How a Car Wash Owner's Simple Invention Revolutionized the Way We Clean - The History of Drillbrush

Posted by John Cittadino on

How a Car Wash Owner's Simple Invention Revolutionized the Way We Clean - The History of Drillbrush
The History of Drillbrush

The Drillbrush Power Scrubber has certainly made a splash on the cleaning world. It’s been featured on talk shows, listicles, and hardware store shelves across the country, helping any homeowner or cleaning specialist tackle tough stains without the hassle of hand scrubbing!

But some may wonder just who decided to strap a brush to a cordless drill or how something as simple as a scrub brush can be the basis for a successful company.

As we enter our fifteenth year as a company, we look back on our story; from the brainchild of a car wash operator to the product trusted by cleaning professionals around the globe. Join us as we stroll down memory lane and see what made Drillbrush what it is today!

Anthony J. LaPolla

Anthony J. LaPolla

The man behind the brush!

Anthony J. LaPolla is the founder of Useful Products LLC and the inventor of the Drillbrush Power Scrubber. Born in Utica, NY, Anthony is a lifelong handyman and vehicle enthusiast.

In the nineties, Anthony was a competitive bodybuilder, winning the 1993 NPC New York State Championships in the Lightweight category and participating in a few other competitions in the following years.

While bodybuilding was a major hobby of his, he earned his way doing freelance construction and electrical work. He moved to Colorado, where he was contracted to work on high rise apartments, computer chip factories, and other large scale projects. However, Anthony LaPolla had an entrepreneurial streak and wanted to go into business for himself, so he moved back to New York and started his first venture.

A Car Wash and an Invention (2005 - 2007)

A Car Wash and an Invention (2005 - 2007)

Where it all started!

In 2005, Anthony LaPolla took a chance and quit his job to found the Marcy Car Wash, a self-service car wash located in Marcy, NY. He felt a car wash would be a safe investment, as it’s a commonly needed service and the tools needed for a self-service car wash were less expensive to maintain than an automatic car wash.

Business was booming, but while customers could wash the cars themselves, Anthony would often assist them by cleaning their rims. However, after years of manual labor, Anthony LaPolla had developed carpal tunnel syndrome, which made scrubbing by hand difficult and painful.

An example of a proto-Drillbrush.

Not wanting to let his customers down, Anthony tried to find a way to ease the burden on his hands. He figured that a brush that scrubs automatically would loosen dirt without having to put in a lot of elbow grease, so he went to the store, purchased a cheap toilet scrub brush and chopped the head off of it. He attached the brush head to a drillbit and inserted his creation into a cordless drill. After some testing, he found that it was very effective at loosening built-up dirt and could easily get into the various crevices in rims, so he began using the device at the car wash.

The Drillbrush prototype was popular with customers, many of whom asked where they could get one for themselves. Sensing an opportunity, Anthony bought more brushes and drill bits and started creating more drill-powered brushes. He initially started selling them at the car wash, but began selling them on eBay to test if they would be successful outside of his home town.

A promising run online made Anthony confident in the viability of a drill-powered brush, so after ironing out the kinks in the design, lining up a manufacturer, and filing a trademark, Anthony LaPolla formed the company Useful Products LLC., and it’s first product would be the Drillbrush Power Scrubber.

Working Out of a Garage (2008 - 2010)

Working Out of a Garage (2008 - 2010)

Anthony LaPolla and his father standing by the first shipment of brush.

Like many success stories, Drillbrush was started in Anthony LaPolla’s garage, located directly behind the car wash. This is where our first order of 5,000 “Original” brushes was received.

The Yellow Original sold well, but one brush was not enough to handle every cleaning task, so Anthony considered other ways to innovate in this burgeoning field.

