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Car wash waste demands a professional touch

Screen Shot 2020-08-16 at 1.13.32 PMThe waste at your car wash site is your responsibility. This is the message from provincial regulators as well as key players in Canada’s waste industry. Good waste management is not only good for the environment, it’s just good business.

“Car wash operators have to do their homework when it comes to maintaining the drainage systems of their sites,” says Leanne Whittaker, general manager, liquid/hydrovac division, GFL Environmental, a leading North American provider of diversified environmental solutions. She suggests that operators are sometimes confused about regulations and their responsibilities as business owners. “We often find ourselves in the situation where we have to explain the legalities of waste management to a business owner that sees hauling effluent as being something that can be skirted.”

Her colleague Michael Tersigni, commercial territory sales manager, GFL Environmental adds that often he sees wash companies try to stretch out the length of time between car wash catch basins and interceptor pump-outs. “This can end up with car washes having blocked lines and floods, problems that end up costing more money,” he says, noting that a site that was overdue for service can discover they require more waste sludge to be removed, and more time to ensure a clean and properly flowing system. 

“Blockages caused by sludge and overcapacity interceptors and/or holding tanks can sometimes cause floods or other issues in the system. This means the site has to be shut longer while work is underway and cars are not getting cleaned. When cars are not being cleaned operators don’t make money,” says Whittaker, who notes that a standard-sized operation could see vacuum trucks take about two hours to complete a typical waste removal service. Operators are charged an hourly rate plus the amount of effluent tonnage. She suggests operators look to see the times when car washes are least busy and schedule waste pickups accordingly. When service providers arrive operations need to be shut down. The greater the amount of sludge or blockages to clear, the longer the site is closed to business.

Both Tersigni and Whittaker point out that companies such as GFL Environmental don’t enforce the regulations, rather they advise, seek understanding and help establish best practices.

“Proper maintenance and due diligence are key operational practices,” says Tersigni. “Be proactive and don’t wait for something to happen.”

“A well-maintained car wash will provide efficiencies because the system is better able to do the job it was designed to do,” says Whittaker mentioning that smaller more frequent pickups are better. “If there are build-ups of heavy sludge and oil, and the system is not flowing, our crews have to spend more time on-site and this costs operators more in the long run. Having tanks that are higher than 50% often means overflow pipes are already full.”

Here, Tersigni notes that having a professional company undertake the work has its advantages. “Only licensed and regulated operators can legally transport and dispose of waste from car washes. We have every tool in the shed and can handle whatever challenge the service demands, from flushing and snaking blockages to camera scoping collapsed lines. We also have to deal with a wide range of provincial and municipal regulations. Ultimately the waste being removed is the responsibility of the car wash operator and any issues with the disposal of the waste could potentially subject the operator to scrutiny.”

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iWash goes big

Calgary entrepreneur joins forces to create big box vehicle wash 

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Calgary’s new iWash is big. The Barlow Trail multi-service site owned and operated by Kunal Patel opened in June 2019 and today offers the largest commercial vehicle wash bays in the city as well as automatic rollover and wand wash bays for regular vehicles. 

Patel, a savvy businessman who owns other enterprises, including a construction company, saw the need for a wash facility that could accommodate the largest transport trucks. He researched and found the location in Northeast Calgary in 2017. 

Screen Shot 2020-07-29 at 3.06.19 PM“I knew I wanted to own a car wash because Calgary is a great location because of the weather we get here, it’s a good cash flow business, and if designed and operated well has low overhead costs.  I saw a need for an independent wash facility that could handle commercial fleets, RV’s, trailers, cars, et cetera,” says Patel, mentioning that development costs for the 13,000 square foot business stood around $5.5 million. “The Northeast area is under-serviced and I could see there were trucking companies and many warehouses and distribution centers in the area. The location was ideal because of the easy access to two main roadway arteries in Calgary; Deerfoot Trail and Stoney Trail just minutes away from iWash.  I bought the land, designed the site, and built the facility, all internally within my family business.”

Patel sought out simplicity in the process. “I handled the general contracting and architectural scope and then brought knowledgeable engineers and consultants into the project. I decided to go with Mark VII as my car wash supplier because they brought a lot of experience and they offered a one-stop-shop where I didn’t have to deal with multiple vendors. They helped with design, layouts, and took care of the equipment procurement and placement. This made the development process a lot easier,” he says remarking that they closed on the land deal in the spring of 2017 and opened for business spring of 2019.

