In the car wash industry, eco-friendly innovations like efficient water management, reclaim systems, and advanced equipment controls enhance environmental sustainability while improving profitability. Businesses that swiftly embrace these practices position themselves as industry leaders, demonstrating their commitment to long-term success and environmental responsibility.

Water Conservation

            Efficiently managing water resources in vehicle wash operations is essential for both environmental and financial reasons. Whether dealing with existing facilities or planning new construction, effective water management significantly impacts project success and ongoing operational costs.

            When run with proper procedures and equipment, professional operations represent the most sustainable car wash option. Automated wash systems prioritize water conservation by setting specific freshwater usage limits per wash, reclaiming or recycling treated water for future cycles, and discharging effluent water to a sanitary location.

            Many washes actively contribute to a greener community by adopting water-efficient practices. Their commitment benefits the environment and enhances their brand reputation, resonating positively with environmentally conscious consumers through targeted marketing efforts. Embracing water-efficient practices reduces costs and supports sustainable resource use, benefiting both the bottom line and the environment.

Reclaim & Reuse

            Optimizing a system’s water consumption from entrance to exit involves various equipment components such as reclaim, reuse, polishers, water softeners, reverse osmosis units, and reject and water capture systems. While it’s far easier to engineer for optimization at the beginning of a project, that is not always possible. Achieving high water reuse targets requires accounting for every drop of water usage within the system, along with the level of necessary corresponding treatment.

            Reclaim and reuse systems — biological, chemical, or physical — have seen significant technological advancements in recent years. These developments have led to multi-component systems that significantly improve reclaimed water quality, making water reuse feasible in a wider range of wash-component systems that were previously impractical for water reclamation.

            Given the rising cost of water, consulting with a vehicle wash water equipment company for new builds or retrofits is more important than ever. These experts can help design and implement systems that maximize water efficiency and reduce costs.

Chemistry Compatibility

            Implementing water reclaim and reuse systems at a wash reduces the associated cost and reliance on municipal water sources. However, it’s crucial to evaluate the compatibility of the chemistry utilized within the system.

            The selection of appropriate chemistry is paramount, with performance, cost, and compatibility all playing pivotal roles. When incompatible chemicals enter the vehicle wash reclaim tank system, it can cause significant operational problems. For instance, combining mineral seal oil, a prevalent raw formula ingredient, with specific surfactants can result in substantial problems due to chemical incompatibility.

            Combining anionic and cationic surfactants forms insoluble complexes and precipitates, which can clog reclaim system filters. Additionally, mineral seal oil exacerbates this issue by generating sticky residues that build up on tank walls, conveyor pits, equipment, and other surfaces. This complicates filtration and promotes excess tank sludge accumulation and odor-causing bacteria.

            Traditional water softeners effectively reduce water hardness and can enhance the efficiency of certain types of surfactants. However, they pose significant environmental challenges by contributing to elevated salinity levels in wastewater through salt usage and brine discharge, leading cities to discourage their use. It is important to avoid discharging water softener brine into a wash water reclaim system.

            In contrast to ionic surfactants, non-ionic surfactants remain uncharged when dissolved in water, allowing them to be effective in both cold and hot water. This versatility saves energy costs, further benefiting the bottom line. Additionally, utilizing a non-ionic, inherently hard-water tolerant cleaning system reduces the need for soft water, lowering costs and enhancing performance.

            Avoiding these interactions is crucial as they not only lead to frequent maintenance and higher operational costs but also undermine the efficiency of water reclamation efforts, especially in biological reclaim systems where microbial activity may be hindered. Investing in compatible chemistry solutions is required to achieve overall efficiency while also saving water, energy, and ongoing operational costs, thus ensuring the operation’s sustainability.

Marketing & Equipment Controls

            Manufacturers have honed system controls to ensure peak efficiency and minimal operational costs. These systems encompass valuable features, including precise equipment timing, chemical monitoring, anti-collision technology, integrated marketing, lighting schedules, social media management, license plate recognition, automated equipment retraction, queue management, and much more. 

            Operators enjoy luxuries that were once unimaginable in our industry, thanks to the incredible connected features of modern systems that continue to evolve and rapidly improve. These advanced systems provide the flexibility and agility necessary to remain competitive in today’s dynamic market. Whether operating a self-serve, in-bay automatic, or multi-site conveyorized express format, operators can enhance quality by leveraging advanced features.

            To capitalize on these advancements, align your marketing strategies with customer behavior. Utilize various tools, such as e-commerce platforms, license plate-driven re-target campaigns, text marketing, and reward programs, to distinguish your car wash and cultivate devoted advocates. 

            Operators can enhance their profits, contribute to water conservation efforts, and promote environmental sustainability by enticing customers out of their driveways and into a professional car wash.

Dustin Lessard is a co-founder and director of new business development for Mothers Automated Solutions. Since 1999, Dustin has been actively involved in the professional vehicle wash industry and has had the privilege of diving into various aspects of this dynamic field. If you have any questions regarding this article, vehicle wash operations, or related environmentally friendly practices, please contact or call Mothers Automated Solutions at (480) 630-0366.