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While the automatic carwash and the waterless wash industry don’t always agree on everything, they do have some things in common; namely, providing an environmentally friendly car cleaning service. There’s also a lot the automatic carwashing industry can learn from innovation in the waterless market, and how these companies present their services.
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When James Dudra, co-founder of Eco Touch, Inc. in Dover, N.H., got started in the waterless wash and detailing business seven years ago, he said that there were many misconceptions about waterless wash products, and that those in the automatic carwash industry “kind of scoffed at [them].” A lot has changed since then, Dudra said, and things like drought, water restrictions and water price increases have made the entire professional carwashing industry more cognizant of water savings.
Fast forward to the present and Eco Touch is now available in the automotive section of select Target locations, which Dudra said is a great sign about people’s perceptions of waterless wash products. The company also recently launched a line of boat detailing products, called Eco Touch Premium Marine Care.
The greatest challenge in the waterless wash industry, Dudra said, is convincing customers to give the cleaners a chance. “Once [they’ve] actually used the product, they see that this stuff actually works,” he continued. To clean a vehicle using Eco Touch Waterless Car Wash takes around 20 minutes the first time, and 10-15 minutes after that. “The product will leave a protective finish which will make subsequent washes faster and easier,” Dudra said.
The company website, Ecotouch.net, has been overhauled recently, and provides visitors a wealth of information on the product line. Social media presence is another important tool in spreading the word about their products. Eco Touch has a combined total of over 13,000 followers through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, to do everything from engage new customers to explain how their products work. “YouTube has been a huge [part of the] strategy,” said Dudra. “To get people to change behavior is very difficult, and the more quality content you have, the better.”
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Fundraisers have been another way to create a buzz around the Eco Touch brand while helping the environment at the same time. The company has a “Waterless Car Wash Fundraiser Program” that provides all the necessary tools to host a charity wash, including marketing materials, coupon templates and wash solution for up to 250 cars. An instructional page on the website explains all of the basics necessary to host a carwash charity event through Eco Touch.
As environmental concerns continue to become more of a social focus, waterless wash companies like Eco Touch, which effectively promote and market their services, are going to gain more recognition in the marketplace.
The first question that William Tang, president of Eco Service in Vancouver, said he gets about his waterless wash is: Does it scratch the car? Tang said he explains to customers that, “We wouldn’t be in business if it did,” and then follows that up by saying it’s “extremely safe and works great for your standard carwashing needs.”
What the customer wants most in a carwash experience, Tang said, is practicality and convenience. “I feel there [are] pros and cons to every method of cleaning a vehicle. If we’re comparing hand washing versus machine washing, we can do an in-depth study on which is ‘better,’ but at the end of the day, unless you’re a car enthusiast, the average consumer chooses the most convenient method.”
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Convenience is something that Eco Service works hard to provide its customers. “Our entire business model is unique,” said Tang, “and when combined with technology, it’s brought [the] convenience of carwashing to a whole new level.” They have a service called “Wash Where You Park,” where a customer leaves their vehicle anywhere within a certain area and a team member will take care of it on the spot. Tang added that “an app is coming to enhance our customer's experience,” with this deal. Eco Service is also an ideal fit for fleet programs, because the team members will show up to a company’s parking garage or other fleet location and clean the company vehicles without them needing to be moved.
The business, which started in 2010, has recently opened retail locations, where customers can drive in to get their vehicles cleaned. Eco Service also offers detail work, and gives each customer a “mini-wax” with their wash. Depending on factors like the size of the vehicle, the services provided, and how dirty it is, Tang said that the cleaning can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.
While their business model is innovative, Tang credits their success to something else: hard work. “Perseverance and a strong belief in our vision has brought us to where we are today.”
While Poorboy’s World sells their line of goods to detailers, Manager Chris Grehl said that the polishing and detailing manufacturer supplies quite a few automatic carwashes with 55 gallon drums of their product as well. “We have the capability to make products that are more suited to the automatic carwash industry while not sacrificing quality,” he said. Grehl continued that Poorboy’s, located in West Nyack, N.Y., can even design custom products for automatic wash owners/operators who are looking to try something new.
Concerns that customers have over misconceptions that waterless washes will scratch a vehicle, he said, are immediately blown away once they try the product, and see first-hand how easy it is to use.
A full waterless cleaning, said Grehl, involves two basic tools: a waterless wash product, like Poorboy’s World Spray and Wipe Waterless Wash, and a handful of microfiber towels. The two work hand in hand; a good microfiber towel is your best friend when cleaning a vehicle with a waterless wash, he said. One tip, he added, is to make sure to use a fresh towel once the current one becomes dirty.
Automatic carwashes can get a car clean quickly, but Grehl said that’s not necessarily the goal for many detailers and car enthusiasts, who enjoy doing the work on their own. Waterless washes, he continued, are also great for touch-ups in between going to the automatic carwash.
Whether a carwash customer is a passionate detailer or someone who just wants their vehicle to look nice when they’re driving around on a Saturday afternoon, waterless wash products are a handy tool for car cleaning.
3D International LLC in Santa Clarita, Calif., has been working for over 20 years to change people’s perceptions of the waterless carwash industry, said Serra Goren, their director of business development. When the company started in 1991, there were fears that these types of products could scratch a vehicle by picking up dirt and smearing it all over, she said. That’s not the case however, and what really happens is when “you spray [a waterless wash product] on the car’s surface, it picks up the dirt, encapsulates it into the liquid, and then moves it out,” said Goren.
When 3D got started, the company had difficulty gaining acceptance because wash professionals didn’t believe in a green product or one that didn’t have that strong smell that was synonymous with cleaning, Goren said. Now, with places like California and Texas suffering from drought, and people being more educated on environmental issues, what was once a weakness is now a strength for them.
3D products are distributed to 25 countries, including Argentina and India. The company has different lines of waterless wash, detailing and water saving wash products, which are sold in both retail and commercial markets; they also create private label wash cleaners. 3D, she said, limits the number of products that it sells, to not confuse the consumer with too many choices. Goren added that 3D provides versatile products that can work for a number of different jobs; for instance, the waterless wash can be used to clean chrome, dashboard, glass and door panels. The company’s products sell very well to the detail market, she said, and they also have a line of products for carwash tunnels.
One of the hardest things to do is change someone’s opinion, she said, but the effectiveness of the products along with a more environmental focus has helped to do that. “Showing is believing,” said Goren.
Bud Abraham, president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems in Portland, Ore., has been in the car care industry for nearly 40 years, and has been selling waterless wash products for about 10 of them, after he realized how well they worked.
Waterless wash products, Abraham said, can be a great alternative to other carwash types, and can be convenient for those who do not have an easily accessible alternative.
The application process of the waterless wash can be done through a stainless steel spray gun. "The spray gun applicator atomizes the chemical into a fine spray that goes on the vehicle much faster than a 32 ounce hand spray bottle. The spray gun, Abraham continued, also allows the user to easily apply more or less product to a particular area, depending on how dirty the vehicle is.
“A detailer might have [a waterless wash product] in their tool kit for situations where they have no water or where they cannot contain waste water,” Abraham said. Waterless wash products are another tool for cleaning cars, he added, and they can be a valuable one.