The nitty-gritty of water reclaim - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The nitty-gritty of water reclaim

How saving water can contribute to a better wash.

Hello again everyone.

I hope all of you have been enjoying these warm weather months and salvaging some good results out of the mixed weather patterns most of us felt this past April and May. I know we, on the West Coast, have had a mixed bag, but there you have it. We got some late rain here in mid-May and that was a surprise for many of us. That being said, I would like to focus this month’s edition of Consultant’s Corner on how we use our water here on the West Coast and in Southern California and Los Angeles specifically.

Most carwashes use regular municipal water and have some sort of clarifier system that helps sort out the grime and dirt cleaned off the vehicles before discharging the remaining water into the county sanitation network. But a few carwashes have state-of-the-art water recycling systems that actually recycle, filter and repump the water back through the system, allowing for most of the water to be collected and recollected again.

Cutting costs with RO

My Los Angeles-area South Bay locations in Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach have 1,500-gallon state of the art water reclamation systems. This allows me to collect and reuse up to 80 percent of all my wash water. Even the free rinse arches and the reverse osmosis (RO) water units fall into a collection point and reuse water. RO water is freshwater, but that is the only point in the wash system where new water is used.

My RO unit is also a 1,500-gallon tank and has a ratio of approximately 2:1 on input output. I reuse the RO water as it falls off the vehicle(s) going back to the main collection point at the far end of the tunnel slope, and the RO reject water is pumped back through to the reclaim tank. The whole system saves me a lot of time and money.

The RO unit is essential for arid climate carwashes (such as California and the Southwest) where water spotting and dry heat can cause problems particularly on darker colored vehicles. I also highly recommend a good drying agent.

Final rinse

Let’s move on to some of the more sophisticated ways and other small details of actually dispensing the water at the final rinse arches and the RO arches. You can fasten and interchange certain types of nozzles throughout the year to allow for different flow rates and, with some, you will save water and chemical (drying agent). Many of you on the East Coast are familiar with this because of the different temperatures you experience from month to month and season to season, causing you to put either less or more water on the vehicle, mostly due to the effects of freezing.

Some of you may ask yourself or wonder about the use of reclaim water on the final rinse process. It has been done, but usually with 100 percent closed systems. There is a way to put some reclaim water back through the rinse arches, but I do not recommend this (outside of a 100 percent closed system) as you will likely damage the pump(s) and almost certainly clog the nozzles because of the sediment and other impurities present in reclaim water.

The only solution (or way) to reclaim water through the rinse arches is to run such expensive and complicated filters, pumps and other mitigating measures that you would bog down the system and cause yourself more headaches and problems.

You can also save water with the use of reclaim water through your prep guns (if you are still using those). If you are going to do that, you will need a separate filter system before the water enters the prep gun pumps. If you do not, those prep gun pumps will clog with all kinds of stuff and not last. Believe me, they are not cheap.

Finally, with these and other methods in place, you will see significant savings on your water bill (like several hundred dollars) and just as, if not more important, you will help save water and protect our environment. I highly recommend you advertise this as well. Customers want to know they are helping make a difference by using an “eco-friendly” carwash. As carwash owners and operators we have an opportunity to help spread the word about responsible water usage and environmental stewardship.

As always, if you have any questions or comments on this or any of my other articles, please feel free to contact me with your feedback.

Until next time,


Christopher C. McKenna of McKenna Assets LLC, based in Redondo Beach, California, can be reached at 310-947-9711 or via email at chris@carwash-consul­ You can also visit his website at For more information on this subject and other carwash equipment, products and services, please visit

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