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How Would Continued Minimum Wage Hikes Impact Carwashes?

HB 395, a Virginia bill aimed at gradually increasing the state’s minimum hourly wage to $15 an hour cleared a major hurdle earlier this month, passing through the Virginia House along a party-line vote of 55-45.

The most immediate impact would come on July 1 of this year, when the bill, first introduced by Del. Jeion Ward, would see the state’s minimum wage raised to $10 an hour.

The state’s current minimum hourly rate is the same as the federally mandated minimum wage, which sits at $7.25 an hour and hasn’t been altered since the jump to that level in 2009, more than a decade ago.

Though HB 395 is a step closer to the governor’s desk, SB 7, introduced by Senator Dick Saslaw, could be the bill to actually reach that desk for potential passage.

That bill would see minimum wage work its way up to $15 per hour, then be allowed to rise further depending on the consumer price index and other regional factors.

Recent conversation around the bolstering of minimum wage rates has been polarized, with proponents pointing to cost-of-living increases and the potential boost for consumer spending that would come along with more money being injected into workers’ pockets. In theory, proponents also argue that higher wages would lead to less turnover and boosted employee satisfaction.

However, opponents of a hike say there could be unintended consequences of a measure that seems straightforward on the surface, arguing that higher wages could lead to employers absorbing costs through layoffs, elimination of entry-level positions, and other measures.

The car wash industry is certainly not immune to a spike in minimum wage, particularly a nationwide one that could follow on the heels of decisions in states like Virginia. Prices could jump, requiring specific communication to customers as to why to keep them receptive. Other benefits, such as express lanes, loyalty programs, and more could help offset these rising costs.

It’s also critical to continue to research and stay abreast of ways to invest in innovations and technology that can propel your business forward without requiring a significant boost in expenses, and other ways of saving money, such as water conservation, will prove key.

To learn more about how operators have already adjusted to minimum wage hikes, check out the Foundation for Economic Education’s look at the impact of such a spike on carwashes in New York here.

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Chemical Customization Positively Impacts Carwashes

They say it’s all about good chemistry, and nowhere is this more true than in modern car washes. From soap, chemicals, and the right equipment, the interaction of these elements determines how clean a vehicle will look after it leaves the carwash. Knowing the science behind the chemistry allows carwash owners to make informed product and equipment decisions that can enhance wash results and garner impressive cost savings.

Soap On, Dirt Off

Today’s carwash soaps outperform older offerings in many ways. The advanced chemicals used deliver superior cleansing effectiveness with tailored ingredients that better penetrate and lift dirt, removing various soils, contaminants, and environmental oxidation from vehicle surfaces. Further, concentrated chemistries in smaller, recyclable packaging maximize the number of vehicles that can be washed per container while reducing transportation, storage, and carbon footprints. Moreover, their greater penetrating and unbinding capabilities allow carwash operators to use less water per vehicle.

Once the soap cycle is complete, the surface is ready for a protectant. These protectant formulations––such as self-curing polymers––provide maximum lubrication and protection, creating a sacrificial barrier that prevents subsequent environmental damage to the vehicle’s finish.

Customizing the Chemistry

Soap is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution. Deciding on the best presoak, tire & wheel cleaner, detergents & soaps, and waxes & protectants are vital to maintaining your carwash at peak performance.

Presoaks, along with other chemicals, come in low-pH and high-pH variations. A high-pH presoak is an alkaline product formulated to remove oily and greasy compounds, while a low-pH presoak is an acidic product formulated to remove dirt and dust. Understanding the common soil type in your geographic region will help you decide which pH will be more successful in your carwash.

Tire and wheel cleaner come in both alkaline and acidic variations and remove both organic and inorganic soils from brake pads, abraded rubber and more. Many drivers have custom wheels on their vehicles, so it’s important to use products that are safe for both OEM wheels and aftermarket wheels.

