Are you getting clean, dry, and shiny cars with your touchless car wash every time?
For best results when operating a touchless wash, Diamond Shine’s Managing Director of Business Development Ryan Cook recommends considering five main cleaning factors.
Before you start, be sure to build a good foundation for your car wash by aligning yourself with a good service provider (Ryan can help with that). Then follow these tips to ensure you know how to diagnose and fix potential pitfalls.
1. Water Quality
Two main factors of water quality effect cleaning – hardness and TDS (total dissolved solids).
The first factor, hardness, measures the amount of calcium and magnesium in the water. “Soft water” is water that has been treated to have very low concentration of these particles minerals and is measured in “grains”. In touch free cleaning, soft water is essential for cleaning applications. For presoaks that do a bulk of the heavy cleaning, using water that is zero grains hard is critical. Soft water also aids in foam generation, helping maximize the efficiency of foaming products and enhancing show. While soft water is helpful in many applications it is not recommended for use with protectants and drying agents.
The second factor, TDS, is a measurement of dissolved solids suspended in the water measured in PPM (Parts Per Million). Spot Free Rinsing is dependent on using water with low TDS, ideally below 20 PPM. The majority of touch free car washes are unattended so having a well-functioning spot free rinse finish is crucial. Without an attendant onsite to work through customer satisfaction issues, touch free car washes only have one opportunity to make the customer happy with a clean, dry and spot-free shiny car.
2. Water Temperature
In touch-free cleaning, the water temperature is extremely important. Water temperature is all about the presoaks, or concentrated products that remove organic soils, films and other materials from the surface of the car. They are designed to be applied first in the wash.
You want to maintain a water temperature of about 120°F on the surface of a car in order for the presoaks to work best. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds! It’s important to think about how hot the vehicle is coming in. In Arizona in the summer time, for instance, vehicles might be coming in at 165°, so you want to try to cool them down to 120°. In Ohio it might be 35° when a vehicle comes in, so in that case, you would use the water temperature to try to heat the car up to 120°.
You can use an infra-red thermometer to check the temperature of the car’s surface.
Also note that you don’t want the water temperature to be above 140°. There are two reasons for this. One, because that is scalding hot and people can be injured and two, because then the temperature is above the cloud point of the most soap, or point of diminishing returns, and it stops working.
3. Mechanical Action
In touch-free cleaning this is called impingement. Impingement describes how high-pressure water cleans a car. Check for proper spray patterns, proper pressure (based on the machine’s recommended pressure), and worn nozzles.
Also, check that the machine is measuring correctly using the following equation:
Impingement = mass x acceleration
To assess this, take the volume of water and multiply it by the pressure, to find the force that removes the soil from the car.
Think about it this way. When you are trying to get leaves (mass) off your driveway using a plain old water hose, there’s not enough pressure to move the leaves. However, if you put your thumb over the nozzle, you create the pressure (acceleration) needed to get the leaves up off the driveway (impingement). Like magic!
The same phenomena is happening in the touchless bay. By checking the equipment that affects the pressure, you can better create the force you need to remove soil from your cars and ensure they are clean.
Dwell time is a critical factor in touch free cleaning, especially for presoak applications. Different machines track this in different ways, but ultimately you want to make sure the soap has enough time to sit on the car to do its job.
While you need to give the soap enough time to work, there is a threshold. You can’t waste too much extra time letting the soap sit because it can cause a couple issues. One, customers might get impatient and think the wash is broken, and two, the soap might dry on the car. Car wash soap is actually one of the hardest soils to remove if it dries.
To strike a balance, the recommended dwell time is typically 20 seconds. Some touch free car washes have smart dwell time cycles and some just pause for dwell. There are different methods of incorporating dwell times but generally more dwell time is required for alkaline applications compared to acids.
The goal is to create a balance, letting the presoak really work and creating your value proposition to your customers all while maintaining efficiency as a business washing as many cars as possible.
In touch free car washes it is important to use chemistry specifically developed for touch free cleaning. Stronger acid and alkaline cleaners are used to overcome difficult cleaning scenarios. Our general recommendation for touch free washing is to use a two-step process, starting with low pH first and following up with high pH. Each market has different soil challenges and sometimes this rule of thumb doesn’t fit but it is a great place to start.