Here, Mark VII Canada general manager comments that they were able to bring a lot to the table. 

“We supplied the machinery, worked with ancillary manufacturers such as Bay Watch Doors and Exacta payment systems and handled all the chemicals,” says Canadian GM Chris Armena. He reports that they were able to bring their Denver-based engineering department into the mix. “This was very valuable from a planning standpoint. Once we had the drawings from the architect we were able to offer design advice that enabled efficiencies in the building footprint.  Our team has a lot of experience and this made the development easier,” says Armena remarking that although Patel had great knowledge and experience with land development and construction, he was new to the car wash industry and the site required everything. “When Kunal and I started talking the location was just a brownfield!”

Screen Shot 2020-07-29 at 3.07.15 PMOn offer now at iWash are two roll-over systems (one Choice Wash and one Soft-Touch Wash), four self serve wand wash bays and two massive 120-foot truck bays with multiple high-pressure stations inside. Mark VII’s Choice Wash gives customers the choice to choose between touchless, soft-touch or both wash options. There is also a four-unit vacuum area. Everything is 24-hour accessible and the site is entirely cashless and designed for the ultimate in vehicle washing convenience.

“I’m the only independent truck wash operator in the area,” says Patel. “There are two other independent car washes and a chain site located nearby who I compete with but they offer different services and since iWash has the largest truck bays in the area and city, it’s something they don’t have, this allows us to stand out.  We’re located in a new subdivision and are the first in the area so we stand out as a destination wash business offering exceptional quality and customer service.” 

Patel comments that in his truck bay customers often take anywhere from ten to 45 plus minutes to clean off their rigs. “Operators find that dirty trucks are heavier and use more fuel and there are regulations to have trucks kept clean. We are the only place in the area where drivers can get this done. So far even though our business has slowed because of the novel coronavirus we are fortunate and thankful to have been stable with our independent and corporate truck business,” he says.

Even though the 120-foot truck bays are massive, the high-pressure wand wash system itself is compact. For example, Chris Armena reports that the equipment room uses a small 56-inch by 24-inch footprint to house four pumps for the four wands in the truck wash bays. 

In the automatic bays, Mark VII’s Choice Wash allows customers to decide whether they want the ease of a touchless wash where high-pressure spray removes grime without brushes rubbing paint surfaces, or a soft-touch wash with closed-cell, soft foam technology providing scratch and residue-free washes. The Choice Wash machine is somewhat unique in combining both complete soft-touch and complete touchless capabilities in a single rollover system, giving customers the choice that suits their preference.

And, while the efficacy of the system to clean cars and trucks is essential to customer satisfaction, Patel reports that he wanted to use chemicals that had a positive environmental impact. In the roll-over bays, customers get an initial spray of bug wash and pre-soak, then a rinse and soak as well as an undercarriage bath. The site also uses a soapy foam curtain and Shine Tecs to deliver a winning package that brings customers back. Shine Tecs offers polymers that instantly clarify paint finish. When buffed in, micro compounds generate a deeper gloss shine. It gives a hand wax quality, outperforms ceramic coatings and even repairs minor damage to paint surfaces.

“We tend to suggest brushes in combination with easy-on-the-environment chemicals,” says Armena. “This way the chemicals work better with less power. We don’t advise strong pre-soaks and go with more dwell time to achieve the best wash.”

In these challenging times when businesses seek contactless payment from customers, iWash is a step ahead. According to Patel he sought to create a cashless business from the very start. “With cashless payment, there are no coins to collect and security is less of a concern,” he says, mentioning customers can pay via credit and debit as well as ApplePay and GooglePay in addition to pre-loaded iWash loyalty cards. “Its as simple as tap, wash and go.  Also, commercial customers no longer have to worry about drivers having receipts for washes. We track usage and send a monthly invoice. Everything is handled via our Exacta software and menu board system that makes product selection and payment easy.”

The overarching idea has been to create a vehicle wash business that is simple, effective and efficient, all while offering the highest wash quality and customer satisfaction. Consider that iWash uses only one employee to manage the entire site. They clean the bays, perform maintenance and handle any customer requests, such as offer receipts to those who need them. “If needed, I can watch the entire operation via remote monitoring,” says Patel. “We have good camera placement and I can access operation systems such as the overhead doors, or lock the office if there is a problem after staff leave.”

