This past May at the International Carwash Association’s (ICA) The Car Wash Show™, taking center stage — and doing the heavy lifting in the professional carwashing and detailing industry — were vast displays of spinning and drying equipment with all the bells and whistles. However, back on the front lines, after all the dust, debris and dirt are scrubbed and blown off cars, winning repeat business often comes down to the final steps of the full-service carwashing or detailing process, which involve an attendant, cloths and bottles of cleaners.

While the sparkling exterior surfaces might catch the customer’s eye while waiting and when approaching his or her vehicle, most of that customer’s time will be spent in the interior of the car as he or she completes the day’s chores or just drives home. While in their newly cleaned car, the customer will likely notice the windshield and surrounding glass areas the most; and, as a result, examine these areas with fine attention to detail.

One smudge, streak or missed area on your customers’ windows will surely be observed and an accurate or inaccurate picture of the quality your entire wash offers is at stake. Training is a must. However, effective window cleaning clarity comes down to products and consistent techniques.

20/20 window vision

On busy days at popular carwashes attendants are working numerous hours on hundreds of cars, and after a while the work can become routine. Having managers present in final cleaning areas of your carwash is one way to ensure optimal results and provide quality assurance.

But, providing clear results in window cleaning requires proper technique and the right tools for the job. In fact, lack of application knowledge and using improper tools are the most common causes for falling short on results.

According to Juliette Silver, CEO of Panaram International (carwashworld.com), the biggest factor causing window haze and other clarity issues, such as streaks, is soiled towels used during window cleaning.

“One way to combat this problem is [by using a] high-speed washer extractor with silicone eliminator,” says Silver, adding that some models inject a solution that virtually eliminates the buildup of chemicals and other factors embedded in the towels. “If you use this [equipment] and have a sufficient rinse cycle, [window haze and other clarity issues] should be eliminated.”

Microfiber offers maximum results

Several materials can be used to clean windows. Paper towels and even newspaper are some materials customers are familiar with for cleaning glass around the house or in their cars. However, microfiber towels are often the most commonly preferred cloth at professional carwashes when tackling glass cleaning.

“Another way to [effectively clean glass] is by using a high-quality microfiber towel. The towel should be left with some moisture,” advises Silver. “These towels will be able to shine customers’ glass to showroom quality, and eliminate all haze and streaks.”

And just as important as your towel selection, make sure your carwash’s crew understands how to properly use the towel. When cleaning interior and exterior glass, suggests Silver, it is recommended that workers always use a clean side of the towel; and once that side has been used, do not use it again.

“After each window make sure to turn your towel to a clean side,” she adds. “If done properly you should be able to get eight window sections from one towel. Also, make sure employees never use a dirty towel ever on the window.”

It is also considered a best practice to use a microfiber towel color-coding system around your wash. Carwashes experience many different types of spills, and cloths used to clean up gas and oil spills, or for exterior car surfaces, are not ideal for glass cleaning.

“[For glass cleaning], I suggest using a waffle weave microfiber towel to clean the windows. Another factor is to make sure the towel is damp enough to ensure optimum cleaning of the glass. A dry towel will not ensure the glass has been cleaned,” says Silver.

Choosing an auto glass cleaner

For decades, selecting cleaning chemicals was easier, and product differentiators were not as vast as they are today. Besides foam and aerosol versus liquid spray, owners and operators must also decide between traditional products and environmentally friendly ones.

In response to public demand, manufacturers now offer green alternatives to traditional glass cleaners. And, unlike previous decades, many of today’s cleaning chemicals are as effective as, if not more effective than, their traditional counterparts.

With the rise of such third-party organizations, such as Green Seal, green products are tested to meet certain price and performance standards compared to traditional alternatives. Under Green Seal’s GS-37 Cleaning Products for Industrial and Institutional Use, several brands of glass cleaning products are listed that could meet your carwash’s needs.

“The best glass cleaners are the ones with no ammonia or harsh chemicals,” says Silver, adding that any product that is safe for the environment is ideal. “You want a glass cleaner that is safe on tinted glass and pin striping.”

Remember to demo your chemical choices before going with the best one to meet your needs. When selecting a window, mirror and glass cleaner — and any interior cleaning chemical — make sure the product does not leave behind any residue or a strong, lingering odor. Many customers are sensitive to chemical odors, which could give them a reason not to return to your wash regardless of the spotless window work.

Working on your auto glass cleaning technique

As mentioned, the duties required in the final wash stages of your carwash when performed during peak hours can become routine over the course of the day. Ongoing training and careful inspection offer a level of quality assurance so employees are aware of the importance and impact of proper glass cleaning. These steps will ensure that no corner-cutting occurs.

According to Silver, workers should be trained to always make sure the towel goes all the way to the corners of the window and, once the corner has been reached, to turn the towel over to the other side.

“Most dirt or dust buildup occurs in the outer sections of the front and back windshield,” says Silver. “The worst thing an employee can do is to only clean the middle of the windows and not the entire surface.”

Window cleaning can be deceivingly time consuming. However, it is important to take some time and examine customers’ windshields as well as rear and side glass areas. Look for any scratches or breaks in the glass, and be sure to alert customers to these areas. Cracked or broken glass surfaces can attract and trap dirt and debris, making it harder to remove. Broken glass is also an obvious safety concern, so it is the attendant’s or detailer’s responsibility to say something if a crack, ding or break has occurred.

In areas of the country prone to insects and airborne contaminants such as pollen, be sure to properly clean the entire glass surface including corners, and pay special attention to wiper blades, which are magnets for these airborne contaminants. If present, remove insects and remaining moisture or dirt from glass before cleaning.

Remember to always use a clean surface of the towel, and do not use more chemical than needed to get the job done right. When customers are ready for their next visit to the carwash, they should have a clear choice back to your business.