Image matters a great deal for a small business just starting out, and the company van is a big part of that. Effectively, it’s the shop window for your enterprise and what it represents. A dusty and grimy exterior is not a good look, and does not deliver the right kind of message!
Your message needs to be clear and clean, especially if you’ve taken the trouble to make your van stand out from the competition with custom signwriting. How to clean your van may seem obvious, and you’re unlikely to overlook something as important! But there are regulations that need to be observed and it’s helpful for an entrepreneur to understand these. And, of course, keeping your van clean and ship-shape is one of the major factors in protecting your investment.
The regulatory framework around cleaning your van
Government guidelines define the run-off from vehicle washing as trade effluent, and you are prohibited from letting it enter surface water drains as it causes pollution to rivers and ground water. Management of waste water and effluent comes under the remit of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency. You require a permit from them to discharge waste water to surface drains or onto the ground. While the regulations primarily focus on vehicle cleaning businesses, they apply to everyone. So even with one vehicle and a fledgling business, it makes sense to abide by the rules as a matter of good practice and good management.
The good old hand-wash method to clean your van
If you have time to do it the old-fashioned way, washing by hand is effective and serves the double purpose of giving a thorough visual check of your van. Start with the wheels and wheel arches, using a brush to remove mud and grit. For the body, use two buckets for soapy and clean water and a washing glove. Start at the top and work your way down, rinsing the glove as go you in clean water. Dry the body as quickly as possible to prevent water spots, and follow up with a polish. Make sure to dispose of the soapy water through a domestic or business drainage system, not in street drainage.
Clean your van with a pressure hose
A quicker option to clean your van is the pressure hose, which, as long as the jet is fairly gentle, won’t do any damage. If you are operating it yourself, adjust the hose to between 5 and 8 cm so it’s powerful enough to shift the dirt without damaging paintwork. Remember to use an even wider setting for lower pressure on windows and lights. However, since pressure hosing generates quite a lot of waste water and detergents, it is better done at a commercial facility where the drainage systems comply with government guidance.
Cleaning your van in a drive-through wash
Simplest of all is the drive-through wash, which will be properly set up with the correct drainage and disposal systems. If your business is city-based, there’s bound to be one within easy distance. Most car washes have a height limit of 2.1 metres, which makes a car-sized van like the Renault Kangoo an easy fit. Though a standard (unladen) Renault Trafic will be fine at 1.971 metres, the 2.465 metres high roof version won’t – the same goes for the Renault Master, which ranges from 2.290 to 2.744 metres in height. For these models, you will need a facility that can accommodate larger vehicles. All mechanical washes have a display of the height limit at the entrance, so you can always check.
A clean exterior should hide a clean interior
It’s probably not news to you that, as you move products and people in and out daily, your van can quickly turn into a haven for dust, dirt and assorted rubbish if you are not careful. Whichever method you use to clean your van, you will need to be as thorough with the inside as with the outside. The good news is that the more regularly you take care of it, the less you will have to do. First, clear any litter in the cab, sweep out and wipe down the rear. This includes tidying away anything stuffed in the netting or cup holders of a crew van! Remove and shake the mats. Clean the dashboard and steering wheel with wipes made for vehicles to sweep away grime without damaging the covering material. Clean the windows on the inside, spraying the cleaner on to a cloth rather than direct on the glass to avoid streaks. Lastly, take a vacuum cleaner for a whizz-round with the narrow attachment for getting into small spaces. Voilà! As this becomes routine, you will see there’s nothing quite like sitting down in a spotless van.