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The Importance of Flow Testing an Titration in Car Wash Maintenance 

By Jamey Buck | McClean Solutions 

As a former Car Wash Operations Executive, I frequently used to wonder why the chemical reps take so long in the backrooms… Since joining McClean, learning the complexity and significance of various routine chemical check ups has been an eye-opening experience. 
In the dynamic world of car wash operations, ensuring the optimal performance of chemicals is not just about maintaining quality but also about safeguarding the environment and optimizing costs. Two critical processes that stand at the forefront of chemical maintenance are flow testing and titration.

Flow testing is a process used to measure the rate at which chemicals are delivered to the wash bay. It's akin to checking the pulse of your chemical delivery system, ensuring that each spray arch and application point receives the right amount of chemical at the right time. Regular flow testing helps in identifying discrepancies in chemical delivery that could affect the wash quality and the longevity of equipment. To conduct a flow test, one needs to measure the volume of chemicals (in mL or oz) dispensed over a specific period, typically 1 car in a tunnel or IBA, or 1 minute in a Self-Serve. This can either be done by gathering a sample of chemical in a graduated cylinder, or weighing the chemical container, then noting the difference between where it started and what is left over after running a car. The results are then compared against the system's specifications to ensure optimal performance. Adjustments may be required if the flow rate is found to be outside the recommended range, indicating potential issues such as clogs, leaks, or pump failures.

Titration is a chemical analysis technique used to determine the strength of a solution. In the context of car wash operations, titration tests are conducted to ensure that the cleaning agents are being applied with adequate cleaning strength. This not only guarantees the effectiveness of the wash but also prevents waste of chemicals and reduces the risk of damaging customers' vehicles, as well as any potential risks to the staff. Performing a titration involves adding a reagent of known concentration to the chemical solution until a reaction occurs, indicated by a color change. This reaction occurs when a chemical is neutralized and allowing you to calculate the concentration of the cleaning agent in the solution. Regular titration ensures that the chemical mixtures used in the car wash are consistent, effective, and safe for both the vehicles and the environment.


Incorporating regular flow testing and titration into your maintenance routine offers several benefits:

Quality Assurance – Ensures that customers receive the best possible wash experience with every visit, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Cost Efficiency – Identifies and corrects inefficiencies in chemical use, reducing waste and saving money in the long run.

Equipment Longevity – Helps in early detection of issues that could lead to equipment damage, avoiding costly repairs or replacements.

Environmental Responsibility – Promotes the responsible use of chemicals, minimizing the environmental impact of car wash operations.

Flow testing and titration are not merely technical necessities but strategic tools in the arsenal of car wash professionals aiming to enhance their operational efficiency. By embracing these practices, businesses can achieve a delicate balance between operational efficiency, environmental stewardship, and customer satisfaction. As the industry continues to evolve, staying educated and proactive in chemical maintenance will undoubtedly be a key differentiator for successful car wash businesses.

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Is your recipe for cleaning and drying optimized?

By Nikita Klinisovs | McClean Solutions 

Why do you apply hot wax here? Why is there so much rinsing in this one area of the wash? Why is your ceramic applied after your final rinse? Are questions I find myself asking car wash operators way too frequently. Unfortunately, in most instances there either isn’t an answer to them, or at one point there was, but since it has been forgotten about. 


Just last week I was working on a tunnel car wash that applied hot wax at the very end of the wash cycle, just before the spot free rinse. What’s wrong with that? For one, most carnauba based products in our industry are developed to cling on the surface of the vehicle and ideally like to be buffed or rubbed in a bit. Additionally, most carnauba products in our industry also produce a high level of suds for customer effect.  While the wax breaks down relatively quickly, it doesn't do so instantaneously.  This isn't an ideal last arch product.  Products like ceramic and graphene and drying agent are better suited here.  The impact of this poor choice?  Cars with older paint, and less-than-perfect clear coats, come out with suds still left over on the car, and the operator was underutilizing the capabilities of Carnauba Wax to perform for better results earlier in the tunnel.


