Are touchless car washes dangerous? I know, we’re all wondering.
But first a story
The first time I took my vehicle through a touchless car wash, I left the windows open.
This is a pretty awkward experience for anyone, but made worse because of the following reasons:
- My windows were manual roll-ups and all four were down
- There were only two people in the car
- It was 30 degrees Celsius at least and there was no A/C
- Earlier, I was driving down the highway, behind a camper. The camper’s toilet plug decided to unfasten and poo something gross and liquidy proceeded to spray all over my car, including in my car
So, you know, one thing after another. Kind of traumatizing.
While we scrambled to shut the water out, I forgot to keep driving through the wash and, obviously, missed some of the cycles.
It was five years before I braved the car wash again.
By this time, car washes everywhere had underwent upgrades. This time, I just had to drive on to the sensor and park. The jets did the rest.
Since I’m rather shy of touchless car washes, and basically won’t wash my car by hand, I figured all I had left was the wash included with servicing at my dealership. Or the free Bikini Washes at Hooters.
However, I’ve now learned there are many different ways to wash your car.
- Hand car wash facilities, where employees wash vehicles
- Self-service (read: coin operated) facilities, where customers do the washing
- In-bay automatics, consisting of an automatic machine that rolls back and forth over stationary vehicles
- Tunnel washes, using a conveyor to move vehicles through a series of fixed cleaning mechanisms
- Chemical car wash (aka waterless car wash) using chemicals to wash and polish car surfaces—this method is seen as eco-friendly
- Steam car wash using steam jet and micro fiber towels—this is water-saving, sanitizing and chemical-free
To the question, are touchless car washes dangerous, the answer is: Not anymore.
Now, paint finishes are stronger and car washing processes are improved.
For instance, the soaps and other chemicals now used to clean cars are based on acids and alkalies, meant to loosen and eliminate dirt etc. Prior to this, hydrofluoric acid was used to wash cars. Perhaps to burn the dirt off.
Just so we’re all clear, hydrofluoric acid is highly corrosive, difficult to handle and dissolves glass. Slightly unrelated, but interesting nonetheless, hydrofluoric acid is also a precursor to Prozac and Teflon.
But maybe you meant dangerous to the environment and not to the car specifically.
To be environmentally conscious, and to keep up with the Jones’, you should know waste water goes into storm drains, which drain into lakes and streams. If waste water contains harmful chemicals, like phosphates, oil, grease, or lead, it could contaminate fresh water sources.
The greatest offender are those of you who are “driveway washers.” Naughty. Professional car washes collect waste water and treat it before releasing it into sanitary systems.
To avoid contaminating your local fresh water, ensure you use environmentally safe chemicals, or why not try the newer Chemical or Steam car washes? I’ll make sure to give a full report when I run across my chance to try them out.
At any rate, I won’t be washing with hydrofluoric acid anytime soon.