Of Success Accurate Product
Measurement and Mixing
by John Lamade
Value is more than perception. Products do differ in performance
and the amount of labor required to produce the desired results.
When you consider all the factors involved in selecting the best
product for your application, you can make a reasonable assessment
of its value to you.
Remember that value is relative to you. I really cannot stress
this fact enough. Don't let anybody try to convince you about a
product's value unless it is its value to you.
In previous articles, I discussed ways to understand the importance
of a product's personal value, and I mentioned the role of accurate
measurement in minimizing product waste. While I placed more
emphasis on the greater savings possible with using the labor savings
offered by some products, I did state that managing waste could
save you money as well. This month we will consider the benefits
of precision product measurement and mixing.
WHY MEASURE PRODUCT?
The most obvious reason to measure products is to eliminate waste.
Too many product users just pour product into a pail or trigger
bottle, add water, and shake without really knowing how much product
is available to do a job. There are usually two results:
2. Unexpected results
Pouring concentrate into a container and then adding water results
in inaccurate mixing - either too much or too little product in
the RTU (ready to use) or working solution. Just pouring
product can result in errors of more than 100 percent - especially
if the user is "eye-balling" the amount of concentrate.
The size of the error depends on the desired solution's concentration.
For example, a 1:1 solution can produce an error of up to 25 percent.
Too much concentrate often does not produce better results. For
example, an engine-degreaser-concentrate manufacturer recommends
diluting the product 1:3 (one part concentrate to three parts water).
To make one quart of RTU engine degreaser at 1:3, the user would
need 8 fluid ounces of concentrate and 24 ounces of water. A 25
percent error in concentrate would be 2 fluid ounces of product.
As a result, the final solution would be between a 3:16 dilution
or 5:16. If too much concentrate was used, the error would cost
the user $1.75 per gallon (based on a $7.00 cost of concentrate).
If the user made the same mistake every time he mixed solution the
cost of the error would be about $90 per year (assuming a gallon
per week consumption and $7.00 per gallon cost).
The preceding example is for only one product. Larger errors would
have even greater effects. For example, a car wash solution diluted
1:64 rather than 1:256 - that's a 400 percent error. Imagine the
cost of that error spread over a year!
As you can see, waste can be expensive when you consume too much
product. Using too little product can be even more expensive. Yes,
you would use less concentrate and reduce material costs, but what
happens when you use a solution that is too weak for the job? Most
people would work harder or longer to obtain the desired results,
or they wouldn't get the results they wanted and quality would suffer.
And more labor, as we showed in previous articles, is extremely
expensive. Think about it!
The second effect, unintended or unexpected results, means that
the RTU solution does not provide the results you want. For example,
a wash and wax product, when too diluted, does not remove road film
as well as a correctly mixed solution. The result is that more effort
and time are required to make sure that the vehicle is clean. And
if the solution is too concentrated, an unsightly, hard-to-rinse
film can be left on the vehicle. In both cases, the results are
less than desired, and more time is needed to correct the solution's
deficiencies. The result is that you lose money!
When users run into these problems, they rarely question their
technique or ability to follow directions. Most often, they react
with: "The product is bad!" Rather than consider the problem's
causes, the user tries another product, and guess what? The results
are good for a while, because the user follows the mixing directions.
But as time passes and familiarity increases, the user starts to
"eyeball" the solution, and the problems return. The cycle
Is there a way to combat the problem of wasted material and time?
Yes, there is an answer. If you want to get the most value from
your products, then you must learn how to mix the products safely
and accurately. This is not difficult and there are many products
available to help you perform this simple task.
The first thing you can do is to improve your mixing technique.
Add concentrates to water. For example, if you are making a 1:3
solution in a 32 fluid ounce trigger bottle, use a graduated bottle
and fill it with 24 fluid ounces of water and then add 8 fluid ounces
of concentrate. Adding too much concentrate is difficult because
you will exceed the bottle's capacity, and too little concentrate
will be obvious because the level of solution fails to reach the
32 fluid ounce mark.
The second way to reduce waste is to pre-mix common solutions
and store them in bulk containers. Many shops have racks that hold
a set of 5-gallon bottles or carboys with spigots. When you need
a solution, all you need to do is pour off as much RTU solution
as is required to do a job. In addition, you can prepare several
different concentrations of solution to match specific cleaning
tasks. Multi-dilution concentrates are useful, and you can run into
wasteful applications if you only use one dilution for all jobs.
