Article by Bud Abraham of Detail Plus
Mostorists come to you clean and remove contaminants, from their vehicles, but you might — unknowingly — be doing the opposite
What is your definition of clean? You better have an answer, because that is why your customers bring you their vehicles, to clean them.
How is "cleaning" defined?
Cleaning is the removal of unwanted matter from, in this case, the interior of the vehicle.
Your customers come to you to remove dirt, residues, offensive odors, spots, stains and other contaminants from interior surfaces and such as carpets, upholstery,dashboards, consoles, etc.
Do we agree on this?
To make a point, we could say that the opposite of cleaning would be to bring unwanted matter into the interior of the vehicle.
Obviously, the customer does not want you to do that. Ridiculous!!
Think about the detail process. Say a customer brings a car in for a wash and wax. You wash the car and jump in with wet feet and dirty clothes to move to detail area putting dirt on carpets and seats.
And, if you or your employees are smokers and have that smoke smell on your clothes you probably leave the smell of smoke on the interior.
And, if you are a mobile detailer, do you drive away, leaving a puddle of dirty wastewater on the driveway. You certainly wouldn't be that irresponsible, would you?
"Of course, not, how dare you infer that we do that," you complain.
You are always careful with the the customer's vehicle. We put floormats in the car when coming from the wash bay to keep carpets/mats clean. And we use a plastic seat cover to protect the upholstery. My employees and I do not smoke so there is no chance of leaving tell-tale smoke odor in the vehicle. And certainly we contain our waste water and carry it away and properly dispose of it.
That's great if you do all of these things. You are to be commended.
But, do you give any thought to what you might leave behind in the interior of the vehicle that the motorist will breathe? Unfortunately, most detailers don't think about it atall.
If the truth were known, there are several ways that you "dirty" the air while detailing the interior.
The Importance of Vacuuming
As has been mentioned before, more than 85% of the soil in carpets and fabric upholstery is dry soil. That is, dry particulate soils such as sand, grit, pet dander, dead skin, hair, dust mite waste, pollen, mold spores, food particles, insect parts and who knows what. Many, many kinds of other contaminants.
When you start your interior cleaning on the interior of a vehicle you should remove these dry soil contaminants with a strong vacuum cleaner as your first step.
Unfortunately, there are many ill-trained or lazy detailers who skip this step and jump into the interior with the extractor and start extacting.
But, we will assume that you are a detail professional who always pvacuums the interior. However, you may still be create an unhealthy situation for the motorist.
How? Bet you did not know this!!
By using a vacuum cleaner with inadequate filtration — or one that is not solidly built — thus allowing particles to escape into the air. Most inexpensive "shop-vacs" purchased at Home Depot; Lowe's Costco or Sam's Club do not have adequate filtration.
These small, extremely irritating particles remain airborne in the interior of the vehicle for hours, to be inhaled by not only your customers, but you and your employees.
This can create serious problems for people with allergies and asthma. Besides, all of that dust will eventaully settle on seats, carpet, dash and other surfaces in the vehicle interior.
Is this what your customer is paying for? I think not.
What these means, as painful as it might be financially, if that you need to get rid of those cheap vacuum cleaners.
Without going into vacuum cleaner specifications, use a quality CRI Green Label Certified commercial vacuum cleaner with excellent filtration. You can search Google for a list of Green Label vacuum cleaners.
Once you have a good vacuum cleaner, then buy only high-quality replacement bags to prevent particles and contamination from being released into the air.
It is recommend replace vacuum cleaner bags when they are 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Vacuum cleaner bags only cost $1-$3 each when you buy in bulk, so change them each day. This prevents introducing allergens and — equally important — odors from one customer's vehicle into another.
You can make this pay off and show your professionalism by using this fact in your marketing and promotion and letting your customers know that you do this.
It is another way to add value and set yourself apart from your competitors. It is well worth the additional money you will spend on a quality vacuum and vacuum cleaner bags.
What About Carbon monoxide (CO)?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can come from a variety of sources such a number of sources, in this case. automobile exhaust.
Exposure to carbon monoxide reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen.
