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Why Steam Cleaning Methods Are Not Used in the Car Wash Industry??

sos2715

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Simple question but maybe a long answer. Why isn't steam introduced in Conveyor or Automatic Washes?

20 years in the industry in High Volume Conveyor, Automatic's and Detailing why aren't we using Steam to produce a cleaner car? As an owner/operator I often sit back and watch my team work so hard to get a clean car using all kinds of methods (chemicals, pads and brushes) but most cases can be done really quickly using steam.

I think my pet peeve is pre-soak & prep. When I see a car come out and there's still Bugs on the Grill/Bumper, Windshield, Rims and Wells are still dirty I think adding steam to pre-soak & prep would produce a cleaner car while saving water and chemical. This also will drive down complaints and having your team go over the car again once it's delivered. I have bought used steam machines but it's not for high volume

I would love to hear your thoughts

Thanks
S
 

OurTown

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Interesting idea. How much steam would you need for a quick car wash? If it was a lot then it might be cost prohibitive. Could it easily remove decals and some trim? Maybe the exposure time would be too limited for that to happen?
 

sos2715

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Car Wash industy has been using Pressure, Chemical, Water and Man Power for decades but the end result is still the same it's hard labor and high cost to produce a perfectly clean car when it comes out of the tunnel not to mention a lot of headaches from angry customers.

I've been toying with the idea for some time and I want to thank my wife for giving me the idea to use steam to clean cars and how I first started testing the idea was my wife heard a handheld steam machine would clean and sanitize the kitchen and bathrooms kill 99.9% of germs and best of all your not using any chemicals.

The machine I purchased 5 years ago was a handheld machine (McCulloch MC1230 Handheld Steam Cleaner) and once my wife put me to work I said why can't I use this on my cars? So I started using this little steam machine on my car and it worked GREAT my only issue is that it ran out of water to fast.

I then started researching commercial steamers and found that steam has been used for decades it just hasn't hit the car wash industry maybe because operators thought the PSI or Heat may damage the cars and that may have been the case 50+ years ago but the commercial machines now are designed for car washing/auto detail and the pressure and temperature is set perfect it will not damage the vehicles paint nor remove decals.

I first want to say I am not affiliated or dealer for steam americas. Im just an old school operator and did my due diligence and this is what I purchased. That said take a look at the Optima Steam Cleaners https://www.steamericas.com/steamers/ and watch some YouTube videos on Steam Auto Detailing. I've been using the Optima Steam Machine for 2 years now and haven't had any issues and cost will pay for itself once you start to producing cleaner cars. Not only will this give you a cleaner exterior you will be amazed on all the uses for steam machines It can be used for interiors and maybe turn it into another service?

Coming back to my question why haven't the car wash manufactures built a commercial steamer for high volume? I don't know about everyone else but if I can use less Water, Chemicals, Equipment and Labor its a no brainier for me.


S




 

Greg Pack

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I Believe steam was used in the 60-70s in some conveyors for wheel cleaning. I know I've seen some pictures of it.
 

Earl Weiss

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We had steam in the tunnels in the 1950's and 1960's . In this area they were gone by the 1970's. The machines needed a lot of attention and it was a safety issue. With good chemistry, equipment and HP, steam would not add much efficacy to the cleaning and it would likely add a significant cost per car for energy consumption.
 

washnshine

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Check out 1:45 in this video. You’ll see steam at work back in the day.

Our industry’s claim to fame on the big screen.

 

sos2715

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HAHA! Perfect example back in the 70's and your right nothing has changed. This is how I do it now with my portable units on each side.

