The 2014 Water Issue - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The 2014 Water Issue

Presenting your ultimate guide in how to use, save and understand this natural, precious resource.

Water. As defined by Merriam Webster water is, “the liquid that descends from the clouds as rain, forms streams, lakes, and seas, and is a major constituent of all living matter and that when pure is an odorless, tasteless, very slightly compressible liquid oxide of hydrogen H2Oj…” Defined by the masses, it is an element used for hydration, recreation, and most importantly to our readers, it is used for cleaning. And, while it is highly respected, appreciated and needed, it is not infinite or limitless. As droughts emerge, and rainfall becomes less and less predictable or bountiful, the carwashing industry has an important role to play, which is that of a water-saving establishment.

A commercial carwash can not only save water, by initiating water treatment systems, but can also keep people from washing their cars at home, which not only wastes water, but allows harmful chemicals into natural water sources. This special edition of Professional Carwashing & Detailing is your ultimate guide in how to use, save and understand this natural, precious resource.

According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, as of May 13, 2014, drought was affecting 38 percent of the United States, not including Alaska and Hawaii, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. What is alarming is that the area affected by “extreme or exceptional drought (D3 or D4),” according to the National Weather Service, is up to 14 percent. And, even if you’re not in a D3 or D4 zone, a water crisis can still occur in your area, and even if rainfall is higher than usual, it is still important to conserve if not to protect supplies, but to also let your customers know that you are not wasting water inhumanely.

The following pages include articles on the various types of water treatment systems, ways to market your wash as a water-saving business, how to understand rainfall predictions, other ways to save water, and how to work with your municipality when it comes to restrictions.

The fundamentals of water treatment

Let’s start with the basics.

By Gary Hirsh

If you’re a veteran or a beginner, it’s important to understand the different forms of water treatment. Here, I break down the different methods and how they can work at your carwash.

Definition of Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a process by which water is purified of contaminants or Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) by being forced under pressure through a semi-permeable membrane through which the water, but not the contaminants, may pass. “Total Dissolved Solids” refer to any minerals, salts and metals dissolved in water. This includes anything present in water other than the pure water (H20) molecule and suspended solids. These minerals/contaminants, if not treated, would otherwise result in “water spots.” The reverse osmosis technology removes 98 percent of the Total Dissolved Solids. In the application of vehicle washing, the processed product water generated by the reverse osmosis processed is captured in a water storage tank and delivered under pressure through a rinse arch to the vehicle as the final rinse prior to (the vehicle) exiting the wash and resulting in the entire vehicle including glass, chrome and painted surfaces to dry perfectly spot-free eliminating costly hand drying.

Definition of ultrafiltration

Ultra-filtration is relatively new to the vehicle washing industry; not unlike reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration also utilizes membrane technology to filter targeted contaminants from feed water.

The theory and use of ultrafiltration in a vehicle washing application is to operate in conjunction with water recovery with the intent of treating a small percentage of the effluent stream to subsidize fresh water requirements in closed loop applications. While ultrafiltration technology will provide good, clear pre-rinse, or clean, high-quality wash water it comes at a high cost of entry and cost of ownership.

Other treatments available

There are many water treatment methods available including, but not limited to softening, demineralization, biological nano filtration, ultrafiltration, desalinization and reverse osmosis. Each method is designed to achieve targeted results. Nano filtration is a membrane technology that specifically targets the dissolved solids that make up water hardness. Nano membranes operate at 75-90 PSI about half the pressure used by a reverse osmosis system.  They remove 98 percent of the hardness particulates in the water.  It is a good option to soften the water at sites in locales that are prohibited from having traditional water softeners.

Choosing a method

The knowledge of quality water is an essential ingredient in operating a successful carwash business. I suggest contacting your local carwash distributor or OEM to schedule a visit to your wash to perform several routine tests. The standard tests should focus on TDS, Hardness, pH and Chlorine/Chloramines. I would also recommend evaluating water/sewer costs to determine the feasibility of incorporating a water recovery/reclaim system.

Contaminants to look for

When utilizing municipal water and/or reclaim water, it would be extremely rare for the water to contain contaminants that would damage the paint finish and/or equipment. When utilizing well water, I would suggest testing:

  • pH
  • TDS
  • Hardness

Excessive levels of these contaminants could negatively impact wash quality, but not damage the paint finish or equipment.

Definition of clarifier tanks

With water and sewer costs continuing to escalate, clarifier or underground clarifier/settling tanks should always be incorporated in new construction projects in anticipation of higher water/sewer costs and or drought restrictions. Many municipalities now require some pre-determined volume of clarifier/settling tanks.

Clarifier/settling tanks should be sized according to the targeted wash; a In-Bay Automatic would typically require a minimum of two 1500 gallon tanks, each with a baffle at midway from floor to ceiling and a tunnel would typically require three 1500 gallon tanks, each with a baffle at midway from floor to ceiling to achieve optimum settling for a water recovery application. The cost of ownership/maintenance would be include contracting a licensed pumping both solids and water every six months.

Gary Hirsh is the president of New Wave Industries, Ltd., PurClean™ & PurWater™. For more information, visit

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