Safety & Car Wash Tunnel Cleaning 101
It's another rainy day and time to do some maintenance around the wash. One project that often comes to mind is cleaning the walls in the tunnel. Simple right? It would seem so but there are some very important considerations that should be a part of your training plan. The following are some hints that can assist with developing a process to address two specific areas: Safety issues and the effects of cleaners on PVC and Painted wall surfaces.
The very first safety message is to ensure that all lock/out tag/out procedures are adhered to before commencing any work! Absolutely no equipment should be running while this task is being performed. Attention should then be directed to the following:
- All employees that perform this job should have appropriate training before attempting to wash the walls. Without this background, this function will put them at risk to a number of exposures necessary to safely complete this activity. Along with this rule, we recommend that only those trained employees be designated as approved staff permitted to perform this service.
- All equipment associated with this process should be identified. Such as: power washers, ladders, scaffolding, mops, extension poles, etc. It is also important that these items be checked periodically to be sure they are in proper working order and accessible. Training on the proper use of this apparatus is also essential to avoid any misuse of these items.
- PPE (personal protection equipment) should be made available. This should include at least the following: eyewear protection, proper footwear, full rain suits, gloves, etc. Once again, these items need to be viewed periodically to ensure they are in good working order and accessible.
- You should note that many wall cleaners use HF (hydrofluoric acid), ABF (ammonium bifluoride) or chemicals with similar corrosive properties. These can obviously be great cleaners but, there are serious dangers associated with the use of these cleaners. Another problem can occur from products that don't properly identify the ingredients. It is recommended that you confirm the elements included in whatever is used to clean the walls by reading the accompanying MSDS (SDS). If pails are part of the operation, please be sure to mark them accordingly so anyone exposed to them is fully aware of its contents. There are several alternatives to these chemicals that would prove to be safer and still adequately clean the walls. You are encouraged to investigate these options with your chemical companies.
- We highly recommend that you establish written procedures that form the basis for your training and expectations for safely cleaning the tunnel walls.
- We also recommend that there be a process to follow cleaning up after the job is complete. All equipment, PPE and chemicals need to be properly stored or disposed of.
In addition to the safety protocols associated with tunnel wall cleaning, there are some considerations that should be given to wall surfaces that are either PVC or Painted. Here are some helpful hints provided by Robert Andre, Sonny's CarWash College President.
a) PVC Surfaces
(1) Using a diluted mixture of a high pH wheel cleaner applied to the walls will help break down soils.
(2) For tougher soils, lacquer thinner will remove the toughest of stains. Rinse well after use.
(3) There are PVC cleaners that can be bought in bulk or concentrate form that will clean various soils.
(4) Allow the cleaners to do the work. Start at one end of the tunnel and apply the chemical cleaner. Apply to only one side of the tunnel wall at a time. Return to where you started and either scrub, or high pressure rinse the wall. This process allows the chemical to break down the soils, minimizing the amount of elbow grease required.
b) Painted Surfaces
(1) Using a diluted mixture of a high pH wheel cleaner applied to the
walls will help break down soils.
walls will help break down soils.
(2) Use a 3:1 ratio of water and bleach to clean mildew.
(3) Allow the chemicals to do the work. Scrub brushes and high pressure rinsing can damage the painted surfaces.
(4) Chemicals from the car wash and cleaning process can cause the paint to breakdown over time, requiring regular repainting. Paint typically has a two year lifespan under normal conditions. With the extreme conditions in the tunnel, paint life will be greatly reduced.
How often the walls need cleaning depends on how wide the tunnel is. If a tunnel is 18 feet wide, it will require more frequent cleaning than a tunnel that is 25 feet in width.
Make a rainy day maintenance project effective and safe when you choose to clean your tunnel walls. Appoint a point person at your wash to establish the plan and get it implemented right away!