History of the car wash

The automobile has been part of the American Dream since the early 1900s. The freedom to go where you want when you want at not too much of a cost created a new world for most Americans. Henry Ford created the first car that was affordable to the middle classes, and that created the revolution of the American car.  People take pride in their cars, and even then, they wanted to keep them clean. It was not too long after the Model T came out in 1908 that the car wash was invented. Part of the problem was getting the car wash parts in order to get the washing done.

The first car wash was called a car laundry and was invented in Detroit in 1914. The inventors made up an assembly line that got the car wet, washed it and then dried it. All of that was done by manual labor. The first car wash added labor by having people push the cars through a tunnel where the washing was done. These people got tired, and very wet, no doubt.

In the 1920s a car wash bowl was created in Chicago, where people could drive their cars into the water to get dirt or mud off the tires and undercarriage. From there the car would be taken to the washing tunnel for complete cleaning.

It took a while for car wash parts to develop, so for a couple of decades, it was hard labor to get a car washed along an assembly line.

In 1940 a conveyor type system was invented in California, which found car wash parts to pull cars through a tunnel while people washed the car. It was still an assembly line approach, but they did not have to push the car through it anymore.

In 1946 someone figured out how to install a sprinkler system, but people still had to manually wash the car. Also in that year, the first real automatic car wash was invented.  This system took advantage of the conveyor belt and the sprinkler and installed brushes that would wash the car. This was almost totally automatic, but there were still people washing to some degree.

The first completely automatic car wash was invented in 1951 in Seattle. This was the first totally hands-free car wash in America. Big brushes washed the cars as they were carried through on a conveyor belt.

Much of the development of the car wash must also be attributed to David Hanna, who started working on systems in 1955.  He did not create new things as much as he developed systems.  His innovations include wrap-around brushing, rollers on demand, soft cloth friction washing, and ways to wash tires.

Cars have come a long way in the last 100 years, and keeping them clean has developed along with them.