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Soft Touch vs. Touchless - Which One to Choose?

Full Service Car Wash has four soft-touch car wash locations in Wauwatosa, West Bend, Hales Corners, and Grafton. Discover why soft-touch car washing is better for your vehicle and your wallet than touchless car washing. Learn about the differences between soft-touch and touchless, the effectiveness of each technique, and the safety provided to your vehicle by each. Also, learn from an industry expert why soft-touch is preferred and how each system really works.  

Differences between Soft-Touch and Touchless

How Soft Touch Works

In soft-touch car washing, very soft and lightweight closed-cell foam and soft felt cloth are flooded with water and mild soap for lubrication. The combination of soft material and soap/water solution makes contact with the surface of a vehicle. This process, with the help of computer-controlled pressure and RPM settings, mild pH detergents (similar to hair shampoo), and soft touch material, breaks the electro-molecular bond the surface contaminants have with the vehicle’s exterior. Centrifugal forces combined with the constant flooding of soap and water on the closed cell foam and cloth remove dirt and debris from the vehicle’s surface. Following this process, low-pressure water is used to rinse the remaining soap/water solution off of the vehicle. The vehicle then has a hydrophobic “cold wax” applied is sent through a forced air dryer.

How Touchless Works

In touchless car washing, also called the Hi/Lo method, a very high pH alkaline soap or “hot” chemical is applied to the surface of the vehicle. After allowing some time for the alkaline solution to “cook” on the car, a very low pH acid is applied to the surface over the high pH alkaline. More time is then allowed for a better chemical reaction to take place. These chemicals flip the polarity of the electro-molecular bond the dirt has made to the surface of the car, attempting to loosen it up. High-pressure water is then used to blast the loosened particles off the surface of the vehicle. Like the soft touch washing process, the vehicle has a hydrophobic “cold wax” solution applied and is sent through a forced air dryer.


Soft-Touch Car Wash Grafton

Benefits of Touchless

From an operator’s point of view, touchless car washing has some benefits. The operation is simple. Despite this fact, these car wash operators need to be part-time chemists to get the best performance out of the system or hire someone to do it for them. Changes in outside temperature affect the chemical cleaning process, and chemical ratios must constantly be monitored and tweaked. The chemicals used in touchless washing, if applied too heavily, damage the plastic moldings and trim. Protectants and waxes are stripped from the vehicle, causing the finish to dull. If too little chemical is used, the car won’t come out clean at all. Maintenance is also less on touchless equipment because of fewer moving parts. There is also a customer perception that a touchless wash does not “touch” their vehicle, therefore there is no chance of any damage happening to their vehicle using this method; however, this perception is changing.



Soft-Touch Car Wash Hales Corners

Drawbacks from Touchless

Despite these benefits of operational ease for the owner, there are drawbacks involved with touchless washing for the consumer. Cars do not come out as clean with touchless washing methods. Customers who use touchless washes will also need to wash more often. Without sealants on the vehicle and a dull finish from harsh chemicals, dirt will accumulate faster. This is actually seen as a pro for operators in our industry. Not making physical contact with dirt particles means that there is no way to remove all of the contaminants from the surface of a vehicle. If left on the surface of the vehicle, contaminants such as bird droppings, carbon/metallic brake dust, and acid rain will damage a vehicle’s finish.



Soft-Touch Car Wash Wauwatosa

What the Industry Knows, Soft-Touch is the Best

Reputable car wash operators in the industry know that soft touch systems clean the best and safest. The correct way to wash fine china is by submerging it in mild soap and water and gently agitating it with a soft cloth, then using a soft cotton towel to dry it. This is exactly the wash process of a soft-touch car wash system (although hand cotton towel drying is not always offered.) Maintenance in this washing method is higher, and operating costs are greater for the owner, but there is no better way to effectively remove the contaminants from the surface of a vehicle. The customer’s vehicle also stays cleaner longer because waxes and sealants are left intact on the finish -- no harsh chemicals are used.


Soft-Touch Car Wash West Bend

Soft-Touch Benefits

There has been a long-standing perception by customers and some operators that soft-touch wash systems can scratch or damage a vehicle's finish. Even some auto manufacturers state in their owner manuals that only touchless car washes should be used. Today, this could not be further from the truth. These perceptions stem from very old-style car wash systems that used nylon bristle brushes to clean vehicles. In those old systems (we are talking 60s, 70s and 80s), damage was common. Those systems do not exist anymore and have been replaced by the effective and safe soft-touch systems of today. Many gas station car washes are now converting to soft touch wash systems because customers know their car will be cleaner. Industry data also shows facilities with both touchless and soft-touch washes on site have more traffic through the soft-touch facility.



Full Service Car Wash only operates soft-touch car wash systems at our four locations. Our car-care facilities also add two extra steps to the washing process: The first is a manual hand prep by employees to remove large debris that may not be removed in the automated washing process. The second is a hand towel dry to remove the remaining water from the vehicle missed by the forced air dryer. We have been using these methods along with automated soft touch washing to build our business over the last 30 years with millions of cars in the greater Milwaukee area. We owe and are committed to providing the best and safest car wash services. In short: If there was a better, safer way to wash a vehicle compared to the soft-touch system, we would use it.


Get more with Full Service Car Wash

Full Service Car Wash has four locations: Grafton, West Bend, Wauwatosa, and Hales Corners. We have been drawing many satisfied customers from places like Lakefield, Barton, Greendale, Greenfield, New Berlin, and more, because we go the extra mile to keep your car clean. Find a location near you today or contact us to schedule a car detail today. 






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