Car wash towels are a necessary piece of equipment for many washes, but they are also an area that can be easily overlooked. However, proper towel care can not
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only save you money but also increase customer satisfaction. Towels that are taken care of typically last far longer than neglected towels and do a far superior job. Conversely, towels that aren’t cared for properly increase the frequency in which you will need to buy new ones, in turn, raising the expenses at your wash. Plus, they can leave your customers with an unsatisfactory wash result. By following these six tips, you can help increase the longevity of your towels and provide your customers with an excellent car wash experience.
TIP #1: WASH BODY, WINDOW, AND DETAIL TOWELS SEPARATELY
Towels that are used for body, window, and detail should be washed separately, because they come in contact with different levels of dirt, grime, and chemicals. Wash operators should avoid cross contaminating their towels at all costs. When differently purposed towels are put through the same wash cycle, they can pick up the dirt and grime from other areas of the car that they would not ordinarily come in contact with. Once towels pick up the dirt and grime from other towels, it can begin to create unsatisfactory results when washing your customers’ vehicles. For example, if a window or detail towel is washed in the same cycle as a towel that is used for cleaning wheel wells, it can pick up hard-to-remove grease in the process. When this towel is used on the next customer’s window or interior, it is likely to leave streaks from the grease that it picked up during the wash cycle, leading to increased customer dissatisfaction and potential damage to the vehicle.
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One important solution for preventing cross contamination at your wash is implementing a color-coding system for your towels. Towels that are used for different washing designations (body, window, and detail) should all have different colors to ensure they don’t come in contact with one another throughout the washing cycle. One of the most important steps in implementing a color-coding system is having proper employee training. Employees should be informed on the correct uses of each color towel (example: blue for body, green for window, and yellow for detail) so each set of towels is used for their proper designation. The next step in implementing this system is having clearly defined laundry collection areas for each towel type when they are ready to be washed (blue bin for blue towels, green bin for green towels, yellow bin for yellow towels, etc.). This will ensure that each towel type gets sorted in their own bin for washing, eliminating the likelihood that towels will become cross-contaminated.
TIP #2: NEVER USE BLEACH ON YOUR TOWELS
When washing your towels make sure to avoid using bleach, even if the towels are white. When bleach is used in the washing cycle the cotton fibers in the towel will start to deteriorate over time, shortening the lifespan of your towels. After the cotton fibers begin to break down, lint starts to form, which means the towel is at the end of its life and will no longer effectively clean your customers’ cars. Bleach doesn’t just reduce your towels lifespan and effectiveness; it also impacts the look of your towels by fading their color.
People love their cars, so when they bring them for a wash, they want to feel confident in the equipment being used to clean them. As a result, the appearance of your equipment plays a big role in their overall experience. Faded or worn towels can turn customers off because they are the finishing touch to the wash. The last thing you’d want is to appear like you don’t care about the end result or potential damage to their vehicle. A faded towel can also lead to it being disposed of earlier than necessary.
TIP #3: NEVER USE FABRIC SOFTENER
Fabric softener is another additive car wash operators should avoid using during the wash cycle of their towels. Fabric softener reduces the absorbency of terry towels and is even worse for microfiber because it will clog up the fibers, rendering it useless. The “softer feel” that results from using fabric softener in the wash cycle is often associated with being a positive; however, it is reducing the effectiveness of your car wash towels.
A good way to tell if your microfiber has lost absorbency due to the use of fabric softener is to pour a small amount of water on a table or other flat surface and wipe with the towel. A damaged towel will not absorb; it will just push the water from one spot to another. Another way to tell if a microfiber towel is damaged is by the feel of the towel. If it feels like it’s grabbing your skin, then it’s still doing its job and is up to the task. However, if it runs over your skin smoothly then it is no longer as effective and may need to be replaced.
TIP #4: AVOID HIGH HEAT WHEN WASHING AND DRYING MICROFIBER
Never wash or dry microfiber in high heat. Microfiber is made of polyester and nylon materials and will melt when exposed to high heat. Your towel will look the same, but it will stop working because the tiny fibers have been melted, and can’t scoop, lift, or trap the dirt or water. When washed properly, microfiber towels can last hundreds of washings. When you wash your microfibers, it should be in cold or warm water that never exceeds 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Regarding detergent, a mild liquid detergent is best to lift and remove dirt from your microfiber towels. Without detergent, the dirt will go back onto the cloth defeating the wash process. Also, microfiber towels should never be washed with other types of towels, especially cotton. When microfiber towels are washed with terry or cotton towels that are high in lint, the lint can be transferred over to the microfibers during the washing process making it very difficult to remove.
The drying process for microfiber towels is equally as important as the washing cycle. First, make sure the dryer is completely cooled off from its previous drying cycle before putting the microfibers into the dryer. Once the dryer is completely cooled, you can load the microfiber towels and set the dryer for its coolest cycle setting: either air fluff or permanent press. Drying on high heat and putting microfiber in a dryer that wasn’t completely cooled, are two of the primary reasons for melted microfiber.
TIP #5: NEVER WASH OLD TOWELS WITH NEW TOWELS
As towels start to age, the fibers begin to break down and create lint when washed. This then causes lint to be transferred onto the body of a car, which creates an unsatisfactory shine. As a result, wash operators should always avoid washing old towels with new towels because the lint from the old towels can transfer over to the new ones. The quicker your towels begin to lint, the sooner you will have to replace them. Keeping the new towels separate from the old will help ensure their longevity.
If you have a hard time telling the difference between your new and old towels, consider switching colors or shades with every new towel order. When you combine this approach with the color-coding system from tip #1, you can avoid washing towels of a different color together. This will help you to increase the life of your towels and reduce unnecessary lint buildup on your new towels.
TIP #6: ORDER NEW TOWELS WHEN THE LAST NEW TOWEL IS PUT INTO CIRCULATION
A common mistake on the part of many car wash operators is waiting until the last batch of towels are completely worn out before ordering new ones.
You should always order new towels when you have put your last new towel into circulation. Most towels are now made overseas, and towel vendors plan months in advance to stock their inventory with the right products.
However, due to circumstances beyond their control, shipping containers sometimes get delayed. To prevent a towel shortage, keep five or 10 dozen towels hidden, either at your house or locked up somewhere at the car wash. Tell only your managers and supervisors about this supply. Towels will never “go bad,” and this secret stash will ensure you will never run out. Once you dip into your backup batch, you should immediately place your next towel order.
At the end of the day, a clean shiny car and a happy customer is the name of the game. Taking proper care of your towels will not only help to maximize their lifespan, but it will also help keep the cost of your towels under control. Plus, it will ensure you are providing the best wash experience possible for your customers.
Michael Cova is marketing specialist at ERC Wiping Products Inc. located in Lynn, MA. You can visit the company on the web at www.ercwipe.com.
Car wash towels are a necessary piece of equipment for many washes, but they are also an area that can be easily overlooked. However, proper towel care can not only save you money but also increase customer satisfaction. Towels that are taken care of typically last far longer than neglected towels and do a far superior job. Conversely, towels that aren’t cared for properly increase the frequency in which you will need to buy new ones, in turn, raising the expenses at your wash. Plus, they can leave your customers with an unsatisfactory wash result. By following these six tips, you can help increase the longevity of your towels and provide your customers with an excellent car wash experience.