During the difficulties brought on by COVID-19, the car wash world has done relatively well compared to other industries. Many car washes have been able to stay open and/or be deemed essential for the cleaning of emergency vehicles. While there are certainly car washes that have had a rough go of it in 2020 and early 2021, plenty of car wash operators are feeling fortunate to be in a business sector that has not been catastrophically damaged by the pandemic.

Where the pandemic has hit the car wash industry is the supply chain and the development of new products on the self-serve side of the business. There are vast shortages of materials to build products, which means inventory on existing items is low, and manufacturers are limiting their risk by being more prudent with new self-serve offerings. Major car care shows and conventions were cancelled for most of 2020 and early 2021, so manufacturers are rightly hesitant to come up with new items when they haven’t had facetime with distributors. So, oddly enough, the short answer to “What’s hot in the self-serve car wash world?” is: the basics.

At the current time, car washes might not be widely experimenting with new services, chemicals, or vending products, but they’re succeeding by sticking to the basics and offering a bit of normalcy to their customers.

That being said, there are still some hot items that you should be paying attention to:


Contactless payment, or “Tap and Pay,” has been surging in popularity recently. Contactless payment like Apple Pay,

Samsung Pay, and others were already trending simply because of convenience, but the new hyper focus on cleanliness has created a perfect storm for Tap and Pay to explode.

Two leading options for car washes to begin offering contactless payment include CryptoTap and Nayax systems. Take a look at both and decide what’s best for your business.

CryptoTap offers a clean, no-touch interface. The simple, square puck reader of CryptoTap is easy to clean and disinfect. Customers do not handle cash, quarters, or tokens; neither does the car wash operator or attendants. CryptoTap also offers customers more payment-type options. Along with increased payment options, the system is designed for speed. Contactless transactions are fast and simple. Customers do not need to orientate a card correctly to swipe or insert the card. Just hold the card or phone next to the CryptoTap device and the payment is made in seconds!

CryptoTap works with existing CryptoPay coordinators and swipers. That means you simply have to add the small puck device to pay stations, bays, and vending machines that already use CryptoPay — it’s fast and easy! But if you don’t have CryptoPay, you will need to invest in a coordinator and swipers to use the new CryptoTap system.

Nayax engineers and manufactures the cashless devices and reporting software systems that are installed on nearly 500,000 unattended machines in 60-plus countries and works with 45 financial institutions worldwide, accepting 26 currencies.

Nayax VPOS-TOUCH systems are PCI-compliant, all-in-one, graphical display readers for credit card and cashless payment. The Nayax VPOS-TOUCH is available in both pulse and MDB versions. The pulse version is designed for the car wash, air machine, and vacuum markets. The MDB version works for vending.

VPOS-TOUCH Features:
• EMV both chip and tap enabled
• 2.4” color touch screen
• Vandalism and water-resistant
• Instant power up and power down alerts
• Easy plug-and-play installation


Even a pandemic can’t keep Little Trees® from releasing new fragrances! Car Freshner always comes up with amazing scents and attractive artwork so car washes can offer exciting new products to customers. Below are the latest Little Trees air freshener options:
Rose Thorn – Rich red rose enveloped by bright greens and dark earth gives edgy dimension to a familiar floral. The visual design features skull and rose artwork that’s dark but attractive. Available in 72- and 24-count vending packs.
Sliced – A sparkling citrus fusion of zesty lemon, green lime, tangy grapefruit, and juicy orange. Warm-color artwork with an image of an orange slice that’s interesting and eye-catching without being tacky. Available in 72- and 24-count vending packs.
Strawberry Vent Wrap – The classic fruity scent is now available as a Vent Wrap for convenient, subtle placement on vehicle dashes!
True North Vent Liquid – True North is not a new scent; it’s been around a couple years. It has become a quick seller, though. It’s a crisp arctic-air fragrance with notes of pine. It’s now available as a Vent Liquid.


Dosatron’s Modular Panels have been around since early 2020. They’re just new enough that you may not have heard about them yet, but you definitely should check them out if you’re looking to streamline your low-pressure services.

These are modular chemical dispensing units with a Dosatron injector, plumbing, and solenoids already mounted on a panel allowing for amazingly fast and simple installation. Available in a variety of dilution-rate and bay-number options to meet your needs — and you can add air for foaming.


Gary Frey, national sales manager at Kleen-Rite, provided a list of items that are currently popular even though they aren’t brand new offerings. Consider looking intothese products if you want to stay current with the best of what the car wash industry has to offer.

Aside from the wash bay, it’s the car wash vacuums that probably get the most use. Fortunately, there are companies that build commercial vacuums that fulfill your customers’ every want or need — and yours.

For example, vault-ready vacuums are designed for use with secure, buried coin vaults instead of coin boxes that are vulnerable to theft.

Speaking of security, a lot of car wash operators are investing in high-security coin boxes for their self-serve

bays. These are made with 7-gauge thick steel, have reinforced timer housings, and boast extra-secure plug locks.

Expect LED lighting to remain hot (even thought they’re cooler than traditional lights!) for many years. People are making the switch to LED because of efficiency, durability, and versatility of lighting products from excellent brands.

Vending towels are big right now. These 16 x 16 individually wrapped microfiber towels are available in red, blue, green, yellow, and orange. Please note that these are only suitable for spiral vendors.

Also popular in vending is glass cleaner. Sold in 4-ounce cans, these are perfect for fast spray-and-wipe window cleaning. They’re super convenient for customers and sell fast.

Leaning on the basics will keep your business successful, but always keep an eye on hot products around the industry to stay on top in your market.

Job T. Leach is the senior copywriter and SEO strategist in the Kleen-Rite marketing department. He can be reached at jobl@kleen-ritecorp.com or by calling (717) 684-6721, ext. 264.