of cake. Not only can steam get to nook and crannies, the dry time is very minimal, if any. Services like these can turn rare customers into regular customers. And because you are servicing a niche market, customers won’t balk at a premium price. Wouldn’t you spend a little more for what’s best for your own children? 

Many More

Continuing with the sanitizing service theme, deodorization service can be easily added on using dry steam. If you have a corporate account that requires on-site cleaning, an industrial grade dry steamer can be a solution for exterior and interior cleaning without having to worry about wastewater restrictions. Pet hair removal is as easy as it gets with dry steam. Engine cleaning is another area where dry steam shines. The ability to offer safe engine compartment cleaning can be an easy way to upsell and offer a true full-package service. 

Your tunnel wash may be what brings customers in, but interior cleaning and add-on services are where your real profit is made. And they might be a reason why a customer might drive an extra mile to come to you instead of your competitor down the street. Don’t give up on offering interior service without looking into different cleaning solutions such as dry steam.

Yujin Yoo Anderson is the general manager for Steamericas, a manufacturer specializing in commercial-grade portable dry steam generators. For more information on Steamericas, go to

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