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Carwash Chemistry Solutions

Do you know the differences between the various carwash chemicals and what benefits they provide for cars? The chemicals you choose are critical to your carwash, because they will determine how clean the cars come out.

Customers expect you to take their large, grossly expensive vehicles and spit them out clean, dry and shiny in just a couple minutes. That’s a big task, and you need all the chemical help you can get to ensure those results.

There is no one standard for carwashes (or chemical terminology) in our industry, even among the same type of wash. Here are a list of recommended chemicals by Prowash for your self serve and automatic touchless washes. Some of the chemicals listed below may go by different names so feel free to speak with our friendly soap technicians to learn your wash’s specific capabilities.

Self Serve:

Tyre cleaner

Tyre cleaner is the first thing you should apply in the self serve. Tyre/wheel cleaner comes as an alkaline product in the self serve and removes both organic and inorganic soils from brake pads, abraded rubber, etc. This product should not be confused with tyre protectants.

The tyre cleaning product needs to be safe for the wheels and hence the corrosiveness of the product and composition is important to get the wheels clean without doing damage. Tyre cleaner is one of the most underappreciated chemicals as it’s got one of the biggest job to do in a short period of time.


Presoaks, along with other chemicals, come in high-pH variations for the self serve. A high-pH presoak is an alkaline product formulated to remove oily and greasy soils .

Try Prowash’s recommended SuperSat pre-soak plus.

High pressure soap

High pressure soap is used more for its surfactant strength than its alkalinity. It should have a good show and smell for customers in addition to foam well. Delivery and effectiveness tends to work best when used with hot water. 

Foam brush

Next, vehicles will encounter detergents. These neutral or low-pH products have a high lubricity that lifts and holds soils until they are rinsed off, and they also prepare the vehicle surface for drying. Correct lubricity lowers the risk of hard damages to vehicles.

We now have a clean car ready to shine and protect!

Low pressure clearcoat or wax

This is a protective layer to the paint and smooths the surface. It creates great shine and makes future cleaning easier.

Our Splatter Wax with carnauba is one of the best products going around with great results.

High pressure wax

High pressure wax is not as efficient as low pressure wax but can add another layer of protection.

Automatic Touchless


In touchless we recommend starting with an acid presoak followed by an alkaline rinse in a two-step cleaning process. The acid presoak should be applied first to start off the cleaning process, removing the film and dirt and dust from the vehicle’s surface. The alkaline rinse will remove oily and greasy soils. This product needs to be effective to set up the vehicle for the additional application of waxes.

Triple foam

After the detergents and wheel cleaner have been sprayed onto the vehicle, customers will likely come across triple foam products, if they’ve purchased an upgraded package.

Triple foam products come as conditioners or polishes. The difference between the two, is that conditioners help clean the car while polishes apply a layer of wax in addition to cleaning it. Many carwashes, can have both, running the conditioner first and then the polish wax.

These neutral or acidic products condition and prepare the vehicle’s clear-coat to accept sealant and protectant products as well as expedite the drying process.

As for why it’s called triple foam, that’s purely because of the colours, standard triple foam colours often come as red, yellow and blue. When these foams mix together, they form all kinds of different colours which ends up being part of the show for the customer.

Drying agents

Finally, after a car has been thoroughly cleaned, carwashes will apply various drying agents, protectants and waxes.

Drying agents are mineral- or synthetic-oil-based and formulated to repel and remove water from a vehicle’s surface through beading. They reduce surface tension to clean a car and we then apply a product on that’s going to increase surface tension so that water wants to run off it.

One of the most common drying agents distributed at Prowash is the popular Blendco Cool Dry.

Clearcoat/paint sealant/protectants

It’s important to understand that clearcoats are not waxes. Polish-type waxes usually have a form of natural wax, such as carnauba, within the product that brings out a paint’s lustre and gets the vehicle to shine.

Prowash has great quality clearcoats and waxes in our range.

Total body protectants

Total body protectants are polymer- and/or wax-based products that, as explained above, are meant to add exceptional shine and provide extended protection against UV rays and natural elements. These products provide that ‘just waxed’ feel on the vehicle surface.

The chemicals for the touchless market differ drastically from friction. There are four aspects of the cleaning equation: time, temperature, chemical action and mechanical action that need to be taken into consideration. Since the touchless carwash removes the mechanical (or friction) action from the equation, the chemicals have to take on more of the cleaning duty.

Touchless tend to use products that are stronger — that have more alkalinity and more acidity — because we need to make up for the friction. Furthermore, since touchless machines also rely on high-pressure water, this water has to be conditioned.

There are several factors that can mess with your chemistry, but one of the biggest ones and critical chemical component is water. If you have problematic water sources that have a lot of minerals in it, which impact the function of your chemistry then those chemical products will not work as intended. Much of your water quality can also be impacted by the area of the country you’re in (i.e. some places have inherently hard water).

If you aren’t sure whether or not you have hard water, perform a water analysis. Water quality, along with titrations and various other factors, will affect the number of cars you can wash with a standard 6-gallon drum of chemical along with the end result of a clean and shiny car.

Overall the key message is: ”The chemistry’s important, because if you don’t get that right, you’re not going to get the results you want”

Date Published: 13 June 2018