Concluding, Patel remarks that while iWash is big the process to get it underway was not unwieldy. “It was a team effort, everyone working together to design, build and now operate a fantastic and huge wash site with the biggest truck bays in the city!”




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Stepping-up for safety

Wash and fuel sectors look outside the box

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 2.06.50 PMCOVID-19 has created trying times. Both wash operators and manufacturers have pivoted to create service and product innovation amid these challenges.

A good example is ISTOBAL, a leading manufacturer of car wash equipment with a presence in 78 countries. This company has reinvented uses for its automatic wash arches that are now being used to disinfect the personal protective equipment (PPE) and vehicles of health, security and emergency personnel combatting coronavirus/COVID-19.

The company reports that over two weeks it adapted its chemical application technology that has been in use in car washes around the world. This arch adaptation, first in use in Spain’s battle with COVID-19, now disinfect personnel, vehicles and gear in just 15 seconds.

The company’s equipment can be installed near main accesses, quarantine areas, operating rooms, ICUs and other points. With a capacity to disinfect more than 4,000 people with PPE a day, these arches measure two meters in height and are made up of eight sprinklers that spray a disinfectant product on the PPE of health and safety and emergency forces and are automatically activated in its path thanks to a photocell detection system that activates the sprinklers.

ISTOBAL is also producing arches for the external disinfection of medical vehicles such as ambulances and fleets of the security forces with an average disinfection capacity of about 1,000 vehicles per day. This system is designed to spray vehicles with a biocide.

In the face of some operators turning away truckers and others during this public health emergency, Shell has stepped up to show its support of drivers and frontline workers. In more than 15,000 participating retail sites across 30 countries, Shell will be providing free food and warm beverages to healthcare professionals, such as EMTs, nurses and doctors. “As a small thank you for all you are doing for our communities, we invite Canadian healthcare professionals to stop into any participating Shell gas station. All you need to bring is your medical ID and we will provide a free sandwich and warm beverage to keep you fuelled throughout your day,” says Andrea Brecka, general manager Retail, Shell Canada.

The petroleum company also announced that not only will its sites offer free sandwiches and beverages to medical crews as well as commercial drivers such as couriers, long haul and grocery and fuel delivery drivers as well as others. Drivers only need to be uniformed with a company truck.

At Petro-Canada’s 1,500 + sites operations offer plexiglass shields at cash, social distancing prompts and stations are disinfecting all internal surfaces, such as the pay-point, door handles and washrooms every two hours or more. Surfaces outside, such as pumps squeegees, vacuums and air pumps are cleaned multiple times a day.

Suncor spokesperson Nicole Fisher tells OCTANE that Petro-Canada sites are being made as clean and safe as possible. She reports stations are:

  • placing indicators on store floors to ensure people remain at a safe distance from one another
  • installing plexiglass shields at the main pay counters
  • limiting the number of customers in each of our larger stores
  • increasing cleaning and sanitizing procedures
  • reducing contact points, including closing all fountain pop and slush machines

The Chamois Car Wash and Detail Centre, a three-site business located in Winnipeg is offering a full interior sanitizing service. The wash group offers both automated tunnels and full detailing packages in its normal menu. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, Chamois closed its standard interior service and runs only its automated lines where customers must remain in their cars. Groups such as taxi operators and first responders and others told them people were looking for safer virus-free vehicle interiors.

Chamois turned to their expertise to create a service that had to be safe for employees. At their wash sites, they bath the interior with a liquid germicide that is allowed to sit for a full 10 minutes. Then a single staffer can enter safely to wipe off the residue and perform a deep clean on the interior. The service takes about 45 minutes and costs customers $49 for cars and $59 for vans. The service includes their best-selling Gold wash package.

 Originally published in the May/June issue of OCTANE.

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New London, Ont. service site breaks away from the competition

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.24.09 PMOperator Harsha Nimrani is making a strong play with the opening of her latest business in London, Ont. Nimrani’s winning hand includes her partnership with Greenergy Canada and its Breakaway brand as well as her development of an innovative new car wash that uses state-of-the-art technology. Already, she operates five other fuel and vehicle service sites in Ontario with a variety of gas brands, but this is her first with Breakaway and she is enthusiastic as the facility opened this January.

