Chemicals (draft page)

IRON FOX: CHEMICALS When the Right Chemistry Matters

From automatic to tunnel and from self-serve to full-service, car wash operators have one thing in common: identifying which chemicals work best for their environment and car wash type.

Yet, to achieve optimized wash performance, operators must factor in a variety of influences, including water quality, dispensing and application equipment, overall chemistry harmony, revenue goals, and customer expectations, as well as the weather and road elements of a particular geographical region.

For instance, the northeast U.S. sees moderate summer temperatures with winters that may bring a blend of sleet, snow and ice, resulting in road salt that clings to cars long after they’ve driven through it. While warm, rainy downpours are the norm for the southeast, those in the southwest tend to be afflicted by heat-oppressive droughts, and those in the Midwest are susceptible to a mix of storms, wind and heat. With such a variance in climate and environmental elements existing between regions, there’s no one-size-fits-all chemical solution.

While chemical companies commonly represent dramatic differences in their composition, the formulas are not all that different. In fact, some manufacturers often use the same blending processes and/or manufacturing facilities as their competitors to produce similar end products. In addition, as a significant reoccurring expense for operators, cleaning and finishing product ratios must be appropriately equalized and dispensed at the proper phases of the wash cycle to ensure optimal output and increased savings.

Thus, it can be challenging to both identify which soaps and protectants will work best in a specific environment and maintain the right chemical balance to achieve cost-efficient, peak performance with every wash.

That’s where Iron Fox comes in. Our knowledgeable, experienced Chemical Team knows which products work best and where. Using that knowledge, they have provided a quick synopsis of the various chemical formulations used in the carwash industry today.


Although some of the chemicals listed in this category may be considered profit-boosting products (triple foam, protectants), most are a necessity for a friction, tunnel car wash to operate.


Applied at the onset of the car wash, this solution contains chemicals that begin loosening the grime on a car prior to the application of any detergents. A high-pH alkaline presoak is formulated to remove oily and greasy soils, while a low-pH acidic presoak removes dirt-and-dust-based soils, helps with the car’s shine and neutralizes soap as it flows down the drain.


Lifting and holding soils until rinsed away, neutral and/or low-pH lubricating foam soap or wrap foams clean and seal surface cracks while preparing the surface for drying. An added bonus, a detergent with the correct lubricity can decrease the likelihood of hard damage to a car.

Total Body Protectants

These polymer- and/or wax-based products add additional shine while extending UV ray and elemental protection.

Drying Agents/Rinse Aids

After a car has been cleaned, mineral or synthetic-oil-based drying agents, protectants and waxes provide a temporary shield against both UV sunlight and weather elements.

Tire/Wheel Cleaner

Not to be confused with tire protectants or dressings, these cleaners are available in both alkaline and acidic variations and remove organic and inorganic soils from brake pads, abraded rubber and more.

Triple Foam

Applied after the detergents and wheel cleaner, these products are typically available for purchase in an upgraded package with conditioners that help clean the car and polishes that both clean and apply a layer of wax. Whether a neutral or acidic formulation, triple foam products come in a crowd-pleasing spectrum of colors and prepare the vehicle’s clear-coat to accept both sealant and protectant products while expediting the drying process.