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The 5 Key Contributors to Smelly Carwashes

It’s no joke that car washes can stink, this is certainly not ideal since a car wash is the place people come to make things clean. Some may have noticed something was off when they walked past the wastewater collection pit or into the equipment room. Car washing equipment and reclaim systems generally cannot remove odours present in the wash bay. Decomposition of matter by naturally occurring bacteria and/or chemical reactions will release gases (hydrogen sulfide) to the atmosphere that have a very offensive smell.

Here are 5 interesting facts about what makes a car wash stink:

No. 1: Hydrocarbons
The oil and other liquids that leak from vehicles onto asphalt move right into the wastewater of a car wash. 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.

No. 2: Standing water
If the infrastructure of a car wash (trenches, pipes, pits, etc.) holds standing water for any length of time, it will develop pathogens. This causes the release hydrogen sulphide gas, otherwise known as rotten egg smell.

No. 3: pH imbalances
There is a need to monitor the pH levels inside a wash, because a pH imbalance can cause car wash odours. There are a lot of chemicals in a car wash thus 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 recycled water in car washes is not properly treated to completely eliminate bacteria, which causes odours to arise. Often soaps and fragrances are used in an attempt to mask the odour while the odour-causing issue remains.

No. 5: Pollutants
The various pollutants that wash off cars in the wash obviously have to go somewhere 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 odour-causing bacteria.

Odour control methods
There are fairly simple ways to fix these main causes of car wash odours. The key is being able to recognize where and how odours can arise and addressing them appropriately. Most causes of odours in a car wash stem from issues that are relatively simple to fix.
There are several common methods on the market, both chemical/oxidants and biological, to eliminate or mask malodours emanating from car wash water tanks and pits. Some chemical methods used in the car wash industry are: liquid chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, bromine, ozone, catalytic oxidation, UV & ozone, combination catalytic oxidation with hydrogen peroxide, and chemical fragrances. Masking agents such as fragrances, do not remove the causes of odour. In fact, fragrances add to the contaminant loading of the water, which is a problem for reclaim systems.

Good, clean sense
Car wash operators will come to realize that good environmental practices are not only the right thing to do but also make good sense from a business perspective. They reduce the likelihood of needless regulatory action, reduce costs in the long run, and make it easier to obtain approval for new projects.
Existing and potential customers will find it appealing that the water used at the car wash has been reclaimed. Your car wash facility will smell fresh, and the knowledge that your business has respect for the environment will be attractive to customers.

© Prowash Australia
Author: Liz Reisman
Date Published: 10 June 2016