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.25.00 PMNimrani reports that after coming to Canada in 2012 the family got involved with the service station business when her husband took on a job as an accountant at a location in Mississauga. “My husband and I agreed after our children were born that we needed to get into businesses of our own. We had experience with gas stations so there was a natural fit. My first location was in Niagara Falls and now I have five sites in Ontario and we are looking at two more this year,” she says commenting that she brings a background in banking and real estate to the business.

Development on Nimrani’s new London Breakaway station began last September and lasted five months with the opening in mid-January. What Nimrani has on offer is a triple threat site with c-store, gas bar and car wash. Under the Breakaway canopy, her new business features six gas dispensers with two diesel pumps. Fuel is provided by Greenergy, a growing supplier that launched Breakaway in 2018 and Inver in 2019.  The c-store and gas bar are branded as a Breakaway location and comes with all the bells and whistles such its signature hockey-themed look and feel and promotions in the c-store and under the canopy. Majestic Auto Wash features a 90’ tunnel Fusion Process wash as well as detailing area.

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“This site was previously a Shell,” says Nimrani. “When we looked at this location we had interest from both Mobil and ESSO, but after our research, we decided to go with Greenergy and Breakaway. Early on we saw that they could do more for us and would be a more willing partner in our success,” she says, mentioning that the simple fact that Greenergy staff just pick up the phone when she calls was a big improvement over her experience with other fuel brands.  “Breakaway gives us the flexibility to price match on fuel. This is important to us. We are competing as the best price option in this market and are selling 17,000 litres of fuel each day. It is the fuel quality and price that gets people onto our site where we can sell them other goods and services such as car wash and convenience products.”

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.23.44 PMHere, Nimrani mentions the Breakaway c-store and points to the business as a key aspect that drives the location’s success. The c-store kiosk is approximately 200 square feet and is replete with sports themes throughout. “Canada is hockey crazy. We saw this theme as highly attractive to our target market here in London,” she says, noting that Breakaway’s hockey-theme makes their site stand out from the competition in a tough local market.

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.23.56 PMThe car wash is yet another key point of market differentiation and innovation. Nimrani went with a Fusion Process system from Diamond Shine and Sonny’s. “We turned to Washlinks for advice and came up with this new system that is the first in Canada. The tunnel can clean 90 cars an hour with a staff of seven or eight on the crew that handles detailing as well.” She reports that their Majestic Auto Wash offers four clean packages – Ace, King, Queen and Jack. “Every gas fill gets a free ‘Jack’ wash,” she says mentioning the basic exterior service. Products such as their King wash with interior and exterior clean is $60 and the basic with an interior clean is $36. Customers can choose between a monthly subscription for $29 or an a la carte offering where they can add on services such as tire and rim cleaning.

Helping to drive wash business is a dedicated app for payments, loyalty program and promotions. “We went with ICS for this system and have found that our growth in this area is very good. The app allows us to better know our customers and their preferences and it makes it easier for customers to access our services. Already we have more than 1000 customers signed up to our club membership and expect this to grow to 5000 customers over the next several months as more people learn about us.”

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.25.20 PMIn the wash, Majestic’s Fusion Process system offers six-stage cleaning, a step up from the usual four stages typically found in most wash tunnels. It starts with a Fusion Bath designed to break the bond of surface contaminants with a specialty low pH detergent. Next is a Fusion Prime application, an ultra-low pH chemical coverage that preps the surface of the vehicle for better adherence of the upcoming sealant and makes the painted surfaces shine. The Fusion Rinse cycle is step three. Here a thin sheet of water with a chemical additive helps dissipate any remaining foam on the vehicle. This step clears out vehicle crevices and removes any left behind soap or hard water in preparation for the upcoming paint sealant. Fusion Seal is the next step. Fusion Seal is a paint sealant that, with the help of the Fusion Prime, bonds with the vehicle’s paint to capture the shine and smooth out the surfaces. The seal forms a glossy shell that protects the paint against UV rays and contaminants. Applying it in a stream of droplets ensures the chemical penetrates and completely coats all surfaces. The Fusion Wax cycle provides an additional layer of protection on top of the sealant that helps the vehicle retain the benefits of the full Fusion Process for longer. Lastly, the system applies Rain Repel, a glass specific step where finishing touch applicators are targeted at the glass surfaces of the vehicle and apply the chemical in a fanned spray. Once the Fusion Rain Repel is applied, water beads and runs off the glass providing additional safety and visibility in adverse conditions.

