Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Your conveyor mitters

October 11, 2010
The mitter curtain made its introduction into the carwash industry in the mid to late 1970s. Carwash equipment manufacturers, through trial and error, learned to adapt
“soft cloth” — also known as non-woven textile — to their equipment ushering in a new era of carwashing.

Prior to the development of the mitter, nylon top brushes had been used to clean the top of a vehicle’s surface. Now mitters offer an alternative cleaning material which create less paint disturbance and also a safe cleaning method with less chance of damage to the vehicle. Soft cloth brings an increased customer confidence to the conveyor carwash industry and has helped expand the customer base.

How mitters work
The motion of the mitter is designed to mimic the motion of a hand mitt, working back and forth on the surface of the vehicle. Manufacturers vary the movement among different equipment models, but it is commonly a front-to-back or side-to-side motion. There are also less common diagonal and circular motions available.

The mitter material is cut to different widths and hung vertically from the machine. There are typically two mounting systems used: c-channel inserts or looped over rods. The cleaning materials are typically 60" to 120" in length depending on the type of equipment and manufacturer. The diverse lengths can also vary on the machine with the shorter pieces in the front of the machine getting longer by each row, or the shorter materials on the outer edges of the machine with the longer pieces in the middle.

The speed and stroke, which creates the mitter motion, also vary in length and speed. Speed and stroke settings differ according to the type of material used. Typically, the new plush materials use a slower, smoother stroke while non-woven material can handle faster, shorter strokes.

Advancements in mitters
Few materials can endure the harsh environment of the carwash tunnel and still not affect the painted surfaces. The temperature variations, chemicals, and the motion of the mitter contributes to the demise of the washing material you are using. Today the cleaning elements on the mitter vary from the standard non-woven textile to exotic plush materials.

The non-woven material has been the industry standard since the 1970s and is still widely used today. The material has endured because of its strength and longevity. It has been well adapted to the harsh environment of the carwash tunnel.

The exotic plush materials are also gaining acceptance in the carwash market. Their tufted exterior offers increased cleaning capabilities reducing the need for manual labor. This material is typically located early in the wash process because of the need for increased lubrication to prolong the material longevity and effectiveness.

Set-up of mitters
The location of mitters in the wash tunnel differ from operator to operator. Typically you see your first mitter, front-to-back, after the pre-soak in which the operator is using the mitter to work the chemical into the surface of the vehicle. Here the operator is starting the cleaning process on the top of the vehicle. Some operators use the side-to-side mitter after the pre-soak as a barrier to keep the soap from splashing outside the entrance of the tunnel.

Another section of the carwash where you typically use a mitter is after the polish wax. Here the mitter is used to work the polish wax evenly on the surface of the vehicle and also to remove the polish wax or excess soap in preparation of rinsing the vehicle. There is no standard location for the mitter in the wash tunnel, and there is no standard amount of mitters used by operators. Set-up will vary according to your conveyor length, expected volume, type of wash material, equipment make and model and your personal expectations.

To keep your mitter working properly and increase longevity, preventive equipment schedules should be utilized (see checklist).

Mitter success
The success of the mitter over the past four decades can be attributed to carwash equipment design and use of varying mitter materials. Versatile mitter motions, designs and mitter materials enabled the mitter to reinvent itself decade after decade making it to this day the industry standard for cleaning the top surfaces on vehicles.


Serko Kirikian has 20 years experience in the carwash industry. He is a partner in his family’s carwash businesses, Hamilton Car Wash and Windsor Car Wash, as well as in Kirikian Industries, the company that manufactures NEOGLIDE, a foam material.