There are five factors needed to achieve a clean, shiny, dry car: Water quality, mechanical action, time, temperature and chemistry. In earlier articles we covered water quality and mechanical action. This article will focus on the third factor of clean ― time. From a chemical perspective, too much time or too little time can negatively affect the consumer’s experience and wash quality. As with all the factors of cleaning, finding the balance is key to achieving the best results. Overall wash quality related to time can be impacted by dwell time and chemicals, equipment in the bay, seasonality and, ultimately, the perception of clean.

Chemical dwell time

Chemical dwell time is defined as the time from which the chemicals are applied to the vehicle until they are rinsed off. Dwell time is important because it affects the chemistry of the products that you are using. In general, the longer a chemical can soak on the vehicle the more effective that chemical will be. However, with too little dwell time the effectiveness of the chemical decreases. Too much dwell time can lead to products drying on the vehicle’s surface and redeposition of soils. Different types of chemicals, cleaning conditions and seasons all require different dwell times.

Wheel/tire cleaners: Chemical Tire Applicators (CTA) are often an afterthought in the equipment design layout process. Considerable time should be spent in the placement of CTAs. The most common CTA cleaning products require a minimum 15-20 seconds of dwell time to achieve effective results. Acidic wheel cleaners, although not recommended, need less time to be effective, but they have other drawbacks like safety and possible vehicle damage. If you are using a two step combination to clean wheels, special attention needs to be paid to what order the products are being applied and the time each product has to do its job.

Presoaks: When using presoaks, the dwell time varies depending upon the application. Typically, when using a two-step process or applying different products you should expect 10-15 seconds as an average time. If you are using the same product for two passes then there is no need to account for dwell time since the first pass is dwelling as the second pass is being applied. In tunnels, the dwell time is created by the space and placement of the equipment and the conveyor speed. Proper placement of the arch will increase your satisfaction with the quality and cost of the application.

Triple foams: There are two major types of triple foam uses which are conditioners or polishes. The triple foam conditioners work similar to the soaps and the polishes act like a protectant product helping to shed water off the vehicle’s surface. Triple foams offer an added “show” and cleaning requiring more dwell time of a cleaner or protection product. It will also aid in the removal of foam because a triple foam application needs to be followed by a good rinse cycle. The triple foam protectant can add an extra layer of protection helping to repel water for better adhesion of the final chemical protectant product that is applied.

Sealants: They often require a longer dwell time giving them a chance to adhere to the vehicle’s surface for added protection. A key factor for a sealant’s success is that the vehicle is properly cleaned and thoroughly rinsed off in order for protectants to work as effectively as they should. Approximately 10 seconds is needed between when the soap has been rinsed off until the final protectant for the vehicle is applied. This gives some time for excess water to drip off the car as well. Ten seconds is recommended between the protectant application and the final RO rinse allowing the appropriate time for the protectant to adhere to the surface helping to give a dryer car. It is also beneficial to allow for some time between the final rinse of RO and the dryers which is often referred to as drip space. This will allow for some of the excess RO water to run off the vehicle’s surface before it reaches the dryers.

Dryers: The targeted result of clean, shiny, dry is greatly affected by the appropriate amount of time allowed for drying the vehicle. Dry time requirements can vary depending on the chemicals that are used, the dwell time and the drip space that has been used throughout the car wash process. If the cleaning was effective, then dry time doesn’t need to be as long because a lot of the work has been done before the vehicle even reaches the dryers. As wash equipment has evolved and new revenue driving pieces of equipment are developed, washes are becoming packed with equipment, which limits the drip space available (10-15 feet is recommended for drip space). Washes tend to need significantly more chemistry when a wash has little to no drip space in order to achieve the desired results.

Seasons: Seasonal changes create challenges in achieving the clean, shiny, dry vehicle. For example, in winter months the need for dwell time is significantly less than summer months. In winter, the soils aren’t baked onto the surface making cleaning slightly easier. During summer cleaning, bugs, film and baked on dirt are some of the greatest challenges that require increased dwell time. Completing a prewash bug prep can reduce dwell time that is needed for a good clean. It is recommended to adjust the dilutions of the chemicals at the start of each season to address outside temperature changes as well as the seasonal cleaning challenges.

Consumer satisfaction

Lastly, when dealing consumer satisfaction and loyalty, it is important to keep in mind that with consumers, their time might be limited. They are expecting to receive a good, quality wash for their time spent. It’s important to keep in mind that rarely does the consumer understand the need for dwell time or the need for drip space. On average, 10-15 seconds seems to be the ideal presoak dwell time. It allows the chemicals to do their job and doesn’t cause the consumer to be concerned or impatient. Having a properly timed wash will increase your consumer’s satisfaction and, in turn, earn their loyalty while increasing your profits.

Time is the third factor of clean and is important not only when dealing with the chemicals while finding the perfect balance between effectiveness and efficiency but is paramount to a successful wash program. You will satisfy your needs for a clean, shiny, dry vehicle and foster loyalty.

Ryan Cook is the assistant vice president of LustraProfessional Car Care Products.