The Fusion system uses Sonny’s Bullseye backroom chemical storage and distribution system. Nimrani remarks that she likes the ease of calibration, lack of waste and total control over chemicals. “The environment is important to us. We already have water reclaim where we reuse 70% of the car wash water. We don’t want to use more chemicals than necessary and the Fusion system allows us to be very careful with amounts and its easier on our staff who don’t have to lift heavy pails and containers of detergents,” she says, noting that Bullseye features a cost measuring sight tube, instant cost per car analysis and easy product mix.

“Establishing a new site is always a challenge. There is much to do and much to learn. We were fortunate to have partners in the process that helped to take some of the bumps out of the road,” she says concluding that their upfront research, previous experience and leading suppliers helped them enter the London market with a winning hand.


Car wash operators share 5 training tips to boost retention



Good training delivers worker retention and enhances customer service. Here are five suggestions from leading wash operators that help raise the bar on workplace labour challenges.

  1. Give new hires a proper orientation not just a manual

“The orientation is your first opportunity to create a positive culture and direct workplace behaviour. Don’t just hand new workers a booklet and think the job is done. Spend some time here and reap the rewards with motivated crews and incoming staff that has a basis of core knowledge,” says Karen Smith, training and Compliance manager, Valet Car Washes.

  1. Do a full safety tour on the first day

Explain the equipment and talk about the various noises in the plant. “Car washes can be intimidating places to work. They are noisy and dangerous environments that require a presence of mind on the job. In-coming staff need to be walked through the full operation and shown all the hazards and how to work safely in this setting,” says Smith.

  1. Shadow established workers

“Our training program is two weeks long. We team a new worker with one and only one of our established staffers. Over two weeks they follow and mirror the job with the experienced worker,” says Smith.

  1. Train to develop a team culture

“A lot of our detailing staff have been with us for the long haul. This has enabled us to develop a crew with unique skill sets that deliver quality performance and customer engagement,” says Chris Skoglund of Skogie’s Auto Spa, where they start by paying staff a higher wage than competitors. “We also pay a commission to any staffer that sells products and services. Tips are also shared at the Kelowna Auto Spa and this helps level things out and makes a positive addition to wages. The result is a highly competent team that is supportive of the business. It’s a win/win for everybody.”

  1. Be proactive

“Anticipate a problem before it becomes a problem. A customer that receives a wash and was not happy after leaving is a lost opportunity. Not only the single wash but the washes they would have purchased afterwards. We train specific staff to conduct daily, weekly and monthly preventative maintenance checks. The checks are all documented and followed up with our maintenance supervisor to ensure the problem is corrected,” says Randy Andrusiak, gas bar operations manager, Red River Cooperative Ltd. “The very first thing we do every morning before opening is to conduct a test wash. Is everything turning on like its expected? Are there any nozzles plugged? Is their enough chemical in the barrels? Are the doors and bays clean? Is the garbage at the entrance emptied?”

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COVID-19 cleaning strategies: A Q&A with Dr. Andrew Landa  

Screen Shot 2020-05-25 at 12.35.06 PMCanada’s car washes know a thing or two about making vehicles shine and look their best. With the COVID-19 challenge, this expertise may be called upon to not only remove grit and grime but get cars and trucks clean on a microbial level as well. Recently we had an opportunity to discuss these needs with ZEP Vehicle Care’s Director of R&D, Dr. Andrew Landa a medical microbiologist who spearheads the science behind the clean.

OCTANE: How are you seeing car wash operators step up to help with COVID-19?



Dr. LandaWe are seeing that operators are taking the safety of their staff very seriously. It can be a huge challenge to have people sanitizing car interiors. However, this must be done for police, first responders, taxis and other essential services as well as rental cars. UBER has reached out to us for advice and assistance with products such as hand sanitizers and other disinfectants.