The Original was great in corners, but struggled cleaning flat surfaces, like tile floors and countertops. He worked with his manufacturer to design the 5 inch flat brush, a puck-shaped scrub brush that could pick up where the Original was lacking. It was released with a standard 1/4 inch quickchange shaft and a thicker 5/16 inch hexagonal shaft for adjustable chuck drills. Eventually, it was also released with a 5/16 inch threaded shaft for rotary polishers.

The original lug nut brush.

The Original and 5 inch proved to be great for bathroom and household clean-up, but not wanting to forget the product’s automotive roots, two more products were launched. The Cotton Buffer, a cylindrical brush that used fluffy cotton fibers instead of nylon bristles, was introduced as a gentler alternative for buffing out stains on rims and vehicle trim.

The other was the Lug Nut Brush. It was a small brush with long bristles that, as the name implies, were created for cleaning lug nuts. The Buffer is still sold to this day and while the original Lug Nut Brush has been discontinued, it has seen a revival in our 1 inch detail brushes.

Additionally, we introduced a new bristle type; Soft White, which is great for cleaning surfaces that were too delicate for the yellow bristles. White brushes would go on to become the go-to brush for cleaning furniture, glass, upholstery, and eventually replace the Medium brush as an automotive rims scrubber. We also began offering our Medium brushes in Red and Black so you can easily separate your brushes for different tasks.

During this time, we began working with two companies to produce our brushes; an American company that made our hex brushes and scrubbing pads, and a Chinese company that handled the rest and still makes our brushes to this day.

Expanding the Line (2011 - 2016)

Expanding the Line (2011 - 2016)

On the 'zon!

To make Drillbrush a household name, we would have to expand our reach. In 2011, we began selling on Amazon, which was quickly growing into the online shopping staple it is today. Being on Amazon has had its ups and downs, but many customers were first exposed to Drillbrush through Amazon and has made us a popular mainstay in “Best Amazon gadgets'' listicles from Rachael Ray to CNN.

Our most popular product; the Drillbrush 42O kit.

During this time, we introduced several key brushes to our line. First was the 2 inch detail brush, a small brush with short bristles built for spot cleaning and detail work, which filled a void in our line-up for small surface scrubbing. Next was the 4 inch Flat brush, a slightly smaller version of the 5 inch that could handle surfaces the 5 inch was too large for. The introduction of these two brushes led to the creation of the 42O kit, a kit featuring the 2 inch, 4 inch, and Original brushes. This kit, especially in Medium Yellow, would go on to be our most successful product, selling over 1.5 million units.

Expanding the palate!

Two more stiffness were introduced during this era; Stiff and Ultra Stiff. It was decided that the Red and Black brushes, which were both traditionally Medium, would become the Stiff and Ultra Stiff colors respectively.

With Yellow now being the only Medium brush again, we decided to add an additional color to prevent cross-contamination when cleaning bathrooms and kitchen. The Green Medium brush was launched in 2014 and was intended to take on Kitchen cleaning tasks so you weren’t using your Yellow Bathroom brush near food prep areas.

Getting official!

With all these new products, we needed more space to store them, as well as a command center to handle the new logistical challenges that new storefronts bring. So in 2015, we moved out of the garage and into a former cafe across the street, which we converted into office space. This would become instrumental in our growth over the next several years.

Further Growth (2017 - 2019)

Further Growth (2017 - 2019)

Brushes as far as the eye can see!

Drillbrush continued to grow as a company, with 2017 being a major step forward.

We expanded our operations to a new 10,000 square foot warehouse space within a short driving distance of our central office. This allowed us to fulfill more website orders as we had ample space to store our products. In fact, we eventually ended up renting some of the space in the neighboring warehouse to keep up with inventory demands.

The warehouse was not the only thing that needed expanding, as Drillbrush looked to increase its brand and appearance. To do this, we would need to develop a media department.

A growing team!

Their first hire of the year was an IT specialist, who would manage the website and servers. Eventually, it became apparent that a graphic designer was needed, as the company looked into custom packaging and product catalogs, so a recent graduate from the Mohawk Valley Community College art program was hired as our in-house designer. With the website and branding up to date, it was time to update our image library. We brought a product photographer and videographer onboard to make our brushes look their prettiest!

