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
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
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
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 repeats.
Is there a way to combat the problem of wasted material
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
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 color-coded.
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 line,
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
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