At the gas station and car wash, bathrooms must be kept spotless and monitored well beyond what is done on a usual basis. Pay Stations and other touchpoints must be cleaned after each use and care should be taken to clean and sanitize those touchpoints while not possibly damaging the electronic components.

There is fear among businesses and staff. Organizations such as ours can help with knowledge about techniques and products. We can discuss the type of cleaning necessary, how to sanitize and show the steps. For example, just using a sanitizing spray on a dirty surface is not effective. A surface must first be cleaned of surface grime and then disinfected to achieve the desired results.

OCTANE: Do you have advice on best practises for car wash sites in this current crisis?

Dr. LandaAutomatic wash sites offer a no interaction service and are the safest option for exterior cleaning. Express exterior wash sites may be a bit more interactive with customers often having to choose their wash options. Here sites could offer clean styluses (a small pen-shaped instrument where the tip can be detected on a touchscreen. It is used to draw, or make selections by tapping, on devices such as mobile phones, ATMs, and car wash selectors) to customers to use on the pushbuttons. These devices can be placed in a small container of disinfectant for customers who can use them in place of fingers to push selections. The best case is for customers to utilize digital apps on mobile devices that allow choice and take payments. Interior detailing services are very quiet right now, but with the right protective equipment and proper knowledge, operators can offer their special skills to clean vehicles belonging to essential services.  

OCTANE: What are the products that are useful in the fight against COVID-19?

Dr. LandaWe have a wide range of products such as Spirit II, a hospital-grade germicidal detergent and Whirl Away aerosol germicidal surface cleaner that are useful in this challenge. However, we ask people to look to organizations such as the CDC and EPA in the US and Health Canada in Canada for guidelines. It is important to read and follow all label instructions and guidelines for these products to be fully effective. Most products need to be applied and then allowed to rest on surfaces for several minutes to do the job. First, clean for debris and general grime and then apply a germicide. It is the same for hands. However, hands can have other challenges caused by frequent washing and for this reason, we advise health care professionals as well at the general public to utilize lotions to keep the skin smooth and in better shape to hold off germs and viruses.

OCTANE: What other advice do you have for operators?

Dr. LandaFirst and foremost would be to wash your hands. As well, post guidelines where not just staff can see them, but let customers see you are taking this challenge very seriously and let customers know you are cleaning and sanitizing all touchpoints constantly. Monitor your staffs health and be prepared to take action immediately if a team member shows signs of illness. And, lastly, work with your chemical suppliers to get the right products to do the job.

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Sinclair Cleaning Systems: Combat COVID-19 with a proven cleaning and disinfecting combo


Optima Steamer XD

Clean, disinfect and knock-out viruses with the one-two punch of dry vapour steam and an EPA-approved botanical disinfectant.

In order to properly clean and disinfect, even tiny nooks and crannies, Sinclair Cleaning Systems recommends the Optima Steamer XD in conjunction with Concrobium Disinfectant Cleaner II. The two work together to offer an effective cleaning and disinfection strategy that both sanitizes and deodorizes.

Ideal for many uses, from general retail cleaning to foodservice and automotive detailing for fleets, it’s the perfect combination to help protect your staff and customers.

unnamedConcrobium Disinfectant Cleaner II is next-generation botanical disinfection technology that safely and effectively eliminates viruses and bacteria.

The Optima Steamer, which reaches a temperature of 275°F at the sprayer tip, even cleans and sterilizes hard to reach areas. This next-level steamer uses the latest technology to remove stains, grease, dirt and odours in a quick and efficient manner, all while generating no waste water run-off.

Steam is proven to be safe for a variety of surfaces, including upholstery, vehicle interiors and exteriors, and floors, as well as other non-porous surfaces – indoors or out.

Contact Hugh Sinclair TODAY at:

1-800-265-0505 or 1-519-436-9539

For more information, visit Sinclair Cleaning Systems


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PECO Car Wash Systems selected for ‘World’s Greatest!’ television series

Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 11.29.21 AMHow2Media, the producers of the television show “World’s Greatest!…” selected PECO Car Wash Systems to be a part of the popular television series.

PECO Car Wash Systems is a family run business and has been for over 50 years.  As a manufacturer, distributor and operator of carwashes, they understand all aspects of the business.  Their ultimate goal is to make their distributors and their customers, successful and profitable for the long term.  “We think their story is meaningful as well as educational to our viewers” said Gordon Freeman, Executive Producer of the show.