Available in either standard red, gold, and blue or custom colors, triple foam products come as conditioners or polishes. Conditioners help clean the car, but polishes also apply a layer of wax, with most carwashes typically running the conditioner first followed by the polishing wax. These neutral or acidic products condition and prepare the vehicle’s clear-coat to accept sealant and protectant products while also expediting the drying process.

Injector and tip sizes are integral in determining the chemical to water ratio. These components can be modified to achieve the proper titration and dispense of chemicals and water, as well as color vibrancy.

Cutting Costs

Chemicals are a significant reoccurring expense for operators, so effective utilization—using the appropriate ratios of cleaning and finishing products during the proper phases of the process—can provide greater output and increased savings. But beware—even small changes in chemical dosing can create issues, preventing a car wash from achieving clean, dry, and shiny vehicles. By maintaining the right chemistry balance, you can ensure cost-efficient, peak performance every time.

Water usage can also be costly. As nozzles wear, water flow increases, pressure decreases, and chemical concentrations degrade, resulting in an inferior clean and higher water use. Installing water reclamation systems that recycle and purify wastewater for reuse can reduce both water consumption and sewer costs. However, it’s essential to incorporate reclaim-friendly cleaning products—which can alleviate foul odors, bacteria growth, and clogging—to ensure the system’s performance is not affected.

Operators should also establish weekly checks of all chemical metering equipment to ensure injection equipment is properly functioning. Simply marking container levels on a weekly basis will alert the operator of unexpected changes in dosing, allowing for the resolution of any chemistry issues while ensuring inventory is on hand when needed.

Iron Fox focuses exclusively on helping investors, entrepreneurs, and existing operators in the conveyor carwash segment. Our Senior Consultants have extensive experience with retail real estate site selection, accurate proprietary volume estimating tools, project development, and all aspects of car wash operations. With an experienced equipment installation team and responsive service crew, Iron Fox not only gets you up and running, we keep you that way! To learn more about our services, click here.

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Innovations Have Reduced Water Consumption in Car Washes

While car washes are not typically thought to be water-conserving establishments, the truth about them may be surprising. On average, the car wash industry’s water conservation efforts lead communities to save more water than other businesses. Most updated car wash facilities have water reclamation systems that allow the re-use of water while the utilization of improved equipment and reduced nozzle sizes also achieves less water consumption than in the past. These enhanced processes are garnering greater efficiencies, significantly reducing water consumption in a water-based industry.

Reclaiming Water Reduces Water Consumption

Today’s commercial car washes are equipped to use less water. In medium and large municipalities, less than 1% of the water consumed is from car washes—in fact, in most cities, car washes are not even in the top 1000 of the largest water users. Water conservation technology provides the most effective solution for car washes to sustainably reduce the amount of needed wash water. Designed to cleanse used water of debris, allowing it to be reused many times over, while helping to control water and sewer hookup costs, water reclamation can be performed by various methods, including:

  • Separation: reclaiming water by skimming oil and grease in settling tanks or by cyclonic separation
  • Filtration: removing solids from collected wash water by reverse osmosis or de-ionization
  • Flocculation: removing anionic and cationic materials from collected wash water through the use of polymers and metal salts
  • Oxidation: removing electrons from wash water to convert unwanted chemicals to eliminate smells, colors and organisms such as bacteria and algae

Home Washing Harms the Environment

While washing your car at home may seem like a practical alternative, you are likely wasting more water while dispersing harmful elements into the community. Washing your car at home can lead to soap, oils, brake dust and other pollutants to appear in local lakes, streams and rivers. Rather than having harmful elements spread into nearby water sources, car wash wastewater is gathered in underground tanks and sent to treatment facilities. With new technology and regulations, such as the EPA’s Clean Water Act, commercial car washes are safer than trying to take matters into your own hands.

