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New car wash recycles 97 percent of its water
Clear Drop Car Wash operations manager Jay Japka checks the jet stream on a segment of the wash line as a vehicle makes its way through. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

The mechanics of a gold sluice are simple. 

Water carrying rich material washes over a series of channels, and the heavier particles settle on the bottom – sending the water and the lighter, non-precious mixture back out of the end into a retaining pool where it can be recycled again. 

And that’s basically what the Clear Drop Car Wash is doing to reclaim upwards of 97 percent of the water it uses, except it’s the soapy wet stuff that the facility on East Yosemite Avenue at Cottage Avenue – that just opened two weeks ago – is concerned about.

It’s all part of owner Hercules Vourakis’ master plan to use as little water as possible while offering customers a service that’s typically synonymous with buckets full of the precious liquid gold that ends up running down driveways and into gutters. 

It’s also part of Jay Japka’s genius 21st century design that gives customers exactly what they’re looking for at an affordable price. 

“When you drive up and select your wash there isn’t the typical up sell – you pick what it is that you feel you need and you go from there. The machine knows which car you are in line and it goes from there,” he said. “This entire thing can be a one-man operation, and that’s to make sure that everything runs smoothly. 

“We’re not here to try and get you to buy something that you don’t want. I think that the customers will appreciate that.”

While the space that the new car wash business occupies was previously a car wash, nearly everything that existed before was gutted and scrapped – replacing the mechanics with a completely new, state-of-the-art system and reconfiguring the drainage and water delivery systems that exist beyond the tunnel-like confines that drivers typically see. 

Those massive fans that blow all of the water off of your car when you reach the end? Those are powered by 160-horsepower motors and are strong enough to knock you down if you stand in front of them. Still have a few wet drops as you pull away? The spot-free rinse treatment will prevent the white water marks that can make a new car unsightly. 

A free vacuum terminal at the back of the parking lot makes it incredibly easy to remove those crumbs or that pesky dust from the floor mats and the soft, cloth-like spindles that cover every inch of the car during the washing process are soft on paint and chrome. 

It’s the water usage, however, that’s truly remarkable. 

The average homeowner, Japka said, that washes their car in the driveway will use anywhere between 50 to 125 gallons during the process. Those that don’t turn off the hose can use even more. 

But cars that rolled through the Clear Drop line, he said, during early testing showed that as few as six gallons of fresh water were used during the entire process. Everything else – including the water that was used to feed the soap and the mixtures selected by the customer – was recycled. 

“It’s definitely one of the things that’s going to be an issue here in California, and has become one already,” Japka said. “I think we’re going to get to the point where you aren’t going to be able to wash your car in your driveway. I think it might already be at that point in some places. But people can come here and know that they’re not going to be wasting any resources. 

“It’s affordable but it’s also responsible. (Hercules) made an investment in this and we’re hoping to make it something that’s good for his business and good for his customers. So far we’re on our way.”

The Clear Drop Car Wash is located at 1195 E. Yosemite Avenue, and is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.