Don Uxa, co-owner of Squeaky Clean Car Wash, will be the first to say, "I'm a low-tech guy when it comes to car washes."
"The best way to wash your car is in your driveway with a sponge and a bucket," he claims—counterintuitively, it seems for someone who runs a chain of 12 car washes that stretch across Missouri and Kansas. But, he warns, doing so is illegal—or at most highly restricted—in many areas, for environmental reasons.
So the next-best thing is going to a self-service wash, which Squeaky Clean provides at many of its locations, but, as Don says, these are a "dying breed," as people increasingly seek more convenience.
Don acknowledges that people today want things fast and "with all the bells and whistles." To wit, "A lot of [car washing] equipment will do 10,000 things; it'll count the quarters that are put into your machine and even tell you what year they are." But he stresses that a car wash doesn't need to be fancy; it just needs to clean your car.
He doesn't say it outright, but as he speaks, it's clear he has has a ranking, so to speak, of the best ways to clean your car—away from your driveway.
"We have one of the 'dumbest' computers running the car wash as possible. That's all we need," says Don. This is reflected in how he feels about the new breed of "touchless" washes, where not one brush or sponge makes contact with the automobile.
This lack of contact makes the wash's ability to truly clean your car dubious. Don compares it to washing windows: "You can blast them with the hose, hit them with all the soap and water you want, but until you actually touch that dirt with a rag, it won't come off." As a substitute for contact, touchless washes blast the dirt away with extra-harsh chemicals, which can do a number on car surfaces over time.
"The best way to do it," he says, is the soft-touch automatic wash, the sort he employs at most of his outlets. These combine convenience and contact, where the dirt is mechanically brushed away, and the car is in and out within minutes. The driver has to put in his or her own elbow grease, to ensure the car is truly clean and has no water spots. To that end, Squeaky Clean offers the use of its own towels for drivers to dry off their rides with—as well as complimentary use of their high-powered vacuums for the interior.
Best, of course, are those self-service washes. "They're the best for your car [besides washing it in the driveway] . . . and you know the water is being processed properly so the soap doesn't go right out to the creek." But he recognizes that not everyone wants to take the minimum 20 minutes to wash their own vehicle. He rarely handwashes his own car. "I drive a Suburban, it would take me two hours to wash this thing."