The History of the Car Wash

automatic car wash brushes (shallow DOF) Today’s automatic car wash systems are incredibly convenient, but they weren't always that way. Let’s take a look at the history of the car wash.

Today’s automatic car wash systems are incredibly convenient, but they weren’t always that way. Let’s take a look at the history of the car wash.

1914 – The First Car Washes

In 1914, Detroit debuted the “Automated Laundry”, a hand wash assembly line where attendants soaped, rinsed and dried cars as they were pushed through a tunnel manually. Customers had to leave their cars all day in order to get them washed!

1928 – The Arrival of Automatic Car Washes

In 1928, the Studebaker brothers in Detroit spawned the automatic car wash. These engineers envisioned a mechanism that would pull the cars through each cleaning stage. By 1946, the first ever semiautomatic car wash debuted in Detroit. Conveyors with moving tracks were installed and cars were pulled through a tunnel with an overhead water sprinkler, manually operated brushes and a blower for drying.

1960s-70s – Self-Serve Car Washes

In the 1960s and 1970s, brushes with plastic bristles were phased out and replaced with sponges that were gentle to the car’s surface. Self-serve car washes allowed drivers to use car spray guns and brushes to clean their own cars. They could use their own shampooers, foam treatments, fragrances, tire cleaners, spot removers and spot free rinses.

The Transition to Express

In the past couple of decades, people were beginning to lose interest in full-service conveyor washes. The transition to express car washes was made in an effort to serve more people, clean cars quicker and charge customers less money.

Today’s High Tech Washes

Nowadays, car washes are incredibly efficient.  They treat the water used in each wash with reclamation systems that recycles it for future use.  They also have high tech computer controls and high pressure nozzles that preserve water. The International Carwash Association estimates that over 20,000 car washes now exist across the world.

What’s Next?

The “waterless” car wash which utilizes a number of car cleaning solvents and sprays have come to market in recent years and use even less water than traditional detergents. The first car wash with no hoses, no spray nozzles and no water called Eco Green Auto Clean opened last year in Redwood City, California. It appears the next big car wash innovation will be the one that saves the most water, or doesn’t use any at all!