Buying vs Renting Employee Uniforms

Workforce Management

A properly selected employee uniform plays a vital role in maintaining a professional business image, by providing employees with a polished appearance.

Many industries are known for making use of workwear, including the food service, safety, automotive, and transportation industries. However, more and more businesses are starting to embrace uniform programs to reap the benefits of having a professional company image.

There are two options a company can make use of to provide employees with workwear, namely: uniform rentals and purchasing uniforms.

Renting Uniforms vs Buying Uniforms

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Many companies need a uniform program for their employees, but it can be difficult to choose between renting and buying uniforms. Some companies may opt for rental programs because they have a high employee turnover. However, other companies with a lower staff turnover may opt for purchasing work apparel as it is a lower-cost option.

There are several things to consider when deciding between uniform rental and buying uniforms for employees.

Type of Work

The type of work an employee does in the company is one of the first things to consider when deciding between buying or renting their staff apparel.

In some industries, employees may do extremely dirty work and end up with heavily soiled clothes once their duties are finished, in which case it may make more sense to opt for uniform rental. Some of these industries include miners, landscapers, automotive workers, food service staff, cleaning staff, and oil rig workers.

Rental programs typically include regular industrial laundering, and if done well the high-quality uniforms can last two to three years. In an industry where uniforms get soiled heavily, the clothes may also benefit from industrial laundering, as opposed to washing at home.

Before Choosing

Before deciding between buying and renting uniforms, consider the following:

  • Who will be wearing the uniforms?
  • Are your employees working on-site/in the field, or corporate/office workers?
  • Will the uniforms need industrial washing, or can they be washed easily in a domestic machine?
  • What are the goals of the uniform?
  • Are the uniforms simply for a professional image, or are they required by industry regulation?
  • Who are the customers of your business?
  • Do your employees work with customers regularly?
  • Do you have a high or low employee turnover?
  • What is the annual budget for employee uniforms?

Once you have considered all of the above, you can contact the customer service representative of both a uniform rental program and a provider of uniforms for purchase. In this way, you can compare their available options with the needs of your company and its employees.

Things to Consider When You Rent Uniforms

Rental Contract

Purchasing uniforms can be up to forty-five percent cheaper than uniform rental, as most laundries include periodic increases in the rental contract. The terms and lengths of contracts can vary but typically last between two to five years.

It is important to read the rental contract very carefully. There may be cancellation terms hidden in the fine print that could lead to unexpected and automatic contract renewals, as the window for cancellations is usually very small.

Rental contracts also typically charge between twenty to thirty percent for oversize uniforms (usually anything above Extra Large) and when purchasing uniforms once the contract ends.

Additionally, it can be difficult to break or end a rental contract, even when companies are unhappy with things like hidden costs and poor service.

On the other hand, a uniform purchase program typically has one-year contracts with automatic renewal or no renewal.


When rental uniforms are sent to industrial laundries, they are washed and dried using harsh chemicals and steam tunnels, reducing the longevity of the garment. As a result, most employees prefer to take their uniforms home and wash them themselves. Because of this, a large percentage of rented uniforms never get sent to the rental laundry.

When employees neglect to turn their uniforms in for weekly cleaning services, companies can get charged “Under-Wash” fees. The Under-Wash fees make up a large percentage of the profits in uniform rental programs, and companies end up paying even more.

It is also very difficult to track the rental program maintenance costs when so many employees are neglecting to turn in workwear.

Evergreen Clauses

An “Evergreen Clause” is a clause for automatic renewal often contained in the fine print of a rental contract. Evergreen clauses can get costly, and typically go into effect if a notice of contract cancellation is not sent ninety days before the expiration date of the contract (or longer).

A uniform rental program can run for up to five or seven years, and many evergreen clauses don’t require rental providers to notify companies when the contract is about to expire. Combined with the often ignored fine print, this can lead to unwanted automatic renewals.