I do believe that steam has come along way since the 70's and we haven't had any issues with our portable units I just don't understand why it's not more industrialized. We use steam to wash car parts, dishes, commercial kitchens it just seems fit to incorporate it into a car wash. Me personally I would like see steam added to at least the wheel and bumper blasters and an arch but that's stretching it
 

RAM

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Has using the portable steam units affect your liablity costs like increased insurance premiums or cost? Wonder if it may be part of why steam has not been use on large scale like tunnels and IBA because liability costs.
 

sos2715

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I was born in the 70's so I wasn't around when the washes were using steam but I fully believe the steam equipment that was used had High Pressure & High Temperatures which is very dangerous. These portable steam units now are no different than a heated carpet extractor it uses very little heat to no heat and very low psi.

Our current setup we have the heat set at 100 degrees and the psi set to 145 so it's a very dry vapor but just enough to get the job done. I try to use very little to no heat with very little chemical & water I just want to loosen/remove the bugs, break dust and mud in the prep area. If I can get a cleaner car before it hits the tunnel my workers don't spend time cleaning wheel and bugs. I also have gotten fewer complaint on the exterior. Ive been doing this for a few months now and it's been working great and this is why I wonder why this couldn't be setup couldn't be incorporated in the wheel and bumper blasters? Maybe this is the manufactures way to stick it to the man? :)
 

RAM

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How much does using the steam during prep affect your load times into tunnel. I would think it would slow your line down and most operators hate slow lines. I do like the benefit to loosen the bugs on front.
 

sos2715

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The struggles of having a full service/flex car wash with mid/high volume, how to push cars thru fast?

When I started in the industry I was trained to push through cars fast and we will handle the issues at the end but by doing this you will either send cars back for vacuum/wash or delivery the car and the customer goes around pointing out the issues AND now with everyone using social media the customer will drive away go home and blast their negative comments on Yelp or Facebook with pictures and most cases those pictures we could have solved the issue very easily. So now I like to use social media because I use the pictures and comments as a training tool.

If your currently using a spray wand it gets car wet, lubricates and knocks off big chunks of dirt right? Have you ever used a spray wand with bug chemical to blast the front of a car and still had to use a bug pad or brush before sending the car thru and at the end your workers still had to do it again. Your just shifting your time from beginning to end as the customer watches and wonders why didn't the car wash do its job which I fully agree. We shouldn't be re-cleaning the exterior of the car again. This is why customers double check our work walking around the car.

So in my case I shifted my time to the beginning and our prep time is about the same 30-50 seconds to prep a cars? I just gave my guys better tool to use. We started off using one steam machine with little to no heat, little chemical, 30 ft hose and psi set to 145 but now we have one on each side but still this is a temporary solution that I'm just toying with but it's certainly doing its job.

I forgot to mention, in the prep area on really dirty cars I can use the steam to hit the door jam and interior. Yes it will increase my thru time but not by much AND it makes the end workers lives easier. Center console is probably the worst areas and having my prep's hit the inside with a quick steam makes a world of difference and there's no water just loosen the gunk. I would really like to hit the whole interior at the vacuums. Our vacuums are in the beginning so I can use the steam to loosen and vacuum up the dirt BUT this concept can work if you have vacuums at the end just add a steam machines with long hoses. This will also put on a show for a customer the sites and sounds and you can even turn it into a package to clean and sanitize your car. Steam kills 99.9% of germs
 

sos2715

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My apologies RAM I like to ramble. My load times are between 20-40 seconds per car sometimes a minute if it's really bad but steam/vapor defiantly does its job better any prep wand or brush and Im using less than a gallon of water it's probably like 9-10 ounces of water and I have a 20 gallon units . This is the reason why I need more of an commercial system I don't mind keeping it detatch from the tunnel system just need someting that holds more water really.

Now I can probably have someone build me something but Im still doing proof of concept and wanted to reach out to the community before I start talking to manufactures.
 

Earl Weiss

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Our current setup we have the heat set at 100 degrees and the psi set to 145 ? :)
I do noy understand this at all. Water boils at 212 degrees Farenheit (are you referencing centigrade"? ) How do you have 100 degree steam?
 

DavidM

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Ditto to what Earl said - how do you get steam at 100 degrees? If you are using Celsius, I wouldn't call that very little heat.

