Almost everyone in the car wash industry hears about the benefits of soft water on a very regular basis. Distributers and service/installation companies all want to sell water softeners with car wash system and insist that soft water is a necessity in cleaning cars. Owners and operators are told of the chemical benefits of having soft water every time a chemical sales person walks on their site. The local Culligan man most certainly wants to sell or lease softeners to car wash owners and operators.
Soft water is essential to the car washing business but my question is simply this; has anyone explained to the owner/operator why water softeners are beneficial? At least 50% of the owner/operators I have talked with about water softeners tell me they need to have it to clean. When asked why, they tell me that their service provider told them they needed it. While not untrue I would like to offer a couple of explanations as to why a water softener is so essential to a car wash.
Cost & Cleaning
It is common misconception that all a softener will do is cost more money in salt and up keep. This is simply not true. The average water softener requires little to no mechanical up keep and an on average a 50lb bag of salt costs around $7. That is relatively inexpensive when compared to losing customers because of poor cleaning and rinsing. Further, for each grain of hardness in your water, chemical cost will increase by roughly 5% (regardless of the brand of chemicals you are using). The “hardness” of the water will tie up the surfactants in your cleaners. This will leave a less effective cleaner thereby causing soap usage to increase in order to get a clean car. For touch free owners/operators a hardness of 3 or more grains will make it almost impossible to clean cars. For every grain of hardness in your water you will need 4% more detergent to overcome the hardness. If you have 15 grains of hardness, you will need 60% more soap. Thus your overall chemical cost will increase and you may run the risk of losing existing customers or return business. Chemicals are not the only area where soft water is important. Utilizing soft water in your rinse passes is beneficial also. When using hard water to rinse the surface of a car, there is a percentage of the soap that will stick. What’s worse is the dirt that was trapped by the soap is now also stuck to the surface of the car. This will leave the car feeling and looking as if it has a film on it.
As you can see soft water plays a very important role, not only cleaning and rinsing, but in obtaining and retaining customers.