Cutting Cost, But at What Expense? - Professional Carwashing & Detailing
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Cutting Cost, But at What Expense?

Good, quality chemistry, in the right amounts, isn’t cheap.


Before devoting all of my time exclusively to Car Wash College, I had the privilege to work on our Sonny’s CarWash Consulting Team. I spent many years looking at prospective sites for new and seasoned carwash investors, analyzing demographic reports, running traffic counts, looking for competitors in the area, etc.

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To be in a position to help investors choose a site is a responsibility I always took very seriously.  Oftentimes, the site is the most expensive cost element of building a carwash, and it’s the single biggest factor in the carwash success equation.    

At the ICA event in Nashville in 2019, I ran into a customer. Well, actually, he ran into me. He saw me from across the room, ran to me, picked me up and gave me a bear hug! Once I realized I wasn’t being mugged and my feet were touching ground again, we had a conversation that went like this:


Customer: “Bob, I’m so happy to see you. I couldn’t wait to tell you how things are going. You know that pro forma you ran? Well, I’m blowing that out of the water! I’m washing more cars than I dreamed we could, and I’m making more money than should be legal! The customers keep raving about the experience of going through the tunnel with all the chemistry and the lights; they say it’s like going to a carnival! Oh, and the cars are coming out so clean, dry and shiny. I swear you can see your reflection in them!”


I was just about to comment on how happy I was for him when this came out of his mouth:

Customer: “Now, I’m going to start working on cutting down my chemical cost.”

Me: “Are you %$#[email protected]&* kidding me? Did you not hear a word of what you just told me? You’re washing more cars than you thought possible. You’re making more money than you dreamed you would. You’re producing a finished product that’s giving you your unfair share. And now you want to trip over gold bars to pick up nickels?”

As I was saying this, I also slapped him in the back of the head. Literally.

Listen, I have never made a nickel from selling chemistry and, fingers crossed, I hope I never have to!  But I do realize that chemistry plays the largest part in the clean car equation.


It’s the chemistry that allows you to command a $25 top wash package. It’s the ceramics, the tire shine, the wax, protectants and sealants. It’s the “stuff” customers value. And if customers drive off your site with beautiful, shiny, clean cars every time, you’ll have repeat customers. 

Chemistry also allows our equipment to do the job it’s intended to do. Chemistry loosens the soil on a vehicle’s surface so the equipment can remove it. 

Chemistry also plays a vital role in reducing damages. It lubricates the friction pieces, allowing them to glide across the vehicle surfaces. Cut back or go cheap on chemistry, and watch your damage claims rise — usually at a much higher rate than chemistry cost savings.


While I’m an advocate of not wasting money, I’m also an advocate for being smart. Sometimes we have to get out of our own way and let others do what they do best. The folks that set up your chemistry know it best; they should set it up properly with the amounts they believe to work best. And if the results are a clean, dry, shiny car your customers appreciate — don’t cut back!

Good, quality chemistry, in the right amounts, isn’t cheap. Nothing that works well usually is. Good chemistry also brings in the money. If you want to save on costs and your chemistry is producing a clean, dry, shiny car, I suggest you find other ways to cut costs. 


As a friend of mine often asks, “Is there a lot of soap on the floor because the carwash is busy, or is the carwash busy because there’s a lot of soap?”

All the best!

Bob Fox has 35 years’ experience in the carwash industry and is the vice president of Sonny’s Car Wash College™. Bob can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit CarWash College or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.


This content is sponsored by CarWash College. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Professional Carwashing & Detailing editorial team. 

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