A brief history on the car wash industry

As you enjoy your SpeedWash Car Wash visit, do you ever stop to think how we got here?  No, not how man got here, this isn’t primer on the early days of mankind. What we mean is how the car wash business got to where it is today! Just like any industry the car wash business has a rich history with some surprising facts.

Let’s start in 1914 when a couple of businessmen in Detroit decided it was time to move past driveway washing and opened the first commercial car wash under the interesting name of “Automobile Laundry.”  What we consider automated these days and what they did in the early part of this century are far stretches from one another! At Automated Laundry, cars were pushed by hand through a tunnel and attendants with pails and sponges would soap, rinse and dry the cars. Can you imagine pushing cars all day long?? It sure gives new meaning to back breaking.

In the 1940’s, in Hollywood, at about the same time that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were heating up the screen in Casablanca, the first automatic conveyor car wash opened. Now, instead of pushing cars through the tunnel, a winch system attached to the bumper of the vehicle pulled it through the tunnel as attendants washed, scrubbed and dried each car.

Moving ahead to 1946, the first semiautomatic car wash eliminated the need for manual labor in the tunnel. A conveyor belt hooked to the bumper and overhead water sprinklers with manually operated brushes and an air blower at the exit of the tunnel, helped to dry the car.

In the early 50’s, three car wash entrepreneurs developed the first fully automated, hands-free car wash right here in America. Again, cars were pulled through the tunnel, but now the cleaning and drying process was completely handled by machines spraying, scrubbing, rinsing and drying the vehicles.  Hence the burgeoning car wash industry took hold as fully mechanized car washing systems were installed across the country. Features like recirculating water systems, soft cloth friction, roller on demand conveyors, and wraparound brushes became a standard part of high tech car washing.

The 1970’s weren’t as kind to the car washing industry as the 60’s.  For those who were of driving age at the time, you can probably remember the long lines at gas stations, high gas prices and even gas rationing, all of which brought a slow down to the industry. Fortunately, the early 1980s saw the U.S. economy revive and the car wash industry recovered as automobile ownership grew. By1985 with 162 million cars on the road in the United States, the car wash industry experienced rapid growth and began to expand to Europe and beyond.

Today’s car washes are high tech marvels with colored lights, triple foam polishes and lots more! Five sides of the vehicle can be washed at once, as soap and waxes are applied, tires are scrubbed and shined, the undercarriage is cleaned and the vehicle are dried, all in as little as three minutes! In additional, a growing emphasis on the environment and water conservation has led to milder soaps, reclaimed water systems, and less water and electrical usage.

At SpeedWash Car Wash our systems are state-of-the-art.  We are continually maintaining and improving equipment and operations to bring you the best car wash experience possible. The car wash industry has come a long way and SpeedWash looks forward to leading the way for years to come!