As part of the show, How2Media sent a film crew to spend time at the company’s facilities in the Detroit suburbs of Auburn Hills, Michigan, to find out what the story behind the story was with this great and growing company, and to show the “World’s Greatest!…” viewers why PECO Car Wash Systems was selected as the best in their category, and therefore featured on the show.

“World’s Greatest!…” is a thirty minute show dedicated to highlighting the world’s greatest companies, products, places and people.  Each show is a fast paced tour around the world featuring behind the scenes footage, informative interviews and exciting visuals.

This show, which recently aired, was Episode 278 and can be viewed online HERE, or on the PECO Website.

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Vending systems deliver the goods at car wash sites

At Valet Car Wash sites, on-site vending systems are must-have pieces of equipment that contribute significantly to the chain’s high level of overall customer satisfaction by ensuring necessities, such as car air fresheners, wipes and drying towels, are easily at hand.

 The company uses drop-shelf vending units that accept tokens, however a tap-and-go credit card payment option is coming soon, says Mike Black, managing partner with Valet Car Wash, a 10-unit chain based in southern Ontario. “We have five choices of Little Trees air fresheners in one unit and individual units that dispense Armor All pads, moist window wipes and cloth drying towels. The wipes and drying towels are probably our biggest sellers.” 

Convenience is key to vending success. At Valet, vending machines are located front and centre where customers can’t miss them. Operators agree that vending systems should be strategically placed in areas close to change machines, vacuum islands or customer service desks.   

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 5.36.31 PMRed Hill Car Wash in Hamilton, Ont. takes convenience up a notch by connecting its drop-shelf vending machines to its app. “I use these because they can interface with our digital app,” says proprietor JJ Woodley, who operates two car washes in ‘Steeltown’. He suggests drop shelf units are more durable and this means less maintenance and fewer breakdowns. Fewer breakdowns mean happier customers.


Red Hill is further upping the convenience factor with Nayax, a Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 5.36.11 PMglobal provider of payment solutions for unattended market. Nayax systems work alongside digital apps, as well as bill readers and coin mechanisms, to offer a complete turnkey approach to payment that allows customers to use all formats so businesses don’t lose sales. 

Convenience and professionalism are two key factors in Red Hill’s success. “Our app gives us an edge and makes it easier for us to service customers. For example, we can offer rewards that allow customers to select an item, like an air freshener, from the vending system or a complimentary vacuum. This all happens electronically through the digital app,” Woodley says, adding that customers easily select the vending machine on the app and then toggle to obtain a product that is charged to credit or debit cards. “It’s seamless and very easy and digital payment means less cash on hand. We can also operate machines remotely and have them dispense goods to customers when asked.”

What’s selling at Red Hill’s vending systems? “Dry towels are our biggest seller,” says Woodley, adding Little Trees Black Ice air freshener is the leader in car scents, ahead of New Car Scent, Pure Steel, Vanillaroma and Watermelon. They also offer Armor All packets, glass cleaner and re-usable microfibre towels. 

App connectivity is only one aspect of new technology impacting the vending sector. New equipment, such as PepsiCo’s new Social Vending system, is stretching boundaries. Using a touchscreen interface, PepsiCo customers can buy a soft drink, but also gift one via social media using onboard digital interfaces that send messages to operators about inventory levels, sales and other information. The Social Vending machines also drive customer engagement by playing media content, including advertising and music during downtime. The idea is to motivate impulse purchases and generate sales growth. 

At the car wash, systems may not be as advanced as PepsiCo’s offering, but manufacturers are constantly evolving with new tools to drive sales. For instance, the Digi-Max Three Column Display Vendor units (manufactured by Laurel Metal Products and sold by Kleen-Rite) prompt customers with easy-to-read instructions on display screens. Prices can be set from 25¢ to $99.75 and the optional Cryptopay credit card swiper can be configured for higher-priced items, such as earbuds or car accessories. 

“A car wash can be more than you expect and vending systems can be part of that surprise,” says Woodley, adding the industry is evolving to deliver more technology with displays and promotion capability to drive those impulse purchases. “People expect to find a well-stocked vending system at their neighbourhood car wash. New vending capability allows us to deliver the goods on this expectation.”

