03 8340 3200

Touchfree Car Wash Chemicals

In this industry, one of the toughest things to do consistently is to produce a clean car in a touchless automatic wash. The reasons for this vary, from cars that have not been washed in a year to chemicals that are not designed to be used in a touchless environment. Some of these you cannot control and as many operators know there are different times of the year producing a clean car gets increasingly difficult. Let us attempt to shed some light on the problems we all face.

There are two types of soils that you are trying to clean, the first is water loving soils (pollens, dust, salts) and the second is oily soils (tree sap, tar, road oil). To clean these two types of soils there are three types of cleaning agents. The first is reactive type cleaners (Acids, and alkaline) the second is bonders (phosphates) and the third is associators (surfactants, and solvents). The reactive cleaners are the low and high pH products that most touchless washes use to hit the widest range of soils. Low and high pH reactive cleaners clean by exerting their energy on the soils causing the soil to leave the surface of the vehicle and the energy for removal always increases with the addition of heat. Bonders or phosphates work by changing the positive charged soil to a negative charge and pulling it off the surface with help from the flow of water. And the third type associators (surfactants, solvents, terpenes) are best at cleaning heavy oily soils by convincing the oil that it would rather leave the surface on its own accord (the energy comes from within the soil).

There are two other variables that contribute to cleaning and that is geography and temperature. Geographically there are different periods of time where the type of soils you are trying to clean change. At times an operator finds they are able to clean cars and periods where it appears that they are leaving a film on the car. What changed? The answer is the soils you are trying to clean have. As an example during the times you are producing a clean car it is most likely that the soil is the water loving type with a light coating of oil and you are dialled in for that type of soil. Now during the times where washes appear to be leaving a film on the surface of the vehicle most likely you are experiencing a period of heavy oily soil and not setup to clean it completely. A major misconception is to increase the amount of chemical and heat in an attempt burn it off the surface. This accomplishes nothing but increased aggravation, chemical cost and electricity bills. So as an operator it is imperative to understand these periods of change and to adjust to them.

The first thing is to choose chemicals that are capable of cleaning both types of soils, so that during times of high pollen, dusty and heavy bug conditions low and high pH cleaners at a temperature of 120 degrees work best. But during the times where it appears that you are leaving a hazy film on the car after washing these are the times where you need to rely on the surfactants and solvents in your chemicals to do the brunt of the work. During these times of heavy oil on the surface of the car turning down the heat on the chemicals will work the best due to the fact that the solvents and surfactants do not need heat to do their job. In fact what is occurring with the high temp and high, low pH combination is that you are setting the oil on the surface by scorching the outside layer and blocking the solvents and surfactants from doing their job.

To avoid the problem of having to alternate between high and low pH chemicals, Prowash recommends a two step clean in a Touchless automatic cleaning refers to the use of two pH extremes in presoak application, typically, an acid presoak followed by the application of an alkaline presoak over two passes. The most common way to apply a low pH presoak is to apply it first. The reason behind this is that the cost and strength of an acid presoak dictates that you must put it on first. It is cheaper to have the alkaline presoak cover over the acid and move the pH all the way from low to high.

There are many car washes operating today who have inadequate levels of these opposite chemistries, and their cleaning performance is paying the price. The operator is also paying the price as they may be spending their monies simply neutralizing the first presoak without ever entering the alkaline stage of cleaning. Be sure you are dealing with an expert who understands and is measuring the relative strengths of both followed by comparing to some manufacturer recommended setting. A small difference in the case of two step cleaning can make a huge difference.

We at Prowash recommend Rhino Brite as our product of choice for a low pH pass as part of your two step clean.

If you’re unsure or want some assistance getting your car wash chemistry right, contact our friendly soap technicians here at Prowash on 03 8340 3200

Date Published: 11 April 2018