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The 5 key contributors to smelly carwashes

Hydro Engineering Inc. recently created a list of causes for odors in a carwash’s wastewater collection pits and equipment.


SALT LAKE CITY — Hydro Engineering Inc. recently created a list of the top five things that cause carwash odors in wastewater collection pits and equipment rooms — and patrons to turn up their noses at the company, according to a press release.

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No. 1: Hydrocarbons

The oil and other liquids that leak from vehicles onto asphalt move right into the wastewater of a carwash. According to the release, If you were to check the collection pits at your wash right now, you’d likely find oils and greases.

“These hydrocarbons are ideal food for bacteria to thrive,”  noted the release.

No. 2: Standing water

If the infrastructure of a wash — trenches, pipes, pits, etc. — holds standing water for any length of time, it will develop pathogens, explained the release, which it adds causes hydrogen sulfide, otherwise known as “swamp smell.”


No. 3: pH imbalances

The release reported that the need to monitor the pH levels inside a wash, because an imbalance can cause carwash odors.

“There are a lot of chemicals in a carwash,” informed the release. “And making sure that acidity and alkalinity are balanced can help alleviate unwanted smells and keep customers happy and coming back.”

No. 4: Poor water recycling

Most of the time, continued the release, recycled water in carwashes is not properly treated to completely eliminate bacteria, which causes odors to arise. And often soaps and fragrances are used in an attempt mask the odor while the odor-causing issue remains.


No. 5: Pollutants

The various pollutants that wash off of cars in the wash obviously have to go somewhere, noted the release, and this bad bacteria generally goes straight into “a collection pit that separates the solids from the fluids.” Bacteria from the road and air make up these pathogens that end up in your collection pit, which “is a prime breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.”

According to the release, there are fairly simple ways to fix these main causes of carwash odors: “The key is being able to recognize where and how odors can arise and addressing them appropriately.”


Consider biodigesters, added the release, which “[dose] wastewater” with enzymes and bacteria to remove odor-causing problems.

Read the entire release here.

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