Car Wash Chemicals: The Chemistry of a Good, Clean Vehicle Wash

Oct 26th 2018

a white car covered in soap bubbles in a car wash

How people wash their vehicles has come a long way in recent years. It won’t do to just grab any soap straight from the cabinet. Aside from there being a push for car wash chemicals to provide a more thorough cleaning of vehicles, those chemicals have to be more eco-friendly too. Whether you are looking for new options to offer at a commercial vehicle washing facility or just want to give the best cleaning possible for your personal vehicle it’s important to have an understanding of the complicated car wash chemistry at work.

Today in the NS Wash Blog, we are looking at the chemistry of getting a good wash. Below are a few of the essential things that you should keep in mind to make sure you are using the best car wash chemicals and using the best practices to get the best results.

Rinsing and Prewash Detergents

Maintaining a clean vehicle—along with a good wash facility—begins with the pre-wash. Giving a solid rinse to all of the surfaces of a vehicle is great for removing surface dirt as well as breaking up stubborn road grime. So before you use any car wash chemicals, make sure to hose off every surface with water. Prewash detergents are available that focus on breaking up the stubborn grease and pollutants that tend to accumulate along with regular dirt and grime. These detergents are also very useful for removing organic matter such as insects and bird droppings, which can ruin a vehicle’s otherwise pristine look.

When it comes to choosing pre-wash chemicals to offer to customers—or to use on your personal vehicles—it’s important to note there isn’t a single solution for all of the different surfaces of a vehicle. In particular, tires and rims require a different detergent than other parts of a vehicle. Finding car wash chemicals that can target specific areas of your vehicle is ideal for giving the best cleaning possible with minimal water and minimal stress to your car’s finish.

Modern Cleaners: Shampoos or Foams?

Speaking of cleaning detergents, the industry has moved beyond just using standard soaps to ensure a properly cleaned vehicle. When selecting the right soaps for your operation, it often comes down to a combination of shampoos and/or foams to get the job done.

The specific kinds of equipment used at a car wash facility factor heavily into which car wash chemicals are needed. Facilities with rollover brushes and tunnels typically focus on shampoos to scrub clean vehicles, while businesses that rely on jet washers often focus on using different foam cleaning agents. Depending on the setup of your facility, you may need to use both kinds of cleaners for the best results.

Regardless of whether your equipment relies on shampoos, foams, or something else (for instance, a small number of machines utilize powder cleaners), the cleaning agents in these car wash chemicals have seen major advancements in recent years. While the industry has mainly focused on making cleaners that are available in different colors and scents, there has also been a push to make them as environmentally friendly as possible. The chemistry of your car wash facility will be enhanced thanks to these improvements and your machines will work better as a result, since residue is less likely to accumulate with modern formulas.

Your customers will notice the difference too. Vehicles that are washed with modern shampoos and foams are much cleaner, with less residue left behind.

Finding Ways to Overcome Poor Water Quality

Car wash chemicals aren’t the whole story. It’s not just the soaps and cleaners that can throw off your car wash chemistry: Water quality also plays a major role. Depending on where your facility is, poor water quality may be a constant struggle. Whether you use well water or are part of a large city system, having the right water quality is extremely important. That’s because when water quality is poor every grain of water hardness mixes with the cleaning products you use and reduces their effectiveness, requiring higher chemical usage to achieve the intended results.

To make sure you get the best cleaning possible whenever you are washing vehicles, it’s important to work with a knowledgeable water quality expert. They can look at the car wash chemicals that your operation utilizes and find the best alternatives to meet the specific needs of your location. Experts can also get involved in assessing location needs to design and install a cleaning system that gives you the best “bang for your buck” so that you can avoid wasting money on expensive chemicals to overcome poor water quality, and instead utilize a system that addresses water quality issues specific to your site. This is a great way to save money and reduce your environmental footprint.

Finishing off with Waxes and Polishes

At the end of the day, you may look for that extra bit to really let vehicles shine. Sometimes soaps aren’t the only car wash chemicals that will do. To keep any vehicle looking great, there’s no better way to finish off a wash than with a polish or wax. Polish can give vehicles a nice shine to make them especially eye-catching in the sunlight. Meanwhile, adding wax to a vehicle is like giving it an extra layer of protection. The right wax can block out harmful ultraviolet rays that cause the paint job on a vehicle to fade.

While adding either is optional, it is worth considering how it can affect your car’s wash chemistry when applied.

Consult the Experts at NS Wash

Finding the right car wash chemistry for your vehicle can be tricky. There are a lot of components out there to make sure your vehicle gets the proper, thorough cleaning you are looking for. Depending on what road conditions you face, how often you drive, and even your type of vehicle can all factor into which combination of car wash chemicals is going to do the best overall job. Reading about different products and carefully testing them can help you find the best solution for your washing needs.

Finding the right mixture of car wash chemicals becomes even more complicated due to the ever-evolving nature of the industry. New ideas are being developed to make chemicals more effective at protecting vehicles, while also reducing their impact on the environment. Regardless if you are trying to find the right chemicals to offer customers at your vehicle washing facility or just want the right combination for your personal vehicle, it helps to consult with experts to understand what options are available. Partnering with a knowledgeable company like NS Wash can help you stay on top of the latest advancements.

If you enjoyed this, or want to learn more about the car wash business, be sure to check out other helpful articles here at the NS Wash Blog.

Looking for new wash equipment or replacement OEM parts for your NS Wash systems? Visit our online parts store!

Have questions or need advice? Reach out to our customer service team whenever you have questions about maintaining the best vehicle cleaning chemistry and choosing the right car wash chemicals. They can give you new tips and suggest products for your business that make sure every vehicle can shine without damaging it or impacting the environment. Contact us today!