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Published on 11/8/2019


When Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Company in 1903, he had one goal in mind - to create a motor vehicle that was affordable to the general public. From this desire, the Model T was born in 1908. The Model T became the first automobile to be mass produced and marketed to the middle class, and as more and more people began owning automobiles, a need grew to keep these newly prized possessions clean and presentable. This led to the uprising of the car wash industry.

The first ever car wash opened in Detroit, MI in 1914. Called Automated Laundry, the car wash was not actually automated. Automated Laundry  involved a traditional "pail-and-sponge" method that was similar to the common fundraising activity which can be found in parking lots across the country today. The cars were manually pushed through a tunnel in which three men provided a service of soaping, rinsing, and drying the vehicle. 

Years later, the first automatic conveyor car wash opened in Hollywood, CA in 1940. This car wash system involved a winch system that automatically pulled the vehicle through a tunnel, but the washing of the vehicle was still provided through manual labor. Like Automated Laundry, this involved men soaping, rinsing, and drying the vehicle as it moved down the line. 

Six years later, a gentleman by the name of Thomas Simpson invented the first semiautomatic car wash system in 1946. A majority of the manual labor was removed through Simpson's invention, but not entirely. This car wash system involved hooking a conveyor belt to the bumper of the vehicle which pulled it through a tunnel. An overhead water sprinkler was then used to wet the vehicle down, which was followed by three sets of manually operated brushes for cleaning, and an air blower for drying. 

In 1951, the first fully automatic car wash system came to fruition in Seattle, WA. Opened by three brothers - Archie, Dean, and Eldon Anderson - this revolutionized the way people washed their vehicles and led to incredible investment opportunities for many businessmen. The automated car wash system involved pulling the vehicle through the tunnel, soap being sprayed on the vehicle by large machinery, automated brushes scrubbing down the vehicle, nozzles being used to rinse the vehicle off, and large air blowers to dry the vehicle. 

From here, many car wash owners began installing fully automated car wash equipment at their businesses. Automatic car washes have continued to evolve ever since, and the industry remains incredibly successful today. From stand-alone car washes, to car washes at dealerships, gas stations, and elsewhere, automatic car wash systems are prominent around the globe. 

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