We have learned how to prep bugs very efficiently with good chemistry. We feed our prep guns with hot water which helps too. I think the best prep practices negate most of the advantages you are referring too. Also, time is a huge factor as volume increases. Adding just 10 or 20 seconds a car doesn't sound like a lot but it has a huge impact on your cars per hour.

We do not have customers getting out to check their vehicle and we don't have to spend time cleaning bugs after the wash. That may be why we don't see the need to bring in the challenges of steam.

David
 

sos2715

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I'm talking Fahrenheit and for example the food service industry there are regulations you have to follow to clean and decrease a kitchen which is probably 212-240 degrees at the nozzle but I wouldn't apply that temp or pressure to a cars paint.

For us the water in the tank 180 degrees but it comes out the nozzle its around 165 and the further you steam back the cooler the water. What creates the steam is the perfect temp and presure (116 psi) You can hold your hand in front of the nozzle and it will not burn you but it will certainly remove bugs and break dust better better than any chemical.

Were talking pre soaking and prepping not washing the entire car. Like I said I'm just shifting my times to the beginning and my car times haven't changed. I just took away the wash mops and wands and replaced them with steam that's it this is why my car times haven't' changed. Just using better tools to get the job done faster and more efficient.

Is this system for every car wash absolutely not and if your system works bravo. I didn't start tread to questions anyone on their metrics just trying to see if other owners have experimented with steam and why not?

And I could wash an entire car using steam and a microfiber towel without any chemicals but this method doesn't work for a full service wash which is why I threw out the question. The auto detailing industry uses steam and if their not... their not thinking outside the tank.
 

RAM

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I'm talking Fahrenheit and for example the food service industry there are regulations you have to follow to clean and decrease a kitchen which is probably 212-240 degrees at the nozzle but I wouldn't apply that temp or pressure to a cars paint.

For us the water in the tank 180 degrees but it comes out the nozzle its around 165 and the further you steam back the cooler the water. What creates the steam is the perfect temp and presure (116 psi) You can hold your hand in front of the nozzle and it will not burn you but it will certainly remove bugs and break dust better better than any chemical.

Were talking pre soaking and prepping not washing the entire car. Like I said I'm just shifting my times to the beginning and my car times haven't changed. I just took away the wash mops and wands and replaced them with steam that's it this is why my car times haven't' changed. Just using better tools to get the job done faster and more efficient.

Is this system for every car wash absolutely not and if your system works bravo. I didn't start tread to questions anyone on their metrics just trying to see if other owners have experimented with steam and why not?

And I could wash an entire car using steam and a microfiber towel without any chemicals but this method doesn't work for a full service wash which is why I threw out the question. The auto detailing industry uses steam and if their not... their not thinking outside the tank.
I can also ramble a bit. I do like your thoughts. I wished we could have used steamers 25 years when I was detailing vehicles, owner would not buy that kind of equipment. I would love to see a short video if you have one showing your crew action.
 

Earl Weiss

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I'm talking Fahrenheit and for example the food service industry there are regulations you have to follow to clean and decrease a kitchen which is probably 212-240 degrees at the nozzle but I wouldn't apply that temp or pressure to a cars paint.

For us the water in the tank 180 degrees but it comes out the nozzle its around 165 and the further you steam back the cooler the water. What creates the steam is the perfect temp and presure (116 psi)
I m not a scientist and don't play one on TV but at Sea level water turns to steam at 212 degrees and if you increase pressure the temperature needed to turn it to steam increases not decreases so science says what you are doing is using hot water and pressure - not steam. https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-effect-of-pressure-on-the-boiling-point-of-water-used-in-a-pressure-cooker

I agree - Hot water and pressure facilitates cleaning. Sounds like the way you ae doing it makes it look like steam.
 

OurTown

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It sound like it is misting or atomizing like a fragrance machine does but it is adding some heat.
 
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