Choosing the best truck wash soap for your fleet is never as simple as picking between two different brands.
It’s like being presented with a menu at a new restaurant. Depending on the establishment, this may be a minimalist selection of choices or a seemingly never-ending encyclopedia of options rivaling the length of a Dickens' novel.
Some may instantly know what they’re hungry for, but for many people, it’s easy to be intimidated by the many options.
Similarly, it can be tough to know what the best truck wash soap is. There are so many different types — from so many different companies.
Though cleaning your fleet and power washing may not touch on the same senses as a meal from a restaurant, achieving great results, a lower cost per wash, or an easier cleaning process can be equally satisfying.
In this blog, we’ll show you how to choose the best detergents, soaps, and degreasers for your specific fleet, including some tips from our consultative sales approaches used by our account managers.
Advantages of Truck Wash Soaps vs Car Wash Soaps
It’s funny how often I get asked about the difference between truck wash soaps and car wash soaps. To put it simply, “Truck wash soaps are for trucks. Car wash soaps are for cars.”
But in all seriousness, truck wash soaps are typically more aggressive and specially formulated to help remove road film and thick cakes of grime. They're usually sold in more concentrated form, and made to be more practical - instead of snazzy colors or wild foam, they have one main goal - to clean the truck, not to make it fancy.
But not all soaps and detergents are the best for your trucks either. There are many factors you need to consider before you choose the best truck wash soap for your fleet.
Types of Truck Wash Soaps
Before picking a truck wash soap, it’s important to know the difference between the main types of soaps and detergents.
Here are some different types of truck wash detergents you should consider:
1-step soaps - high pH soaps used if you are still brushing your rigs, or looking for a ‘good enough’ clean
Acids or ‘low pH presoaks’ - used in a 2-step process and work against minerals and other inorganic solids, such as rust or salt.
2-step soaps - these are low pH and high pH products used in a 2-Step process that can clean your fleet without having to brush the grime off
Degreasers - to get rid of thick grease, oil, carbon stains and soot.
Aluminum brighteners - that specifically target the cleaning and brightening of non-polished surfaces.
Concrete truck cleaners - For a little extra help removing concrete slurry, splatter and residue from cement trucks, concrete handling equipment, tractors, and tools.
“Ok, so what do I want or what do I need?”
I have experienced the diverse geography, climate, seasons, and unique characteristics of different fleets, types of film, wash equipment, and other factors. These are often the first questions we think to ourselves and some of the first I encounter with my customers.
Considering this, there is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution which is the reason for a variety of products and equipment.
That’s why I always try for a first-hand site visit or even look at pictures/videos that illustrate the situation and then I take into account the Five Cleaning Factors for Washing.
- Water quality - are you using soft water, hard water, or somewhere in-between?
- What pressure - we recommend using between 1800-2500 PSI for safety reasons.
- Water temperature - hot water is going to clean a lot better than cold water; 100-120 degrees is the sweet spot for chemicals.
- Dwell time - try to keep it between 35 and 45 seconds between each step.
- Dilution ratios - Beyond what is recommended on your truck wash soap label, you must account for the dilution rate of the pressure washer AND you have to account for the other cleaning factors when using your truck wash soaps.
“Everything sounds good/looks good!”
The interesting part of truck wash soaps is that even if you pick a 2-step soap, it’s important to understand that each product has a unique purpose depending on what kind of vehicles or equipment you are washing — and where you’re located.
One that might be more aggressive than the other. Another one might be focused on mitigating paint oxidation.
While some detergents may be more diverse and widely used than others, each blend has distinctive characteristics that separate it from the others.
Here are some of the questions you should be asking when you’re struggling to find the best truck wash soap:
- What vehicles or surfaces am I cleaning?
- How is it being cleaned now or how often will cleaning be done?
- Is it routine washing or more intensive operations?
- Which equipment is currently being used or will be purchased for washing?
- Who will have access to the products or be performing the operations?
- Are there site-specific needs or safety aspects?
- Is water usage or reclamation/recycling a concern?
- What are the priorities and desired expectations for results, cost, and efficiency?
“Which truck wash soap should I get?”
Now that you know what issues you have, what materials you are washing, and what kind of weather you are cleaning in — it’s time for the fun part — finding the best truck wash soap.
If you’re getting your truck wash soap straight from a distributor or manufacturer, I would advise asking for the best products for your specific situation.
In the same way that you may have dietary restrictions, changing tastes/needs, or desire for something new/different — there’s a chance you shouldn’t just pick the most popular option. They all have their advantages.
You need to find the balance between aggressive cleaning, faster cleaning, and cost-effective cleaning (especially if you have an entire fleet of trucks to get through).
When you factor all of that in, I generally advise people to look for the best touchless 2-step solution. It will include two different types of detergents (an acidic presoak and an alkaline detergent) but it is more effective at removing road film from your truck surface.
Not only is it faster to wash your truck but it could save you from exhausting yourself as you frantically try to brush in between the smaller spaces.
Take advantage of specialty soaps and niche products when you need them. There is a reason they are made and sold to make challenging situations less difficult. But it is also understood they are not for every customer, every wash, or every situation.