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Don't forget the fabric softener

October 11, 2010
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Production volume is important when operating a carwash. Everything from the laundry equipment to how the towels are processed can affect production.

To ensure that a carwash's laundry is operating at optimum efficiency, it's important to have the right distributor, proper equipment mix and know-how to maximize production.

Distributor dirt

When it comes to equipping a carwash's laundry system or replacing existing equipment, a good laundry equipment distributor can serve as a strong business partner.

There are some important things to find out before choosing a distributor, including:

  • What kind of service they provide after the sale;
  • What types of service agreements they offer; and
  • How long they've been in business.

A good distributor will be there for an owner after the sale as well as before.

After choosing a distributor, they will be able to assist in ensuring that the proper equipment mix is established to meet the needs of the particular location.

They'll also be able to help work out a production schedule based on how much car volume the site has in a day and how many towels will need to be processed in an hour.

Topload washers vs. frontload

There are pros and cons to both topload washer-extractors and frontload washer-extractors. Each has its own unique set of features, so it will ultimately come down to a matter of personal choice.

Topload washer-extractors:

Topload washer-extractors have been the industry norm for carwashes throughout the United States for the past 50 years.

Ideal for the hands-on manager who can help keep things moving, topload washer-extractors offer the highest extraction speed available, often two times higher than frontload washer-extractors.

Since damp towels are better to finish cars, extraction speed plays an important role in selecting a washer-extractor.

The higher the extraction speed, the greater the amount of water that's removed from the towels, thereby allowing for greater absorption when wiping down cars, which can possibly reduce the number of towels required per car.

Topload washers-extractors are also capable of cleaning smaller loads when needed, cost less, and are easier for operators to maintain. The only disadvantage to these machines is that they require a two-step operation in order for the process to be completed.

Frontload washer-extractors:

Frontload washer-extractors use a one-step process which makes using them simple.

Employees simply open the door, throw in the towels, close the door and push a button. After a pre-determined amount of time, the towels come out ready-to-use.

However, there are a couple disadvantages to these machines. When it comes to maintenance, these are not do-it-yourself machines. When the system is down, the owner or operator needs to make sure he or she has a distributor who has a service team that is ready and available when needed.

Another disadvantage is that the operator has to pay close attention to load size to avoid under-loading the machine.

Should the owner find him or herself in a particular bind and need towels quickly, they can't grab 15 or 20 towels and throw them in the washer.

Likely an out-of-balance condition will occur, causing excessive wear on the bearings or possibly not extracting at all in the most severe cases.

Efficient laundry layout

The more cars a site can process, the more money the owner can make. The more efficient the carwash is, including where the laundry equipment is placed, the more this will aid in improving the wash operation.

Most carwashes install their equipment at the end of the tunnel making it easier for employees to exchange clean and dirty towels as they get the next car.

When working with the architect to design a new carwash, remember to allow enough clearance room for the equipment and employee safety.

If the owner is installing frontload washers, he or she must consider which way the doors open, based on where the equipment is positioned. They may need to change which way the door opens so cars aren't clipped as they move through.

Washing towels properly

Sending a car out looking its best is what's going to bring a customer back the next time they need their vehicle cleaned. The care and cleaning of the towels plays a big role in finishing and making that lasting impression.

Most carwashes use three different towels to finish a car.

The areas include:

  1. The windows;
  2. The body of the car; and
  3. The under body.

Because each of these towels has different uses, it's important that each be kept and washed separately to avoid cross contamination and transference of any type of residual grime from one type of towel to another.

Fluff and fold

When cleaning these towels, the care is also different. For example, window towels require less chemical addition to the wash cycle because they are already using a cleaning chemical on the windows. Also, window towels don't become as dirty as the other two towel types.

The body towel doesn't use chemicals to wipe down the vehicle, but, will pick up more dirt; therefore it requires a laundry chemical that can remove the dirt and stains from it.

Underbody towels will absorb chemicals and will become very dirty and very grimy. Work with the laundry chemical supply company to determine which products will best treat these towels.

Also consider looking at the quality of your towels. After time and use, fibers begin to break down. Have employees check for thinning, holes or other wear and tear, if they notice these signs, it may be a good time for them to be cycled out of use.

Whether you are designing a new carwash or replacing laundry equipment in an existing location, consult with your local equipment distributor to arrange the proper equipment mix to meet the needs of your particular location.

Bret A. Higgins, president of Bestway Laundry Solutions, has worked in the commercial laundry industry for the past 22 years. Bestway Laundry Solutions serves the carwash industry and many others. Bret can be contacted at