Return to Blog July 12, 2021

Understanding the Competitive Car Wash Concentrate Market

Blending & Packaging Industrial & Specialties
Man in a red jumpsuit powerwashes a car covered in soap suds.

Formulated car wash concentrates are a staple of the vehicle care industry. The competitive landscape of this market has always been fierce, with finished product price points, use dilutions, and performance expectations constantly being pushed to more competitive levels.

Due to their high performance and relatively low cost, alkylphenol ethoxylates have historically been used in these formulations and still are by some. However, given debated issues with undesirable environmental effects of their biodegradation products, many have moved away from these surfactants.

Fortunately, there are many surfactants to choose from that can provide excellent foaming and cleaning performance, and have gained favor as environmentally preferred through programs like the U.S. EPA Safer Choice and GreenBlue’s CleanGredients®.

Some representative examples of preferred surfactants include alkylpolyglucosides, amine oxides, and betaines. Synergistic combinations of surfactants are sought that maximize foam and cleaning performance while minimizing end-use dilution cost.

While surfactants certainly play a major role in a car wash formulation, various additive options exist to improve performance. Examples of environmentally preferred chelants, or complexing agents, include citric acid and its citrate salts, sodium gluconate, and methylglycinediacetic acid and its salts.

When dosed properly these improve performance in harder waters and contribute to washed surface cleanliness and luster. Minor amounts of certain solvents can improve performance via participation in the surfactant solution structures and in increasing the solubility of certain soils. Examples include ethanol, isopropanol, and propylene glycol n-butyl ether.

Hydrotropes interact with hydrophobic structures and soils to increase their solubility. An example is sodium capryl sulfonate. There are many types of specialty polymers and other performance enhancers as well. Preservatives, fragrances, and dyes often round out the formulation.

Work with Tilley Company Today

Tilley Company has technical and business resources dedicated to car washes and many other vehicle care products and application types. Our account managers are here to listen to and understand your needs and align our technical resources to help you achieve your business objectives. Contact us today.