WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities
Whether at self-service or full-service car washes, or as part of gas stations or vehicle
service facilities, there are three types of vehicle-washing technologies: conveyor,
in-bay, and self-service. These technologies incorporate some or all of the following
steps, as defined by the International Carwash Association:
Pre-soak: An automated nozzle or handheld spray.
Wash: A high-pressure spray or brushes with a detergent solution.
Rocker panel/undercarriage: Brushes or high-pressure sprays on the sides and
bottom of the vehicle.
First rinse: A high-pressure rinse.
Wax and sealers: An optional surface finish that is sprayed on the vehicle.
Final rinse: A low-pressure rinse with fresh or membrane-filtered water.
Air blowers: Air blown over the vehicle to remove water and assist drying.
Hand drying: Wiping down the vehicle with towels or chamois cloths, which are
often laundered in onsite washing machines. See
Section 3.6: Laundry Equipment
for information on using water efficiently in commercial laundry systems.
Many commercial vehicle wash facilities have adopted water reclamation technol-
ogy, which treats wash and rinse water from previous wash cycles for use during the
next vehicle wash in an effort to reduce overall water use. There are several other
opportunities for these facilities to minimize water use. In fact, efficient vehicle wash
systems can use less water on average per vehicle than washing a car at home.
Conveyor vehicle wash systems use a conveyor belt to pull vehicles through a wash-
ing tunnel, which consists of a series of spray arches and/or washing cloths. Vehicle
washing can be conducted with the customer inside the vehicle during the wash
process, or the customer can wait outside the vehicle as both the interior and exteri-
or are cleaned. In some states, the driver and passengers are required to wait outside
the vehicle during washing.
Conveyor facilities employ two different methods of washing: friction or frictionless.
During friction washing, the wash equipment (e.g., a cloth curtain) makes contact
with the vehicle. Frictionless, or touch-free, washing relies on high-pressure nozzles
to clean the vehicle. Conveyors with friction wash cycles use less water per vehicle,
Brown, Chris. 2000.
Water Conservation in the Professional Car Wash Industry
Prepared for the International Carwash Association.
Alliance for Water Efficiency. Vehicle Wash Introduction.