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From the floors up

Automated floor mat cleaners offer faster service and improved profits for all carwash formats.

May 23, 2013
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From yesterday’s vacant bay to today’s crowded tunnel, technology and automation have definitely increased the speed of carwash evolution. Cleaning tasks that once called upon an army of employees now require only a few seconds and no labor using the newest equipment. Drying, buffing, shining and scrubbing — long gone are the cleaning methods that depended solely on elbow grease. Today, machinery can be called upon to perform cleaning tasks faster and more consistently than employee labor.

One piece of technology that carwash locations of all formats depend on is the automated floor mat cleaner. These machines have replaced the arduous tasks of vacuuming, scrubbing, rinsing and drying. Now, due to these modern systems, fully-cleaned and dried floor mats of all makes and styles can be completed in a flash.

Automated advantages

Modern mat cleaning systems are fast, effective and user-friendly, according to Allen Choi with Clean World Distribution Inc. The machines provide the most efficient way to clean vehicle floor mats with a completely dry finish, and it only takes a matter of seconds. Operators can clean more mats and serve customers quickly, and the dry finish prevents any mildew smell and window fogging.

R. L. “Bud” Abraham, president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, stated that automated mat cleaners were available as far back as the early 1970s. Owners were interested in the machines because they reduced labor and worked faster than manual cleaning methods. Still, it took a while for many owners to adopt the technology because early models had the “reputation of eating the mats.”

Decades back, most vehicle floor mats were rubber and plastic, but, as carpet mats became the norm, automated cleaners were needed more than ever. An updated version of the cleaners was introduced in the 1980s that cleaned carpet mats quite well, according to Abraham. But, the drying system used sponge rollers, and it did not do a perfect job of drying.

Today’s techniques

In modern cleaners, different cleaning methods are used on the floor mats. The first type is a dry system that uses only a brush to clean the floor mat surface, Choi noted. Another format is a wash and dry cleaning system that uses water and an automated chemical injection system. Here, special textured brushes thoroughly clean the surface removing sand, dirt and pet hair.

Further, some cleaners today call on an extraction device and drum container to dry the mats to the touch, according to Choi. In addition, upgraded versions of the cleaners can include added power, extra brushing capability with a forward and reverse brushing technique, front and back cleaning and drying with an added rinse at the end of the cleaning cycle.

Abraham stated that most recently an extraction method of moisture removal was introduced as well as the automatic injection of chemical into the water manifold. This setup allows the operator to choose between three different options on the same cleaner with a simple flip of a switch. These cleaning options are:

  • Wash and extract dry;
  • Shampoo and extract dry; and
  • Dry brush and vacuum.

Other advances

A number of additional features are now included with automated mat cleaners as well. Digital displays and coin and bill acceptors increase ease of use while delay timers and an integrated automatic heating system improved dependability. Choi revealed that the heating systems are powerful enough to keep the machines from freezing in colder climates.

In keeping with the assurance of quality and, more importantly, the convenience and safety of operators, Choi’s company performs tests designed to fault the system. After months at the maximum temperature threshold and various weather resistance tests, the company’s mat cleaner received the ETL and CETL marks for environmental health and safety.

“Safety is essential when you are operating the equipment, we take pride to tell our customers our equipment is safe to use,” Choi said.

Fitting different formats

Full-service carwashes: Since fast and efficient modern mat cleaners can complete the additional service without extra waiting time, the machines are popular at full-service washes, Choi stated. Using a mat cleaner, a carwash can target gaining more customers because labor and wash time are both cut drastically. Also, the service can be offered in package deals and used for marketing purposes if a location is looking for a free add-on or a customer capture.

“Business profits can quickly increase as mat cleaners have become the hidden revenue maker that can help the business grow and bring customers back again and again,” Choi said.

Express carwashes: Most express carwashes offer free services such as pre-wash, vacuums and other amenities. Choi explained that mat cleaners can be added as an extra benefit to bring more potential customers and higher wash volumes to a location. Mat cleaning can be part of free carwash package marketing deals as well.

Self-serve carwashes: Mat cleaning systems with both wash and dry technology can add value to a self serve carwash, and they are also an extra source of untouched revenue. Certain mat cleaning models now come with an added mat tracker that counts how many mats have gone through the equipment. An automatic shut off switch helps save energy and keeps cost down, and heavy-duty stainless steel construction is equipped for outdoor, all-weather use. The added protection of a lock/bar on the side door is provided, and mat cleaners are a safe, easy way to clean mats without an operator being present, Choi stated.

Detailing: Many detail shops are smaller operations, and their owners usually take their time making an investment in equipment like an automated mat cleaner. Here, mat cleaning systems have proven safe and effective on all types of vehicle mats, and the machines can be relied on with even the most expensive mats, Choi said. Detailers can eliminate the time it takes to shampoo and dry floor mats and utilize that time instead for the other detail services needed.


Upkeep tasks

Finally, keeping up with equipment maintenance is the key to effective use and the life of the cleaner. Depending on the usage, there may be daily, bi-weekly or even monthly maintenance checks needed to keep the machines cleaning their best.

Choi said one step should include checking and cleaning drain hoses to make sure they are clear and free of clogs. If mats come out of the machine wet or damp, this is definitely one issue to explore. Also, wet mats may signal a sponge dryer could be worn out and need replacement.

If mats are not coming out as clean as before, an owner should check the brush and make sure there are not any carpet fibers tied around the brush. Over time, this can damage the brush and leave streak marks on floor mats. If the brush bristles have been run down, it is time to replace the entire brush as well. Some cleaners utilize a drum container that can be opened and cleaned out with a simple spray down from hose. This type of cleaning will also rinse out the machine’s drain hose.

“Proper training of employees who operate mat cleaning systems is mandatory,” Choi concluded. “Thoroughly reading the operations manual and getting to know the equipment mechanism is also helpful. Lastly, look for the maintenance schedule provided by the equipment manufacturer [then] follow and keep track of scheduled maintenance.”

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