The car rental industry is making a push for greener car care.

From natural odor removers and eco-friendly washcloths to water-sparing car washes and wastewater capture systems, many products now on the market help car rental companies protect the environment and meet regulations while improving processes and cutting costs.

The Safe Fumigation Bomb

As odors stand as one of the biggest car care problems rental facilities encounter, it’s a necessity to have products capable of eliminating these smells. There are a number of products on the market that get the job done while protecting the environment and the user.

The Auto Shocker from Biocide Systems utilizes chlorine dioxide, a natural chemical made from a saline solution safe enough to sanitize fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. It works as a gas that expands over the course of an hour — similar to a fumigation bomb — eventually penetrating every porous material in the car. It kills the source of the odor by oxidizing the negatively charged molecules produced by the unwanted odor.  

“The gas attacks the concentrated areas, finding them like a magnet,” says Juan Carlos Baselli, co-founder of Biocide Systems.

The product works on any type of organic material including marijuana, cigarette smoke and dead bodies — all-too-common odors that car rental companies need help removing, according to Baselli.

Auto Shocker’s nontoxic composition makes installation safe for the user; for example, gloves and masks aren’t necessary. The product is contained in a pouch, which the user places in a special cup with water in the car and then closes the doors. The process takes four to 24 hours, depending on the severity of the odor.

Its ease of use has led some companies to use the product as a preventive cleaning measure as well.  “Some companies are finding that doing this once a month or every two months on their fleets is beneficial,” Baselli says.

Auto Shocker retails for $24.95 per case and $16.95 per individual unit.

A Bacteria Shield

Advanced Preventive Microbe Solutions LLC (APMS) produces Interior Shield, a non-toxic, antimicrobial odor preventer and eliminator.

Using a polymer coating that bonds to the treated surface, Interior Shield helps operators control microbial bacteria, which otherwise might cause mold, viruses and foul odors. It doesn’t dissipate and can’t be wiped off. The product employs an eco-friendly, rechargeable air-compressed sprayer that doesn’t use aerosol propellants.

“Interior Shield not only kills bacteria, but it also eliminates all bacterial odor caused by microbes or any organic material, whether it’s stale milk and food or body odors,” says Peter Leger, the company’s president, who notes that the product does not eliminate nicotine odors.

The solution itself has been in the market for years, used by the likes of Nike, Franklin Sports Gear and Bombardier Transportation. Leger says the company is just now bringing the business model into the transportation sector.

The treatment takes about a half hour for a compact car: 15 minutes to spray and 15 minutes to dry. Under normal circumstances a vehicle would only need to be treated once in a two-year lifecycle, depending on the use by customers, Leger says.

Along with the product and sprayer, APMS provides training and marketing materials, as well as window stickers to show customers the car has been treated with Interior Shield. Upon de-fleeting, Leger says treated vehicles should return a higher resale value.

All inclusive for the turnkey solution, rental companies would pay $12-$20 per application, depending on the size of the vehicle. [PAGEBREAK]

Attack Odors with Fog

It all started when two cigar salesmen all but destroyed a rental car by smoking in it, says Bob Hecking, founder of KLC Brands Inc., an Ohio-based manufacturer of deodorizers, car care products and other odor removal products. Hecking says the car rental company tried ozone machines and other products. “They tried everything,” he says. “But we were the only ones able to get it out.”

After cleaning the cigar car, the car rental company asked KLC Brands to start producing the product for its operations, and now KLC Brands sells products to five major car rental companies and many regional companies, according to Hecking.

After cleaning a car thoroughly, users place in the vehicle an electric machine that fogs the car with the KLC Brands deodorizer, which attacks odors in the upholstery, headliners and rugs. Unlike ozone machines, which are banned in California due to chronic health risks, KLC uses a natural deodorizer that neutralizes smells without masking them behind a fragrance.

Since the cigar salesmen incident, KLC Brands has found the deodorizer is also effective against other smells, such as wet dog, fish, dead animal, milk and coffee odors.

The electric dispensing machine costs about $200, while the purifying liquid is available in bulk for $110 for 4 gallons, which translates to 25-40 cents per car.