So why is it that many operators don’t have a clear understanding of their recipe for cleaning? The simplest answer is likely that there are too many cooks in the kitchen, paired with an array of “issues” that were likely solved in the easiest way possible, but not in the most optimal way.


Sure, most of your cars may be coming out just fine. But consider these questions:


1) Am I using more water than I should be?

2) Am I applying chemicals in an order or location that are potentially hindering my final product?

3) Am I wasting money on chemicals that really don't need to be applied?


Chances are, the answer to at least one of those is “yes”, especially if you have never thoroughly analyzed your recipe. But if you are confident that all of your answers are “no”, then another way to look at it is - Can you put out an even better car?


An industry veteran once told me “the day you stop challenging yourself and your wash to produce a better car, get out of the industry.” A statement I agree with whole heartedly. Does that mean you should be making changes each and every day? No of course not, but it does mean the way you wash a car, the chemicals and equipment that touch it, the order in which it happens, and the amount of water you use are all elements of your wash you should have thoroughly thought out together with an expert. A good chemical / equipment partner is more than capable of handling this, but don’t just take their word for it, ask for a proper explanation on what everything is the way that it is.


If you have never considered this, don’t hesitate to reach out to, and someone from our team can help you assess your current recipe to see what improvements can be made.

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We sure love what we do!

By Brent McCurdy | President of McClean Solutions 

Everyday we get to experience joy in delivering solutions to customers.  

In short, we sure love what we do.  Please allow me to explain by referencing a recent customer visit.

We traveled recently to a new “friend in the business” who I met via while discussing the pro’s and con’s of monthly unlimited clubs at in-bay automatics.  We met at the NRCC show in Atlantic City and one thing led to another and I was invited to visit his locations.  He is a multi-site operator and he is SHARP.  He is young and aggressive, and he wants to do it “right”.  Need I say more about how come this visit was FUN…we are carwash guys talking and working to make our carwashes better!

So my visit went well with a quick tour and we had lots to talk about.  But of course, I brought my titration kit with me…what good soap guy wouldn’t bring that for a car wash visit.  In the next couple days, I ended up coming back to visit him with a load of soap and a smile on my face.

Here are the problems we solved…

He was applying High pH Alkaline Presoak and then Low ph Presoak in his touchless automatic.  This is the opposite to the industry standard of Low then High.  The reason for Low and then High is that Low pH is a relatively weak acid, so if you put the acid on second, you basically neutralize your high pH and you only end up with alkaline cleaning at a reduced strength.  If you first apply low pH presoak and then apply alkaline presoak, the low pH does its job cleaning, and the alkaline presoak is able to overcome and do alkaline cleaning.  Of course, all of the above assumes we are using “reasonable levels” of each…one could overcome the alkaline with acid by reversing it but it would be very costly.  We solved a problem, and solving a problem is rewarding!

The next problem we discovered was that his Low pH was slightly alkaline.  At first this was highly confusing.  Not familiar with the competitor product we just assumed that maybe it was a cheap product, because it was a cheap product.  Later in the day we realized that the solenoid for the alkaline presoak was stuck open- and was applying residual product into the low pH presoak.  Wow win 2 for the team in helping the customer!

Winning on the automatic continued as we brought the customer higher strengths at a better value using our two-part alkaline approach- using Alkaline Base 200 and Presoak Surfactant 200.  Always a good feeling to be stronger and lower cost.

Step 4 was making the self service a real detergent system.  Cheap products with low color (tire cleaner as an exception) and Presoak, HP Soap, and Tire Cleaner with virtually 0 alkalinity being delivered felt good to fix too.  This operator is a quality guy, and frankly he was unaware that these products were merely soapy not strong.  We were able to deliver significantly higher alkalinities at the same or better cost.

It was a LONG couple days.  Lots of travel and lots of head scratching…but we left satisfied and happy.  WHY?  In a word, because we were USEFUL.  Being useful really is the purpose behind what makes anyone happy.  My minister will tell me that and I will tell you he is right!  


Selling product or getting a new customer doesn’t feel good unless you made the world a better place.  McClean made this customers’ world a better place and it made me happy.  I love what I get to do everyday.

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