Pre-mixing strong, medium, and mild versions allows you to match
the cleaner to the task rather than stopping to pre-mix every time
you need a product. For example, to make a 1:7 solution (one part
concentrate to 7 parts water), you would need to add 17-1/2 quarts
of water to an empty carboy and then add 2-1/2 quarts concentrate
to the water. In addition to making the solution ahead of time,
errors are more difficult to make because the quantities of solution
are larger. Another plus of this approach is a reduction in the
time spent preparing solutions one quart at a time. You save even
more money! Can you do this for all of your solutions? Yes, but
when you are looking at high-consumption items such as car wash
concentrate or extraction cleaning machine solution, you might not
want to bother with constant mixing or very large storage containers.
For large volumes of solution, consider the benefits of a proportioner.
Proportioners are useful tools. They mix concentrate with water
as it is dispensed. You start the proportioner and solution exits
the hose. The heart of the proportioner is the eductor which uses
the vacuum created by water moving past an orifice connected to
a concentrate supply line. The moving water creates a vacuum, which
draws the concentrate into the stream of water. For safety, most
communities require an air gap in the eductor to prevent concentrate
being pulled back into the shop's water supply. The amount of concentrate
is controlled by the size of the orifice in the eductor. If a higher
level of concentrate is needed, the orifice is usually larger. To
help users tell the difference between orifices, they are usually
Proportioners are simple, but there are some things that you should
know before investing in these devices:
1. The viscosity of the concentrateinfluences mixing accuracy.
Thick solutions are more difficult to draw up tubing to the eductor
than water-thin products. When you are looking for a proportioner
and products, work with your chemical distributor to select the
right combination of products. Yes, you can experiment with different
orifices, but you will save yourself much time and aggravation
if you start with the right combination.
2. Make sure that you have a good water supply and that the concentrate
can be kept close to the proportioner.
3. If you are going to use the proportioner to mix extraction
solutions, consider connecting the proportioner to a hot water
if hot water could be a problem in your shop, consider a gas or
electric demand hot water heater. Heating the water before use
will save you downtime waiting for extraction cleaning solutions
to reach optimum temperature.
OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO
Some of the most useful tools in the shop are small
solution pumps, like those you see packaged with hand cream or in
fast-food restaurants to dispense catsup and mustard. These are
readily available, and you can purchase them to fit standard gallon
bottles with a dip tube that can be trimmed. Most pump dispensers
are available in one-half-ounce or one-ounce designs. One full movement
of the pump delivers one fluid ounce of product. If you are making
a 1:15 solution in a trigger bottle, add 30 ounces of water to the
bottle and then dispense two one-ounce doses into the bottle. For
larger quantities of solution there are dose pumps available for
pails and drums of product. Talk to your distributor. Perhaps the
best thing you can do, however, is to measure and mix accurately
and follow instructions. Once you are familiar with a product, then
you can create your own dilution levels and standardize them for
your shop. Once you know how to mix accurately, then creating special
dilutions is fast, easy, and economical.
THIS AND THAT
Before I close out this month's column, I want to remind you
all to attend NACE this year. If you care about vehicle appearance,
NACE (International Autobody Congress and Exhibition) is a perfect
opportunity. While the ICA's Car Care World Expo is very important
(and you should consider joining the ICA), NACE provides a completely
different perspective. Plan to attend. You will be glad you did!
One of my favorite topics is microfiber detail cloth. As I gain
experience with these products, I have learned that when you wash
the cloths it is important to make sure that they are thoroughly
cleaned. If you use a cloth to remove wax haze, be prepared to find
traces of silicone oils on the cloth, which could transfer onto
glass if you use the cloth next time for glass cleaning. You may
want to color-code cloths and wash them separately. For example,
use blue cloths for glass, green for wax, and yellow for whatever.
Also, invest in good cloths. I have not observed much difference
in cloth performance between different weights or between woven
or knit cloth. The big difference is in the hemming of the edges.
If you want a maximum return on your microfiber investment, make
sure that the edges of the cloth are securely hemmed.
John Lamade has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing
products and is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact
John via e-mail at