Who Invented the Car Wash? – Car Wash History

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

who invented the car wash

If there’s one thing we can’t deny, one of the best inventions for people’s convenience was the creation of the car wash.

The innovation still goes on in the car washing industry. Sometimes, it may make you wonder more about its history. Who invented the car wash? And when were car washes invented?

The first car wash ever dates back somewhere in the late 1800s, but it was not until the 1940s that it became automated like today. The first car wash invented was by Frank McCormick and J.W. Hinkle, who lived in Detroit, Michigan.


The Car Wash History


Back then, the first automated car wash was first called the “Automobile Launday” by Frank McCormick and J.W Hinkle. In the 1940s, when the automatic car wash first debuted, it was only available in Hollywood, California, for movie stars and singers.

The first automated car wash wasn’t automatic. The newly invented system still had workers scrub and rinse the car, but a winch system was involved as an alternative to an assembly line.

This winch system pushes cars through a tunnel, and three men work to do all the washing.

In 1946, Thomas Simpson invented the semi-automatic car wash. In Thomas Simpson’s innovation, manual labor was reduced through an overhead sprinkler that rinsed the vehicle.

Manually operated brushes, then had the responsibility of brushing and scrubbing. An air blower was also used to dry out the car.

In 1951, Archie Anderson, Dean Anderson, and Eldon Anderson invented the automatic car wash that was full-on automatic. All the car washing details were finally automated, from the scrubbing down to the drying of the vehicle.

Large machinery was used to automate the car brushes, as well as the process of rinsing and drying. Since then, more and more upgrades have taken place in the car wash industry.

In 1955, Dan Hanna opened a car wash called Rub-a-Dub in Milwaukie, Oregon. Becoming a hit in the industry, it grew to over 31 branches in different locations.

It didn’t stop there because the status of car wash 1960 developed into another level when Dan Hannah’s Hannah Enterprises began as the main source and developer of car wash equipment. And because of this, the United States became pervaded with full-on automatic car washes.

Car Wash Today


Today, we are introduced to electric, automatic, and hybrid cars, and there’s even more to come. And as new breeds of vehicles have emerged, we are also introduced to different types of car wash services made for different purposes.

We now have soft-touch car washes, no-touch car washes, and self-service car washes. Technology has made a once complicated car wash machine simpler and faster.

  • Soft-touch car washes

Soft touch car washes specifically use soft brushes to clean and scrub the exterior. With a soft-touch car wash, the tendency of exterior damage is low.

Some prefer this because you’re assured that your vehicle will be thoroughly cleaned to a spotless level. The only downside is that even with the soft bristles if it’s not properly maintained, it can still result in light scratches.

  • No-touch car washes

For touchless car washes, you don’t have to worry about any damages since there isn’t equipment that really touches your car.

What touches your car is high-pressure water and, of course, some soap. The only disadvantage is that while you’re safe from any scratches, some spots may not be thoroughly cleaned.

However, this all depends on which car wash you go to and how they choose to operate, whether they aim to satisfy their customers to a great extent or not.

Car Wash in the Future

The first automatic car came out in 1939; from that day on, more inventions took place, and there is no doubt that more is coming in the future.

As our technology progresses daily, future car washes may be automated by sonar technology. This gives an even greater benefit to the industry.

It can adjust the equipment used to what best fits the vehicle. Because of the possible adjustments, it enables cleaning of hard-to-reach areas. The soap and water can also be adjusted to the car’s needs.

Ceramic technology is also another innovation that’s looking forward to being a part of the future of car wash. A ceramic treatment system for cars is said to show amazing results.

It uses polysilazane fusions and heat lamp curing. They prevent cars from beading, and the water is displaced in a faster period.

A person who washes cars is called a car detailer. Still, with ceramic protectant technology, you may no longer need a car detailer since a self-cleaning effect is possible.

Lastly, mobile applications may be one of the most integral aspects of car washes. Now we can see that mobile applications are gradually being used for booking car wash services and mobile payments.

Surely, more mobile applications await us in the future, making car washes easier and more convenient. Revolutionary change is in store, not only with the use of mobile applications but also with all the other technologies we have and we’re yet to have.



Who invented the auto car wash?

The first automatic car wash was invented by the Anderson brothers– Archie Anderson, Dean Anderson, and Eldon Anderson. It was operated in Seattle and was fully automated.

When was the first car wash?

The first ever car wash began in 1914 in Detroit. It was operated by manual workers who did their job of rinsing, soaping, and scrubbing cars. They even had to manually push cars through a tunnel.

What is the biggest car wash in the world?

The biggest car wash in the world is a car wash in Stuttgart, Germany, measuring 15,000 square foot areas.

It is Mr. Wash, the home to long tunnels and just as big as many pieces of equipment. The car wash can accommodate about 4,000 vehicles per day for all its services.


From the first car wash open to where it’s headed in the future, we can definitely say that car washes are a big factor in making life easier.

Now that you know who invented the car wash and all the history behind it, we get to look back and appreciate it even more.

If you know anyone who’s into cars, share this article with them & you’re sure to make their day!

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