Car washing has practically been a rite of passage for a teen with a new driver’s license, and it’s a popular fundraiser for non-profit groups to spend a summer day splashing cars and each other for some worthy cause.
The International Carwash Association (ICA) is 106 years old. Most speculation points to the Automobile Laundry as the first production line car wash in Detroit in 1914. In 1940, the first automatic conveyor car wash opened in Hollywood. There was still much manual labor involved, and car wash technology became fully automated in 1951 with the addition of nozzles to apply soap and water, automated brushes and a 50-horsepower dryer.
Americans’ love affair with their cars have never abated, and car wash entrepreneurs took note, expanding services to include vacuuming, interior cleaning, special tire treatments, additional wax applications and multiple air freshener aromas from which to choose. Southern Classic Soft Cloth Car Wash opened in Christiansburg in 1989 and outlines multiple service packages on its website with wonderful names like Red Carpet, VIP Service, Platinum and Red Carpet Plus.
Main Auto Spa on N. Main St. in Blacksburg offers several services and packages as well as a loyal customer punch card with rewards and discounts for seniors, military members and students. Shores Car Wash at 7426 Lee Hwy. in Radford has a 3-Minute Express Wash along with hot wax, rain repellent, paint sealant, undercarriage salt cleaning and other things. Over in Narrows at Auto Specialty Care, you can have your windshield replaced, bedliner sprayed on and cloth, leather or vinyl repaired above and beyond getting your car washed inside and out.
There are plenty of self-service car washes around the New River Valley in addition to the ol’ hose, bucket and sponge at home. Thus, there seems to be little excuse to have a dirty car, inside or out. While it is less expensive to go the home route, it might make more sense time-wise and environmentally to use the professional car washes. They also use specially formulated products which can protect a car’s finish and its resale value.
The soft cloths and brushes, along with soaps, rinses and special treatment products, in automated car washes have been designed not to damage a car’s finish. The process is fairly fast and very efficient and streamlined to spray and wash under the vehicle and in crevices which might not get attention at home. Dirty water at home may have traces of gas, motor oil and other car lubricants in it which flow into storm drains, creeks and rivers. This crummy water and detergent can hurt little water dwellers like tadpoles.
Automatic car wash businesses are subject to wastewater regulations for proper flow and disposal. They also may use much less water than someone at home uses letting the hose run while sudsing the vehicle or simply spending lots of time wetting it and rinsing it thoroughly.
A final, excellent reason to take all your vehicles to a car wash right away is to support an American small business in the New River Valley. Small business remains the backbone of our recovering economy, and these folks deserve our patronage, tips and repeat business. Let’s all get our cars washed and become the cleanest car region anywhere.

Text by Joanne M. Anderson