Originally published in the March/April issue of OCTANE.  




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Car wash chemistry moves to a gentler eco-footprint

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 10.36.33 AMToday’s car wash operation is a much ‘greener’ environment than it was in the not too distant past when harsh chemicals were the staple of the industry. Now, manufacturers have softened the touch of detergent chemicals and enhanced their efficacy in a one-two punch of commitment to creating wash operations that are much kinder to the environment than in the past.

 Car wash customers approve of this change. For example market researcher Nielsen discovered groups such as Generation Z (72%+) Millennials (73%+) and Baby Boomers (51%+) will pay extra for products they see as having a reputation for environmental stewardship.

 Tony Heembrock operates Okotoks, Alberta-based Dreams Eco Xpress Car Wash. He reports that over his 35 years in the industry he has seen major changes from the highly corrosive chemicals that used to be the norm. “Workers would get rashes and burns and inside staff would have coughs and lung irritation from the products in use back in the day. Now there is so much more choice and new products are far less toxic as well as much more effective in creating a great clean,” he says mentioning the AHS line from Zep as an example.

Another Alberta operator that is seeing the value of going green is Sylvain Blouin. Sylvain is building a new site in Sherwood Park and mentions that he sees the marketing power of a positive environmental statement. “ We stay away from any chemicals with phosphate and we work closely with our chemical suppliers to ensure all of our chemicals are biodegradable,” he says, adding that they have also turned to a Danish supplier for cleansing UV Light technology in their water recycling treatment system instead of using harsh chemicals.

Paul Romaniuk of Transchem agrees regarding the changing face of wash products. Today, Paul sells products like Turtle Wax Pro and AutoLux, but a few years ago he too was an operator just like Tony and Sylvain. “Caustics such as Ammonium Bifluoride (ABF) or Hydrofluoric acid (HF) would be very aggressive on your brass parts in the pump room. Having to change these parts to stainless steel made the operation much more costly. I have seen how aggressive the chemicals were in the bays first hand with my old wash. The metal structures and galvanized trusses would corrode from the effects of some of these items,” he says, adding that they were also hard on the overall environment with challenges to the soil and water table as well as the air with nasty vapours leaking into the atmosphere.

“The new eco-friendly products that we are manufacturing today are cost-effective, safe all around and work very well. Chemistry and technology have come a long way in today’s car wash world,” he says noting that Transchem is EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certified and does not use any alkylphenol or nonylphenol ethoxylated surfactants in any formulations.

At Dreams Eco Xpress, everything they do has to be ‘greener’ in scope because they reclaim all their water. According to Heembrock his PurClean system uses 100 gallons of water a minute and he is pleased with less corrosive chemistry that does not contribute to a chemical slush or slurry that clogs applicators.

To further enhance effectiveness in the wash he modified his Lava Arch to accommodate more application to vehicle sides and also uses softer touch products on pre-soak. “One thing that our customers have noticed is how effective these products are at keeping vehicles clean longer. It’s also a benefit when they come back because the chemistry makes it easier to clean them the next time around.”

For this reason, Heembrock suggests operators consider not buying chemicals based on price, but consider how well they get the job done. “Today with tunnels being more compact this means less drip space. Operators need better drying agents. Current eco-sensitive products work to break surface tension and vehicles dry better. This means less blowing at the end, a feature that saves power.

“We also save water. From the onset, our costs were higher until we added check valves in the tunnel. Using less water means you also use less chemicals and this has saved us money.”

At Ontario’s Valet Car Wash chain, operator Mike Black has turned to products like Simoniz to help his staff stay on top of greener detailing solutions. Simoniz offers a full range of EPA approved car wash products. “We purchase wash products based on their safety and effectiveness and use technology to help us make sure mix rates are accurate,” he says pointing to blend centres that proportionate solutions to make it fast, easy and safe for staff.

Black’s view is that when it comes to detailing (a big part of his business) if products are harmful to staff they are likely not good for sensitive interior surfaces either. “We are also very strict on labelling. All products our staff utilize must have full instructions intact on packaging so that crews are fully aware of application and any hazard.

“The days of acids for car washing are finished. The only use for these harsh chemicals might be for cleaning the tunnel itself during a major maintenance cycle,” he says, concluding that with all the greener options currently available, operators should pay attention to this trend.