I wrote this for a paper so I thought I would share it
Car Washes The ongoing debate comparing “touch-less” washing and “automatic touch” washes is still split. Even in the car wash industry, both sides argue until they get red faced over this controversy. Here are the issues, so you can decide for yourself.
Automatic Touch Car Washes Over the years, great progress has been made in the materials used that actually touch your car as well as their design. The pro argument will state their case by asking have you ever been able to wash your hands just by running water over them? A good case indeed. We all know that proper hand cleansing comes from friction and soap. The same should be true when washing your car. The soaps used are usually not as aggressive as the touch-less washes (which rely strictly on chemicals to do the work), so there is no fear of strong acids being sprayed on your finish. Another factor to consider is that not all automatic washes are totally inside a heated environment. In areas where the temperature gets below zero, you drive your car in from the cold. The doors that let you in are subjected to the same temperature, allowing some ice to form on the machinery. Even if the smallest piece of ice gets between the brushes and your finish, it’s leading toward a disaster. We have all heard the horror stories of wheels being scratched, hub caps being lost, antennas breaking off, and so on. When you have all these mechanical components moving around your car, sooner or later something is going to happen.
Touch-less Washes The best case the pro side of this issue has is that nothing comes in contact with your finish. But how can a touch-less wash clean your car without the friction to break down the dirt? If you remember your PH scale from high school, you will know that water is 7 (neutral) and acids are low ph (1-3) and alkalines are high ph (10-13). Keep in mind that both high and low ph are caustic (extremely harmful). Also, you should note that in order to neutralize any high or low ph, you need to apply the opposite. So if you spray acid on your car, you had better apply an alkaline or else it could damage your finish. This is how chemicals get a car clean in a touch-less wash. First, when you drive in. your car is sprayed with soap and water, then acid, then alkaline, then rinse. I have a problem with who is in charge of filling the chemical tanks. If for some reason the alkaline runs low and only acid is going on your car, I wouldn’t want that car to be mine.
Hand Car Washes Most people that really take pride in their car go to hand car washes. Here are some of the problems I have found with facilities around my area. If they do not pre soak the car first and just start washing, all they are doing is rubbing the existing dirt into the finish. I have also seen places that use the same drying towels over and over again from one car to the next, transferring dirt particles from car to car. The kind of soap they are using also plays a role; too strong of a detergent will strip the wax or sealant from your finish. So you come out with a clean but unprotected car. The soap applicators that I have seen I would not use to clean my toilet, much less my car.
Fresh or Recycled Water Now that I have given you all these facts to think about, here is another fact for you to consider. Some car washes use fresh water, others use recycled water. From the save the planet group, recycled water is the way to go. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you want all the dirty water that came from all the cars ahead of you used to wash your car? By law a car wash owner must tell you (if you ask) what process they use. Then you can decide for yourself.