In addition to the spread of potentially toxic contaminants, washing your car at home requires a lot of water. According to a study in Maryland, a typical car wash at home uses 100 gallons of water. In comparison, Auto Laundry News states that automatic systems use only 35 gallons per vehicle. That’s a big difference, particularly when 75% of the water in a car wash is being reclaimed and reused.

Customer’s Care About Conservation

Customers are researching reliable car washes, reading and writing reviews online, and even comparing prices and specials at various locations. To keep up with both eco-conscious customer expectations and stringent regulatory demands, the need for car wash quality control and conservation technology must grow in pace with environmental concern.

When it comes to carwash industry know-how, you can count on Iron Fox to deliver the solutions you need. Iron Fox is a leader in finding ways to decrease the usage of precious resources—whether it’s through the use of smaller, low-flow/higher-pressure nozzles or the implementation of safer, more efficient water conservation equipment. Our expertise can help you navigate all the intricacies of the industry, including experience with installing and serving multiple equipment brands as well as determining the best site to install a water reclamation system at your car wash. To learn more about our installation and service, click here.

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Three Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Building a Car Wash

When building a car wash, several factors are important to consider, such as location, type of car wash, and legal and tax issues.

However, these are the three most common mistakes:

  • Conduit placement errors during construction
  • Insufficient space for turning radius
  • Incorrect slop of trench

Luckily, Iron Fox has experts to advise you on issues such as lot layout and design, building layout and location, conduit placement, conveyer length, and traffic flow.

And if your structure has already been built or is in construction, Iron Fox has the experience and technology to help reduce build-phase mistakes.

Let the Iron Fox team collaborate with your team for the best build experience possible!

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A Day in the Life of a Carwash Operator

Running your own car wash is a demanding business. It can, however, be an excellent investment for the budding entrepreneur. There are many advantages to launching a car wash business, and the demand for clean cars will never wane, so it’s a business with long-term potential. There are some disadvantages as well, including having to replace expensive equipment and fluctuations in usage depending on your region’s climate. Before making the plunge, here’s a sneak peek at a day in the life of a carwash operator. 

Day-to-Day Operations

So, how does a carwash operator spend his or her day?

Most of the time it starts from their office and includes conversations with managers or other employees, typically before the carwash is open for business.

Operators usually spend time with employees brainstorming ideas or looking at current challenges, including staffing needs or equipment issues.

A morning could also include things like calls to distributors about materials or looking over the latest sales numbers.

Training staff on new features or critical aspects of the job like safety might also be part of the carwash operator’s day.

Additionally, a small business owner needs to make time for networking and connecting with others in the community. This may include a lunch event with Chamber of Commerce affiliates or other groups, providing opportunities to share ideas, ask questions, and find partners.

After lunch, it’s time to head back to the office for meetings with employees or suppliers.

Operators also spend plenty of time on the phone and corresponding via email.

Last but not least, owners typically check in on operations at least once a day to observe how their employees are working and interacting, ensuring all is functioning efficiently.

Most Common Frustrations for Carwash Operators

Frustrations are common in any business—it’s just part of life. Here are some that many carwash operators face.

  • Long hours of being on your feet or on the go
  • Rude or impolite customers
  • Rain delays
  • Machinery downtime
  • Climate seasonality
  • Complexity of the business
  • Expensive repairs
  • Managing and dealing with staff

The Rewards of Owning a Carwash

Being your own boss and owning your own company are the greatest benefits of being a carwash operator. And car washes will always be in demand as long as there are vehicles on the roads. Further, being a local business, the business model is safe from outsourcing. You can also expect to turn a nice profit when your operations run smoothly.

Are You Ready to be a Carwash Operator?

If you’re ready to begin your research on opening a carwash, rely on the carwash experts at Iron Fox. Our collective experience can help you navigate the journey and connect you with our professional network of architects, engineers, real estate brokers, and carwash lenders. With both advisory and technical teams, we’ll ensure you understand every detail of how to start a successful carwash. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.