Looking for differences between 1-Step and 2-Step Washing? Check out our blog here!

If you are going to be washing trucks, trailers, and other heavy equipment, the tried and true question always becomes, “What’s the right fleet washing method for me?” Well, it depends on many factors. There are basically three options which are 1-Step (Touchless), 1-Step + Brushing, and 2-Step (Touchless). Each has its advantages as well as considerations. Below are some questions to ask yourself prior to choosing which method is best for you:

What equipment do I have access to for each fleet washing method?

Your biggest consideration here will be the initial investment for each fleet washing method. Meaning, the 2-Step process will require MORE of an initial investment right off the bat. That being said, it will pay off in the long run! 

First, if you don’t have a pressure washer, you will need to get one. We recommend between 4 – 5.5 gpm at 2500 psi belt driven pump hot water pressure washer. You will not want to get a residential strength pressure washer from a home improvement store because they will not hold up for regular vehicle washing. An amazing option is our Pro-Control 2-Step Remote System that you can learn more about here.

Water Hardness

You also may have to invest in a water softener to give your washes that “oomph” for the type of clean you may be looking for. 

While water is in the ground, it picks up soluble bits of whatever it passes through, which in most cases means minerals. The ones to keep in mind are calcium and magnesium, as they are responsible for making our water “hard.” Due to hard water, soaps and detergents can lose effectiveness and instead of dissolving completely, you end up with clumps of soap and minerals that require more soap to be added. The combination hangs around and clings to whatever surface you’re cleaning and could actually make your cleaning process worse.

One way to address hard water is with a water softener. A water softener is a mineral tank full of small beads, also known as resin or zeolite, that have the ability to attract calcium and magnesium, due to their positive charge. A brine solution is introduced that drives off the calcium and magnesium bonds off the beads and moves them into a regenerating cycle. It starts by backwashing to flush the dirt out, then moving the sodium-rich salt solution from the brine to the mineral tank, which is then flushed of excess brine and refilled.


Water Temperature

Another key factor is how hot your water is. With hot water, your options are using the 1-Step or 2-Step Touchless process, which typically yield the best results in terms of cleanliness. For cold water, due to cold water being harder to wash with, you may want to consider sticking with 1-Step + Brushing. That being said, you can still use the 2-Step washing method if you choose, but 2-Step Touchless would probably be out of consideration.

Hot water is typically used due to it being better at dissolving anything that could be stuck to your vehicle. We recommend keeping your burner between 100 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit for your 2-Step and 1-Step Touchless washes. Anything higher could cause damage to the surface of your vehicle.

The 1-Step + Brushing method only requires a cold water pressure washer like from your local home improvement store, a bucket (with wheels for convenience), and some Dawn detergent to brush on and then rinse off. You can also use any pressure washer at your disposal if you choose this method. Cold water could also be recommended depending on your location, such as the South, as there is potential to damage the aluminum on your vehicles. 



The 1-Step Touchless method would be a similar investment to the 2-Step method.  However, there’s less payoff in the long run with using 1-Step.

The reason being is that while yes, your vehicle may look clean going through the 1-Step Touchless process, it doesn’t fully remove all the road film that your vehicle may have accumulated during its travels. This results in potentially having to do more washing and maintenance on your vehicle. The 2-Step Touchless process reduces them, as well as making it more cost-effective for you to wash your vehicles.

How much water and what quality of water do I have access to?

  • Hard water with high mineral content will result in lots of spots and streaks on darker colored vehicles (1-Step + Brush)
  • Soft water will reduce the spots or streaks when rinsing (1-Step Touchless or 2-Step Touchless) 
  • RO water or reverse osmosis water takes out 80-90% of all the minerals (1-Step Touchless or 2-Step Touchless)
  • DI water or spot free water will give you a spot/streak free rinse (1-Step Touchless or 2-Step Touchless)

Depending on your location, you could have difficulties accessing water or your water quality could be lowered due to a higher mineral content.


Pro Tip! Why would I not want to use Deionized water for washing vehicles?

Deionized water (DI) is “hungry” water because it does not have any minerals in the water. So running DI water through your pressure washer pump, which is made of metals, will deteriorate your pump quickly.  

You may have to purchase a commercial strength water softener or purchase soft water from a water softening company. Your investment on a quality water softener will pay off quickly.

If you’re interested in learning more about water quality and other factors for washing, check out our blog here!

How much labor do I want to use for each fleet washing method?

The 2-Step or 1-Step Touchless methods are much less labor intensive than any brushing method that’s available to you. By being less labor intensive, it leads to less cost, as well as easier and better washing on your fleet vehicles. If you choose to use the 1-Step + Brush method, you may need more employees at your disposal, as well as a lot more scrubbing than any other fleet washing method. You can more about the pros of using a 2-Step Touchless method with our brochure here.

What level of clean is expected?

If you’re looking for that highest quality, then look no further than the 2-Step Touchless or 1-Step + Brush process. The 2-Step Touchless is the most efficient and provides the best clean for your money.  If you’re looking to knock off the heavy stuff and have it look good going down the road at 55mph, then the 1-Step Touchless process is your choice.

Keep in-mind that the 1-Step Touchless method is more efficient than brushing, but it won’t give you that “WOW” appearance or road-film free clean like the other fleet washing methods, such as 2-Step Touchless or 1-Step + Brush.  

How many vehicles am I washing?

For fleets with 10 units or less, investing into the right equipment and setup for the 2-Step or 1-Step Touchless method might not make sense.  If you are just tired of brushing and you have a small fleet, then go right ahead and make that investment.

What type of vehicles am I washing?

While the 1-Step + Brushing method is simple and effective, irregular shaped vehicles such as tankers, livestock haulers, gravel trains and trash hauling vehicles would be better served with a 2-Step Touchless wash.

With the 2-Step washing method, you will use less physical effort while leaving the vehicle road-film free and the paint and aluminum with a high glossy appearance. 

If you choose to not invest into the right equipment and setup, and want to keep things simple, then the 1-Step + brush method will yield you a high quality of clean, but will require more time and effort. 

Having trouble deciding? Too many products to consider? Give our team a call!

Hydro-Chem Systems has been an industry leader in truck washing for 50 years. Trust our expertise and get fast, reliable recommendations at (616) 531-6420 or email us at info@hcsclean.com. We’re here to help!

Schedule a Free Wash Review