Chemistry is an important part of any carwash’s operations, but it is often misunderstood. This can lead to wasted chemicals and money. We talked with Zep Vehicle Care’s Senior Marketing Manager Mike Graceman and Director – Research & Development Andrew Landa about best practices and tips for ensuring you are using chemicals wisely.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: With more services now available, how has the increase in add-ons and chemistry use affected carwashes’ bottom lines over the past few years?

Zep: Many of the new add-on chemistries enable carwash operators to add a new top wash, or increase the price of the current top wash, thus increasing their average revenue per wash. The increased price for the new service far exceeds the cost of the chemistry for a quick return on related equipment and merchandising investment, and increasing the bottom line.

PC&D: What have been the most popular service add-ons for:

Zep:

  • Conveyor washes?  Super protectants and waxes commonly applied through foam bath or foam curtain equipment have become very popular and allow carwash operators to make more money by offering premium services. 
  • In-bay automatics?  In-bay automatic carwashes are also benefitting from adding super protectants and waxes, and a few equipment manufacturers now offer upgrades to apply through foam curtain equipment that has become popular in the conveyor wash market.

PC&D: What is the best way to monitor chemical use in a carwash?

Zep: We consider it best practice for our vehicle care specialists to work closely together with site operators and management to properly monitor overall operational effectiveness of each carwash location.

  • A consistent and high-quality output is the main target. Ensure all chemical and product applications are dosing correctly and are jointly delivering this consistent quality output.
  • Conduct product volumetric dosing determinations and product application titrations in order to adequately determine and monitor product usage.

It is important to regularly conduct these measurements in order to maintain the proper settings targeting a consistent and high-quality output.

Additional product volumetric dosing and application titrations should be measured when any system changes are introduced or observed. This will form the basis of a successful product application monitoring program.

PC&D: How can an operator ensure the correct dilution ratios or titration in a wash? How often should this be measured?

Zep: Each operator’s goal is to ensure a consistent and high-quality output. All equipment systems within a carwash have to optimally function in combination with high-quality carwash and car care chemistries. Dial in an optimal dilution baseline based on a series of dilution ratio calculations verified with product titrations.

It is essential to regularly check this product quality to see if the operation consistently delivers the output it should. Any significant quality deviation observed should be addressed. In essence this means that application dilution ratios/titrations should be measured each time quality deviations are observed, and these should to be addressed promptly.

PC&D: Is it necessary for managers or employees to have in-depth knowledge about the chemistry measurement process? If so, how should they be trained, and how many should be knowledgeable about this process?

Zep: With the increase in highly specialized extra-service car care add-ons, carwash managers and their employees need to have a much greater awareness and understanding of the chemistry measurement process.

Chemical company staff can work closely together with the employees and site management to jointly develop a tailored training program.

Each carwash operation is unique and faces specific operational and environmental challenges. These should all be taken into account and incorporated into a site-specific training approach.

PC&D: How have vendors or distributors changed their relationships with carwash owners as the use of in-wash chemistry has increased?

Zep: At our company the relationship has not changed, as our reps and distributors are trained to monitor chemical usage and work with our customers to ensure efficient and profitable application.

Has the increase of chemistry in wash processes affected water reclaim systems? If so, how?

There is a direct correlation between the chemistries used during the carwash and car care processes and the water reclaim system. In general any increase in throughput or chemical usage will require any well-functioning reclaim system to accommodate these changes. It is important to use so-called reclaim compatible carwash product applications.

Reclaim-compatible carwash and care applications help to maintain balanced and efficiently operating water reclaim systems.

PC&D: How does chemistry affect reclaim systems?

Zep: Carwash chemistries can affect water reclaim systems in many different ways. The efficient and consistent function of any reclaim system depends directly on the biological and chemical balances within the system. Many chemical components will cause a temporary or at times even permanent change in this balance and will therefore not be fully compatible with the reclaim system.

Consequently, great care should be taken in selecting the different cleaning and specialized car care products to make sure each application will be compatible with the reclaim system, as well as that the different car wash and care applications in any combination will not negatively affect the reclaim system.

Your vehicle care specialist should be aware of these possible interactions and provide advice to make sure you are selecting the right products that are fully compatible with your reclaim system.