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Choosing The Right Chemicals

Chemistry is an important part of any car wash’s operations, but it is often misunderstood. This misunderstanding can lead to wasted chemicals and money. In today’s highly competitive car wash market one of the more difficult decisions operators need to make is selecting the best chemicals for their wash. Since that decision requires the working together of many factors, along with the chemicals, it is not an easy decision and one that must be made with great care. For carwashes, chemistry is an essential component in the equation for optimum productivity.

To ensure high-quality results, owners and operators must keep in mind an array of important considerations, including the chemical type and amount needed and the impact from outside sources on performance. Car wash owners that are able to calculate accurate usage along with achieving optimum results will fare the best in selecting chemicals. There is a vast range of car wash chemicals available in the market ranging from different branding, quality distributors, local blending and private labeling. This complicates the decision operators have to make in their choice of chemicals. The bottom line is operators need to make their choice as pragmatic as possible — use what works best for them at a cost they are willing to pay.


If your equipment is in good working order the next critical step is the selection of your chemicals. The easiest way to ensure your chemicals work together is to buy them all from one source. If you are buying from a local distributor they should be able to ensure product compatibility. If you are buying from warehouse distributors that carry many brands and buy all the same brand you should also be reasonably safe that your chemicals are compatible. If you have any questions about possible problems, you can always contact Prowash for guidance. Caution must be taken if you are mixing brands.


Being able to use chemistry to separate a site’s wow factor from the competitor up the road can often be the difference in the consumers’ purchase decisions. Ultimately, you always have to hit the key components: a clean, dry & shiny car for a comparatively competitive price; but after that, those added extras will make the difference.

When considering compatibility you must look at the entire process which includes cleaning, extra service products, and drying. At Prowash we want our products set up and applied properly at your site so they will clean and dry cars, and get the best possible results. So how do we get the best possible result? One way to check the quality of your chemicals is to perform a titration.


A titration is a simple chemical test used to determine the concentration and alkalinity of a solution. In car washing we use titration tests to determine the concentration and therefore cleaning power of soaps. Most of the soaps at a car wash are alkaline and so we carry out a simple titration to determine the alkali concentration. A simple dropwise indicator titration will determine whether a solution is alkaline or acidic, in addition to the strength of the soap. Regular titrations will ensure consistent results from your wash and can be an early indication of various equipment issues. By neglecting to titrate regularly there are a number of issues from either ineffective soaps or incorrect concentrations that can lead to ineffective cleaning results and blockages in injectors, tubing or tips.

Many of the 'cheaper' soaps on the market give low titration results as they are not as concentrated and contain more water than higher quality brands. These soaps are usually more expensive to run in the long term as higher volumes have to be used to achieve good results. Prowash recommends the use of SuperSat® chemicals which have overcome the limitations of conventional liquids and powders to provide better cleaning, adjustability and unparalleled cost effectiveness. For equivalent car wash usage rates, SuperSat® will typically offer 50% savings over conventional detergents, while offering your customers a superior clean! Do you know what your soap’s are costing you? Prowash can provide a soap analysis using a cost calculator for you. Ask our friendly staff for more information on the SuperSat® range.


Here are some quick tips to help make sure your chemicals are compatible and are producing the best results at an acceptable cost:

  • Reducing the water temperature of your pre-soaks/cleaners may require additional chemical or dwell time to maintain cleaning.
  • In a touch-free wash, reducing your dwell time to increase throughput will mean you will have to increase the strength of your soap solution.
  • Maintaining your water softener can save you chemical costs, while failure to do so will not only increase costs but also have a negative effect on cleaning ability.
  • While changing nozzle sizes or reducing pressure may save water you may also need to adjust your chemicals to maintain wash performance.
  • Balancing the chemicals used in the cleaning process is important not only for better cleaning but also improved drying ability.
  • Selecting the right type of tri-foams and sealants may keep performance and costs in line without sacrificing quality.
  • Changing the speed of the wash process either by increasing conveyor or arch speed, or amount of passes in an automatic without adjusting chemicals may not only affect the performance of the process but also increase the cost.


© Prowash Australia
Author: Liz Reisman
Date Published: 19 October 2015