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Each carwash has its own unique story on how they began saving water and the motivating factors for doing so. The four carwashes covered in this piece range from tunnels to hand washes to mobile locations, and have all found their own path to water savings and successful business.
The idea for what became Detail XPerts began in 2002 with Emmanuel Williams Jr., an eight-year-old boy who had been learning about steam in Science class, asking his father a simple question: Why don’t people wash cars with steam? Emmanuel Williams, an engineer who is now the CEO of Detail XPerts, set out to find an answer to his son’s question and in the process came up with the idea for a steam cleaning carwash franchise.
In 2006, the first Detail XPerts location opened in Indianapolis, and two years later, the company became the first steam cleaning franchise in North America. Presently, Detail XPerts, has its headquarters in Detroit, and has 50 locations across the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
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The mobile wash and detailing business is able to greatly reduce the amount of water it needs per vehicle by using steam cleaning, said Detail XPerts President, and wife of Emmanuel, Angela Williams. “Through the patent-pending steam cleaning technology, [we’re] is able to use just 1 pint of water to clean a car.”
Detail XPerts has a rich online presence, but also takes community building seriously, said Angela Williams. “Through the results and educating clients, we were able to create ripples and influence others to join the bandwagon of eco-friendly carwash and detailing.”
When it came to his reasons for conserving water, Jim Dudley the owner of Sky Wash in Atlanta, is one part environmentalist, one part pragmatist. “For me it was two reasons … One is the calling I feel to be a steward of our resources and secondly it definitely is a cost savings,” he said.
Saving water at Sky Wash is about more than just saving money, it’s about providing a vital resource to those in need. “We give one day of clean water for every car we wash,” by donation during the week of World Water Day said Dudley. While providing drinking water to communities in Kenya and the Dominican Republic, Dudley also gets the opportunity to explain how carwashes are environmentally friendly.
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“I think the perception is we waste a lot of water but the media doesn't really seek us out to learn about what we are doing to conserve water," he said. "However, when they hear that a local carwash is raising money for clean water they love that story and ... I get to educate people on how environmentally friendly we are when it comes to water conservation.”
When Dudley bought a wash last year that didn’t have a water reclamation system, he put one in, and was able to see a positive return on his investment within a year and a half. The savings afforded from a water reclaim system will vary greatly depending on the price of water and sewer charges, but Dudley said his washes are able to save somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000 each year.
To ensure that Sky Wash is experiencing proper water savings, Dudley keeps track of water usage on a daily basis using Google Drive, which is a free cloud-based word processing software that can be accessed anywhere with an Internet connection. There are specific water savings goals set for every wash, he said. “Each wash is different so each store has a different goal. But this is definitely a number we monitor daily.”
It’s important not to sacrifice wash quality, Dudley said, but that doesn’t always mean that you need to be using the same amount of water you are now to effectively clean cars. Asking your chemical/service company for advice on water savings is another chance to learn new tricks that can decrease water use without negatively impacting cleaning performance. “If you haven't tried to save water then start trying different things,” he said.
Eco Green Auto Clean in Redwood City, Calif, gives its customers the VIP treatment with amenities like free Wi-Fi and beverages, said Josh Martinez, sales manager at Eco Green. “We truly go above and beyond to ensure our customers receive not only a car cleaning, but a memorable, relaxing experience.”
But what really sets the wash apart is how much water they use to clean a vehicle, he said. “From a product standpoint, our specially formulated solution allows an entire average sized vehicle to be cleaned using only a single cup of water,” he said. The wash process is performed for the customer as they wait in the lounge at Eco Green.
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While many charity groups need to go to a carwash for a fundraiser, Eco Green doesn’t have that problem. “Since run-off is not a concern with our products, organizations can hold a carwash fundraiser virtually anywhere,” Martinez said, “without harming the environment.” The only materials the company needs to bring to clean vehicles is “our cleaning products, usually carried in a spray bottle, and the microfiber towels,” he continued.
With drought being such a major concern in California, Eco Green has designed a product that is “drought resistant,” Martinez said. “We are getting requests for our product from car dealerships, car rental companies and other businesses that are now forced into a water usage reduction by the city government.”
Since the business has opened in 2013, Martinez said they have saved over 5 million gallons of water and cleaned over 100,000 cars. “Our customers appreciate the quality of the wash as well as the cleaning method that is saving millions of gallons of water worldwide.”
The catchphrase at The Wave Carwash in Lacy, Wash., is “Ride The Wave, Protect Puget Sound.” Dustin Lessard, operations manager at the wash described the Puget Sound as “our backyard” and said it is an inspiring factor for them to conserve water. “It’s a beautiful yet complex estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins, stretching some 100 miles,” he said.
Wave reclaims water at a rate of over 75 percent, and Lessard recommends other wash owners invest in water saving equipment as well. “Make the necessary investment and purchase the properly sized system to include all of the options needed for your application.” The money you save now on a smaller capacity or inferior product, he said, will come back in increased water and sewer charges in the future.
Lessard adds that the wash closely monitors “our water usage weekly per wash package and per vehicle.” This allows Wave to detect things like leaks or abnormal fluctuations, he added. Lessard estimates that Wave, which has a water reclaim system, saves over $40,000 per location in utility costs each year because of water saving measures.
The most recent water savings addition by Wave has been “The Mizer,” a chemical injection system by SAS, a division of Cleaning Systems Inc. “This system allows for fine tuning of the flow rates from every application back to the injection system,” he said. “This can result in significant water savings on every application when compared to standard delivery systems.”
As your wash improves in water savings, Lessard said, “You’ll find that the optimum setting between maximum water use efficiency and wash quality leaves you with a much tighter margin for error.” To increase efficiency, he recommends instituting a preventative maintenance schedule. “A lot of what goes into water savings is just maintaining optimum settings and flow rates with consistent and thorough monitoring. Maintain the balance that works for your system and most importantly do not sacrifice wash quality.”