Wastewater Disposal Solution

Water-based cleaning is largely affected by recent developments surrounding the Clean Water Act, a federal law aimed at eliminating toxic substances released into the water supply. Since its enactment, states have been sued for noncompliance with the Clean Water Act.

In turn, cities have clamped down on wastewater runoff through local regulations, and many neighborhood car rental operators now face steep fines if not following these rules on water abuse.

Steve Rogers, VP of Geomat, recounts a recent situation in which a car rental company received a cease-and-desist letter for draining waste water into the public sewage system. Before the company was fined, Geomat upgraded the location’s facility and within three weeks the car rental company was in compliance with the local law, Rogers says. “[Municipalities] are not turning a blind eye anymore,” he says.

Geomat’s product works in conjunction with car wash systems by capturing waste-water runoff, filtering it and then either pumping it back into the system for reuse or by sending it to the town’s sanitary sewer line. Sludge is retained in the bottom matt of a three- or four-layer matt system, which Geomat cleans and disposes of about once a year.

In addition to installation and maintenance, Geomat consults with the car rental company on issues such as permits and will act as an intermediary with local authorities.

The system runs $20,000-$25,000 per location, which pales in comparison to the cost of a permanent, $60,000-$100,000 concrete tunnel system that many landlords won’t approve, according to Rogers. The Geomat system, on the other hand, can be removed without affecting the land or infrastructure and leaves no environmental footprint. “The product pays for itself with the fines you’re not getting by dumping toxic waters safely,” Rogers says.[PAGEBREAK]

Use Less Water

The Mini Express car wash system from NS Wash produces less water than a hand wash and can be leased for $20 to $25 a month.

The Mini Express car wash system from NS Wash produces less water than a hand wash and can be leased for $20 to $25 a month.

NS Wash makes the Mini Express car wash system, an ideal system for car rental operations at a premium for space, according to Ivan Salazar, marketing manager at NS Wash.

Introduced in 2011, the system consists of two brushes and a curtain, and includes pre-rinse and final rinse features. Top or side blowers can be added, as well as a water recycling system. The company supplies a “portomat,” in which a collection pool pumps grey water back to a clarifying unit before sending it down the sewer.

The operator can customize water flow and speed through the wash system. “You use less water than if you were to wash them by hand,” Salazar says.

For smaller operations that use public car washes, the system pays for itself in short order. “People think car washes are more expensive, but it’s the opposite,” Salazar says. “Why are [operators] spending $2 to $3 per car wash when they can lease this machine for $20 to $25 per day?”

To own the Mini Express system, it costs $18,000 and an extra $13,000 for the side blower and $20,000 for the top blower.

When it’s Not Dirty Enough

For times when a rental car comes back dusty but not dirty enough to put through the wash, there is the Kozak Auto Dry Wash Cloth.

Patented in 1926, the product contains polymers and waxes in a double-matte cloth. The wax and polymers trap the dust and the dirt between the cloth layers, while polishing the finish on the car, according to Mark Novak, president and CEO of Alphamarx Industries LLC. The cloth works on interiors as well.

Two major car rental companies are currently testing the cloths, says Novak, who remembers spending $2,000 a month on car washes when he owned a U-Save franchise. “The problem in the rental car business is that you get a car a little too dirty to rent out, but it’s almost too clean to take to the car wash,” he says. “That would be the ideal car to use this product line on.”

One cloth provides 50 cleanings and saves about 5,000 gallons of water compared to a traditional car wash, according to Novak. The 4-square-foot cloth can be clapped clean. Each cloth retails for $12.95, which translates to less than 25 cents per wash.

Company Contact Information

Biocide Systems
Juan Carlos Baselli
877-RX-Biocide Ext. 501

Advanced Preventive Microbe Solutions LLC
Peter M. Leger

KLC Brands Inc.
Bob Hecking

Steve Rogers

NS Wash Systems
Victor Sanchez

Alphamarx Industries LLC
Mark Novak

You can see additional articles from the September/October magazine issue here.