How to Optimize Wash Quality at a Modern-Day Professional Car Wash

August 31 20:28 2022
How to Optimize Wash Quality at a Modern-Day Professional Car Wash

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – To consistently achieve a cleaner, dryer and shinier car with a great show, there are six factors that must be properly audited, adjusted and aligned to produce an optimal wash quality – chemicals, systems, water quality, procedures, temperature and time, says Michael O’Donnell, a principal with Newport Beach, California-based Smart Solutions, Inc., the nation’s pioneer in nanotechnology chemical formulations and remote monitoring technology. “Each of these six elements are linked to each other, so when one or more are not optimized, problems compound and wash quality instantaneously deteriorates. Additionally, these components need to be monitored and maintained regularly to achieve consistency in wash quality,” O’Donnell explains.

“Today’s professional car washes are highly sophisticated, automated and robotic operations,” O’Donnell continues. “Modern-day car washes need to be finely tuned machines, much like a ‘race car’ that requires constant attention as the equipment is stressed and the odometer racks up the miles. But, with the help of technology and a skilled technician, site managers can be electronically alerted when any of these components fall outside of an acceptable parameter and make the necessary adjustments.”

He says that most of these factors have a tolerance level before a real issue surfaces. However, once one of these elements falls outside an acceptable tolerance level, that factor and others linked will need to be diagnosed and optimized.

O’Donnell outlines some key attributes worth considering when optimizing wash quality at a car wash operation.  


● Chemical programming is based on water quality, delivery systems, environmental conditions and chemical action required (clean, dry, shine or show). The type of cleaning agents and concentration levels will dictate chemical actions.

● Chemicals fall into two basic categories, acids and alkalis, which vary in scale by pH level. High pH products are better for attacking organics. Low pH products are better for mineral/oil-based contaminants.

● Chemical applications need to be sequenced to manipulate the surface tension of the vehicle from start to finish. The surface tension should remain high during the cleaning phase and at the lowest setting during the shine and dry phase of the wash.


● Mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems need to be sized, positioned and programmed correctly to achieve peak performance.

● Feeder lines from the chemical tanks to arches, wraps and mitters must be sized based on the water pressure, height and length of run from the tanks.

● Friction-based systems rely on cloth, brushes and bristles to wash the vehicle, while touchless wash systems rely on water pressure impingement and volume to do the same job.

Water Quality

● Generally speaking, the better the water quality, the better the chemical action on the vehicle.

● Hard water will decrease cleaning and create mineral deposits; reclaim and reject water are best for high-pressure rinsing, and reverse osmosis (RO) and soft water are ideal for shining and drying.

● For every four grains of hardness, you will need 4% to 10% more chemical products for the same degree of cleaning.


● Proper bay/tunnel configuration (order and distance of arches, wraps, mitters, rinsing, blowers), chemical applications and chain speed order are critical to the ultimate wash quality.

● Chemical and blower nozzles need to be sized and properly placed to maximize coverage, and the blower vibration (clogged intake) should be constantly monitored and maintained for peak performance.

● Water back pressure (indicating a clog or a leak) and air pressure must be monitored and regularly maintained to achieve consistent wash quality.


● The higher the temperature, the lower the viscosity of the chemicals and vice versa.

● As the viscosity increases, more chemistry is required to do the same job and the opposite is true as the viscosity decreases, which may require a tip change during vast swings in temperature.

● Some bays/tunnels need to be heated and/or utilize rollup doors or heat the water to optimize chemical action.


● Time needs to be carefully balanced between chemical dwell time, temperature and mechanical action.

● Chain speed must be adjusted to optimize chemical performance.

● As dwell time increases (to a limit of diminishing returns), the cleaning power increases.

O’Donnell notes a common misconception about achieving optimum wash quality (or a lack thereof), and it’s never just one factor at play. He says, “It is always a combination of things and the best way to avoid inconsistency in quality is to have constant monitoring and regular maintenance of core equipment by an experienced technician, who can be in short supply and expensive.”

O’Donnell’s answer is to use monitoring technology as the best way to reduce labor and get instant notifications of any issues. “The biggest benefit to optimizing your tunnel or bay through monitoring technology is the reduced downtime, consistent wash quality and a prolonged life of equipment, and an expert technician specializing in tunnel operations can help the operator achieve this,” O’Donnell added.

About Smart Solutions, Inc.

Smart Solutions is a “Fluid Technology” company that offers chemistry, technology and support to retail car wash operations across the nation. With our next-gen formulations and optimization techniques, car wash operators use less product, save more water and are a reclaim-ready operation. Our technology offers early adopters operational efficiencies while maintaining a competitive advantage. With our decades of industry expertise, we can optimize your tunnel and care for it with our network of certified technicians. We help operators outsmart and outperform the competition. Working with us is a “smart decision.” 

For more information, visit:

Media Contact
Company Name: Smart Solutions, Inc.
Contact Person: Michael O’Donnell, Principal
Email: Send Email
Phone: (949) 722-4500
Address:12 Corporate Plaza Suite 150
City: Newport Beach
State: California
Country: United States