by Clint Burgess

Spring is synonymous with so many things. Everything seems to start moving again, the grass starts to turn green, and everyone gets the cleaning bug. After a mild winter and a minimum of the annoying debris and buildup that accompanies the daily commute, it's now time to turn the obsessive cleaning tendencies loose on your car.

There are two schools of thought on the subject of car washes. I'm just going to skip the do-it-yourself option -- I never choose it myself. Basically there are touchless car washes and car washes that offer plenty of contact with giant scrubbers and big brushes. While both are effective, it can be difficult to tell which is better. Or it could be the dilemma of personal preference that comes in to play? There are other factors to consider here as well. For instance, is there a time constraint when getting your vehicle washed? Are you affected by the horror stories of broken grills and annihilated mirrors associated with automated car washes? Finally, are you bargain-hunting, or do you want to pamper your Hummer?

For starters, I took a spin through the Bubble Wash touchless car wash on North Pines Road in Spokane Valley. (There was a long line, but then I had some good music.) The Super Wash will set you back $6 but includes under-body wash, a two-step foam bath and other niceties for your vehicle. There was good pressure on the washing and rinsing, and being surrounded by a cascading swirl of suds and cleansing agents was exhilarating. The whole process took about eight minutes -- not much time to get that glistening shine for your car. The apparatus inside the machine was impressive in that it came very close to the vehicle without any contact. And the payment machine conveniently took $5 and $10 bills as well as plastic.

Mister Car Wash (also in the Valley) was my destination for a scrubbing with a bit more substance. Even before this visit, I had noticed during prime car-washing weather that Mister Car Wash was always the one that had cars lined up all around the building and out into the street. The Express Wash here goes for $6; prices increase exponentially from there. Two employees used large scrub brushes to hit trouble spots before entering the giant wash. Then the real scrubbing began. The brushes moved forcefully but gracefully across the car; it was evident there wouldn't be any dirt left after this wash. The Mister Car Wash highlight? The high-pressure rinse followed by the hot wax and subsequent giant dryers that wick the moisture away from the vehicle and leave a spot-free shine.

Mister Car Wash has two locations in Spokane, with the larger and higher-volume of the two on Division just north of the river. Rob Raskell, area manager for Mister Car Wash, says that drivers in Spokane are particular about keeping their cars clean. "People want to take care of their paint jobs and keep their cars clean. They want them to look good," says Raskell. He has been employed by Mister Car Wash for five years and says that contrary to popular belief, the busiest months for car washes are January, February and March.

Raskall says time is an important factor in the car wash business. "We want to get people in and out of here in five minutes so they can get back to their lives. We don't want to keep them here forever."

Publication date: 03/10/05

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