Young children, the elderly, heart patients, anemic or asthmatic individuals and those with weakened cardiopulmonary systems are at greater risk.
CO poisoning causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and weakness.
Higher levels produce sleepiness, nausea and vomiting.
Unfortunately too many of us often mistake these symptoms for the flu, so carbon monoxide effects may not be recognized until too late.
At very high levels, carbon monoxide exposure leads to confusion, loss of consciousness and death. CO poisoning can be reversed if caught in time, but even if you recover, CO poisoning may result in permanent damage to organs such as the heart and brain since they require so much oxygen.
If you have a shop be sure that you keep the doors open if the vehicle is running for some reason. Never run an engine with shop doors closed. And, never work in the interior of a vehicle with the engine running.
Park at least 25 feet away from the structure with the exhaust directed away from open doors or windows. Never run your machine inside a garage or building, even if doors and windows are open.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
The term volatile is often thought to refer to something that evaporates easily.
Although there are many organic materials that vaporize under normal conditions, of primary concern are those that are potentially irritating or toxic.
Solvents, degreasers and many spotters are common sources of VOCs that professional detailers regularly use.
If you have ever been exposed to high levels of these vapors, you may have felt light-headed or dizzy. Extended exposure may produce nausea, breathing difficulty, burning eyes, fainting or other symptoms.
These effects most often pass quickly if you get some fresh air. But what are the long-term effects of working with low-level exposure to these vapors?
Some organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals, and several are suspected of doing so in humans.
Volatile organic compounds can also be found in many professional cleaning and spotting agents, as well as deodorizers, protectors and disinfectants.
So how can we do our job and limit exposure to VOCs, not only for our customers, ourselves and employees, as well?
It is important that you always follow label directions as to dilution and application method.
Do not over-apply spotters — especially those with solvents. Never use solvent spotters as an overall prespray because vapors can build up to unsafe levels.
When applying solvent-based cleaners, protectors or spotters, allow plenty of ventilation. It might be a good idea to put a fan pointing in the interior of the vehicle, especially a large van or SUV.
Thoroughly clean, rinse and dry after using spotters so that you don't leave harmful chemical residue.
When possible, use products labeled "low VOCs" or choose a safer, natural, non-toxic formula if available. Remember, just because it doesn't make you cough or sneeze doesn't mean it's safe for you to breathe.
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)
Every detailer knows that smoking in the customer's vehicle is taboo. You just do not do it.
But you should also think twice about smoking during the work day.
For most non-smokers, the smell of cigarettes is a quite offensive.
Many people are very sensitive to cigarette smoke; just being near someone with smoke on their clothing can trigger symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and wheezing.
And don't kid yourself. If you smoke, it is on your clothes, your hair and your breath.
You have a right to smoke if you choose.
But remember, most of your customers are non-smokers. You should be aware of the negative impact it can have on them and their opinion of you and your company.
Of course, the best solution is to quit smoking. But if you and employees choose to smoke do it away from the workshop and the customer's vehicles. And change your outer clothes after getting into the customer's vehicle. In fact, you might consider having those employees who smoke not work on the interior of vehicles. Wash bay; trunks, buffing, final detailing.
For your breath, you can eat a piece of fruit, chew gum or simply use a breath deodorant.
Making a difference
Did you know there are more than 50 million asthma and allergy sufferers in the United States.
As well as millions more with chemical sensitivities.
Some people have a keen sense of smell and simply find unpleasant odors very offensive.
Had a customer accuse me one time of smoking in her vehicle after a detail and when I said that I did not smoke and the employees were not allowed to smoke within 20' feet of the shop, let alone in the vehicle she insisted there was a smell of smoke in her vehicle.
Finallly figured out that is was the residual smoke odor on the employees clothes that left the odor in the vehicle.
You might say, "I have never had anyone claim about that." Maybe so, but did you check to see if they were a repeat customer? Something like this is what causes a customer to not return to you for detail services.
Keep this in mind, and think about the pollutants, allergens, toxins and irritants that you may unwittingly be leaving behind.