To avoid this, many companies opt for buying uniforms instead. However, if you decide that rental uniforms are the better option for your company, be sure to read the fine print and look for an evergreen clause in the rental contract. Also, be sure to make note of the expiration date so that the contract can be canceled.

Hidden Costs

Hidden charges and costs in rental contracts can make it almost impossible to determine a fixed budget. At least twenty to forty percent of the annual contract costs are made up of hidden charges, and they can easily result in businesses exceeding budgets.

Some of the charges you may come across that can inflate rental costs include:

  • Set-Up Charges (in the case of new workers)
  • Fees for Changing Sizes or Logos
  • Additional Twenty to Thirty Percent for Uniforms Above XL
  • Full Cleaning Fee for All Uniforms (even if some employees didn’t turn their uniforms in)
  • Additional Under-Wash Fee
  • Multiple Percentage Price Increases Every Year
  • Add-On Charges for Lost Garments (billed at full retail price)
  • Button Replacement costs of three to five USD (when button loss is typically caused by the laundry itself, from the harsh industrial methods of washing)

On the other hand, purchasing uniforms has no extra or hidden costs, and workers can replace small or worn-out uniforms every year if necessary, with no consequences. It is a much more cost-effective option.

Things To Consider When You Buy Uniforms

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Costs and Time

Employee uniforms require upfront expenses and ongoing laundering, maintenance, and repair. In some cases, employees may also require uniform replacements. It all contributes to the annual cost of supplying workers with uniforms.

Purchasing, inspecting, and cleaning workwear on a daily basis can be a time-consuming process. Despite the hidden costs, making use of a uniform rental program does mean that inspection and repairs are taken care of as part of the program. Strategically off-loading the task of managing staff workwear helps to conserve time and energy.

Image Maintenance

Consistently maintaining a professional image is one of the main reasons for introducing uniforms in the workplace.

When workers wear professional clothes and maintain a stable image, it can help to attract customers and make a business stand out from other companies. It also helps them identify employees easily. For this reason, it is an important thing to consider when deciding between buying and renting work apparel.

Work apparel can include things like screen printing and direct embroidery, come in a variety of styles, and showcase your company logo. However, it is most important to offer well-maintained uniforms, designed to not only fit men but also fit women comfortably.

If you have a high employee turnover, you may opt for an affordable rental program that can provide work clothing in the right sizes and provide maintenance and cleaning services. This is especially helpful if you have a large staff and a large volume of uniforms that need to be cleaned at the same time. Keep in mind that harsh cleaning products may also shorten the lifespan of the clothing, and you will pay the same amount of money even when workers don’t submit their clothes for the laundry service.

If you have a low employee turnover or a small number of staff members, you may opt to buy uniforms instead. Purchasing workwear according to exact measurements, as opposed to general sizes, can help staff members look even more professional. You may also find that it is only necessary to buy new apparel every few years.

Buying vs Renting

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Benefits of Buying Employee Uniforms

  • Perfect fit; it can be custom-made according to unique employee measurements
  • Savings; often much cheaper than even the most affordable uniform rental programs
  • Ideal for companies with a low staff turnover
  • Ideal for industries where uniforms don’t get heavily soiled, such as office employees
  • May last longer when washed with gentle cleaning products
  • No hidden costs, under-wash fees, or evergreen clauses

Benefits of Renting Employee Uniforms

  • Rented according to employee sizes
  • Saves time by off-loading task of cleaning and maintenance to rental service
  • Well-maintained and cleaned regularly by the uniform rental provider
  • Ideal for companies with a high staff turnover
  • Ideal for industries where uniforms get heavily soiled, such as miners

Uniform Rental vs Buying Uniforms FAQs

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What is the average time it takes to deliver new staff uniforms?

The time it takes for a scheduled delivery typically depends on the provider, your location, and the shipping method (i.e. express vs standard). Uniforms also need to be made to order, which can take some time – especially if you have a large number of staff members.

Expect to wait several weeks for custom uniforms to arrive.