A photo of the photographer!

Our new media department went on to do quite a bit of innovating over the next few years. They began producing video content for our Youtube channel, including product launches, Drillbrush Tips and Tricks videos and Drillbrush cleaning vlogs. In addition to videos, they also overhauled the website to its current design, updated the listings for every product and kit we sell, and created the Drillbrush Power Blog (yes, this blog, the one you’re reading right now!)

Around this time, we began regularly accepting 40ft shipping containers of products. To store these brushes and to provide quicker shipping, we enlisted the help of third-party warehouses and logistics companies. This was helpful, as after participating in an ACE Hardware convention, we began to get requests from small ACE and TrueValue chains dotted around the United States. We also expanded our e-commerce presence, being carried on, Zulilly, Imperial Tools, Acme Tools, and others.

Black and Blue without a bruise!

This year also saw the release of the Drillbrush Mini Original brush, a smaller version of the Original brush for tighter corners and more intricate fixtures, as well as the full scale launch of our Medium Blue brushes, a separate designation of our Medium brushes geared towards Marine, Pool, and Outdoor cleaning.

In 2018, we put out the 7 inch brush. The 7 inch is a large, heavy duty brush designed for cleaning contractors to use on big projects. Unlike most Drillbrush products, it has a threaded nut instead of a shaft, which is built for use in variable speed polishers. Learn more about the 7 inch brush in our installation guide.

The Pandemic and Aftermath (2020 - onwards)

The Pandemic and Aftermath (2020 - onwards)

Our IT department hard at work!

2020 started off well for Drillbrush, as we had two revolutionary new products launch early in the year. The first was the Edge brush, a wheel-shaped brush with bristles lining the outside rim of the block for cleaning tight and thin areas, like grout lines, shower door tracks, or ridges on anti-skid surfaces and shoe treads. We also released Drill-tergent, our first ever private label cleaning solution.

However, our world turned upside down in late March when the unthinkable occurred; the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread in the United States, resulting in widespread panic and closures.

As an e-commerce business, we fortunately did not need to worry about a shortage in customers coming in. However, many key warehouses and shipping centers that we rely on to send products out had to temporarily stall operations or switch over to exclusively shipping essential goods. This dried up our primary source of income and threatened our small business’ survival.

We had to act fast. We kept on essential personal and developed a task force to keep the business afloat. Through their number crunching and quick work, Drillbrush was able to keep the lights on until the warehouses opened up again.

A little pandemic ain’t gonna stop us from innovating!

Since the pandemic, Drillbrush is doing its part to minimize the spread of the virus by having its office employees work from home. We moved from renting out warehouse space to a small warehouse of our own, where we still pack and ship orders from our website.

We also expanded to more online storefronts, including Chewy, The Paper Store, Zoro, and Do It Best.

For owner Anthony LaPolla, the past few years have been tumultuous, as a lifetime of hard work has taken its toll as he began suffering from severe arthritis throughout his body. Despite having limited mobility, Anthony continues to helm the company while he receives treatment.

He is still committed to growing our line of products, as in 2021, Drillbrush launched the Jumbo Original brush, the Cone-shaped Corner brush, the Long 1-inch detail brush, and a number of new kits featuring our newest brushes.

A Rich History

A Rich History

As Drillbrush continues to grow, we hope to continue our commitment to innovating in the field of drill-powered scrubbing and expand our reach to provide fast and easy scrubbing to cleaners everywhere.

You can learn more about our company by visiting our About Page. If you want to know more about what a Drillbrush is and how to use it, we also have an introductory article you can check out.

Photo of Author John Cittadino

John Cittadino | John is the lead graphic designer, script writer, and video editor for Drillbrush. John is a die-hard motorsports fan and loves storytelling and illustrating.

1 comment

Great product!

Posted by:
Elkie on

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