You asked James Dudra all your questions about saving water and giving ol' Bess a good Eco Touch. Here, we've got James, the founder of Eco Touch, getting dirty and coming clean about the ins and outs of the Eco Touch products.
Just to give you a bit more info before you dig in...
At Eco Touch™ we are committed to providing vehicle owners everywhere with a superior line of car care products that do not harm the planet or the user. We strive to conserve water, eliminate contaminated runoff, and save you time when cleaning your car. Through our marketing, we aim to educate consumers that it is possible to enjoy a clean car, boat or rv without using petro-based chemicals--and to save enormous amounts of water at the same time. We're committed to clean cars and a non-contaminated environment.
Q: Do you have an estimate of how much water is saved per car wash when using Eco Touch? (by dana1981)
A. According to the International Car Wash Association, the average hose and bucket car wash uses 80 – 140 gallons of water per wash. Using Eco Touch Waterless Car Wash requires water. Now granted, if the car is caked in mud, salt, or sand it requires a quick pre-rinse. We estimate that one bottle will last 3 – 6 washes depending on size and dirtiness. So your water savings will range from 240 – 840 gallons versus the old hose and bucket method.
It’s also more than just saving water. There are a host of other effects a driveway wash can have. Brake dust, oils, and grease are all flushed down the drain and pollute the waterways. Many people think that if they go out and buy a biodegradable car wash soap that it’s okay to continue washing with a hose and bucket, but unfortunately this still poses a risk to the environment.
Q: What was your impetus to found Eco Touch? (by magdalenac)
A: The idea for the company actually started back during a college semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. There were some serious water restrictions beginning to take hold in Sydney, and I learned of a ‘waterless’ car wash product being used to clean cars. I should note that during college summers, I had started an auto detailing business, so was familiar with most of the products on the U.S. market but had never heard of a ‘waterless’ car wash product. I felt that the idea was ingenious and could be introduced back home. It wasn’t until several years after graduating college that I took the initiative to launch Eco Touch.
Q: Could you explain what some of the worst chemicals are that are used in traditional car care products and what alternatives Eco Touch uses instead? (by teej)
A: Great question. The car care industry has been a laggard when it comes to formulating products that take the environment and the user’s health into consideration. Two of the commonly used worst offenders are phosphates and NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates). When phosphates are released in fresh water, they encourage plant growth and that decreases oxygen levels for aquatic life. Typically, you find phosphates in car wash soaps or other detergents. NPEs, which are primarily used as surfactants, have proven themselves harmful to human’s reproductive systems.
We were able to replace these components with a blend of readily biodegradable surfactants (ethoxylated alcohols derived from coconut oils) and soy-based solvents (soya-ester). All of the products are free of phosphates, synthetic fragrances and dyes.
Q: Did you have to make any compromises or are all the ingredients in Eco Touch's products both biodegradable and sustainable? (by teej)
A: It’s a real challenge to deliver car care efficacy and biodegradability/sustainability. Ultimately, we want Eco Touch to compete with the better brands out there. Many of our customers are very particular about how a car care product should perform. One area that we are pushing for new alternatives relates to polymers. Polymers give car care products their slickness/shine, and that happens to be one of the most important things consumers look for. Unfortunately, polymers take longer to degrade in the environment than we would like. When Eco Touch first started testing formulas, we tried to avoid using them altogether, but the feedback from consumers was mixed. Ultimately, we were able to use a blend that has the lowest environmental impact without sacrificing results. One of our company’s aims is to work with suppliers to suggest and help develop better alternatives to what is available today. I know that there is a long road ahead in getting everyone in the car care industry on board, but we are taking the first steps to get there.
Q: Are each of the different products relatively similar in terms of the make-up of the formula, then you add a few additional ingredients for each purpose, or are you starting from scratch when you decide to release a product with a new purpose (e.g. metal polish rather than carpet cleaner.) (by deej)
A: When we design the products we start from the ground up. First we take a look at the surfaces that will be cleaned and what types of contaminants will normally be encountered. You also need to consider the surface itself. Does it have a factory-protected finish such as a clearcoat? It is important to ensure that the blend isn’t too powerful for a particular surface so you are not stripping off protection when you clean with the product. For instance, many of the detailers who use our waterless product don’t want to strip off existing wax, so we had to ensure that the formula worked well at cleaning outside contaminants such as dirt, bird droppings, and sap, but was not overly aggressive.
Each of the products are very unique. While they may use the same type of surfactants and solvents, the actual make-up is entirely different from one product to another.
Q: Are there other sustainable aspects to your business besides conserving water? (by stins)
A: Definitely. One other area we are focusing on deals with the chemicals used on car interiors. A majority of interior cleaners still contain synthetic fragrances and VOCs. While there has been regulation to contain VOCs content in car care products to no more than 15%, manufacturers can do better. VOCs are known to adversely affect our health and that of the environment. Most people don’t stop and think what they are breathing when inside their car. On a hot summer day you can have a toxic brew of chemicals being released. As a company, we have eliminated both VOCs and synthetic fragrances from all our products.
Outside of the actual products we make, there are other elements of Eco Touch’s business model which help make us sustainable. Both I and our co-founder, Anne Ruozzi, serve on the NAPDR (National Association of Professional Detailing & Reconditioning) Environmental Compliance Council. This is a group of top industry professionals who will strive to create a new direction for the car care industry. We will be working with agencies such as the EPA and local municipal governments to create better car washing practices.
Lastly, the company has been sponsoring charity car wash events across the country. It pains me to see a traditional car wash fundraiser take place and generate a sudsy mess on the side of the road. Again, most of it comes back to lack of awareness, so by helping sponsor these events, we can both help the groups raise money and educate at the same time.
Q: I've seen other waterless car wash products in stores. What makes your products different from your competitors? (by jessg)
A: There are a few differences between Eco Touch’s Waterless Car Wash and other similar products you might find in stores. First and foremost is ingredient disclosure. We were the first car care manufacturer to disclose ingredients on our packaging and website. Transparency is hard to find in the car care industry today, but I am certain it will begin to shift as consumers begin applying pressure. Without product disclosure, what appears to be a similar product may actually contain a blend of petroleum-distillates, kerosene, or alcohols.
Secondly is packaging. If you walk into an auto parts store and pick up a bottle, you may very likely find a #3 PVC bottle. As many of you know, PVC is non-recyclable and poses serious health risks during its production. Eco Touch uses a #2 HDPE bottle which can easily be recycled.
Lastly, what differentiates Eco Touch from others is the efficacy of our products. The Eco Touch line works just as well as, if not better than, traditional counterparts. We have a variety of professional users who exclusively use our products for their cleaning and detailing. There is still a lot of skepticism that since our products are environmentally-safe that they either won’t work or that it is just a marketing ploy. Fortunately, we are overcoming these objections as more and more people become comfortable with using our product line.
Q: Is Eco Touch working on any new products? (by dana1981)
A: Yes, we are actually working on several new products. Over the summer the company ran a contest asking customers what new products they would like to see released. There was an overwhelming response for two in particular, but I don’t want to reveal what they are yet because we still doing product testing. Right now we are shooting for a Q1 ’09 release date.