The Hand Cleaner Blues

The Hand Cleaner Blues

Technicians want a cleaner that gets the job done.

One of the biggest battles in an auto shop takes place where you least expect it…at the sink. It doesn’t seem like it should be so, but why is hand cleaner a never-ending source of disagreement?

Let’s call this a case study on clean up. As technicians, we get dirty, sometimes worse than others. When you’ve got grease up to your elbows, we want to get rid of it, and we want a cleaner that gets the job done. We don’t want to drag that grime around into customers cars, but we also don’t want to drag it home.

There are lots of hand cleaners on the market, and most of them work great, but we don’t always agree on what we like. Some of us prefer pumice because it really digs the grease out. Others prefer the smooth lotion-style. Inevitably we disagree, which means we have to put up with one or the other, because it’s not often we’re lucky enough to have our choice.

Does one work better than the other? That’s hard to say. I like both. The pumice works great, at least for me, on the really grimy jobs. The lotion style works great for light dirt and end of day cleanup. But I’ve also known techs who prefer only one. They’re as laid-back as can be, but don’t mess with their hand cleaner!

I’ve also had good luck with the walnut-shell style of hand cleaner. It’s really a great product, and I’d almost give it top marks, but it comes out a little dry and needs the right balance of water to work well, so it takes a little extra time. The waterless cleaners have the advantage in speed.

I’ve also tried the powder-style. Again, I’ve had great results, but you have to add water, and it too seems to have a scientific balance to get the formula just right. When you do, it works amazing. When you don’t, it’s frustrating and a waste of product.

This is where the biggest battle takes place. Who’s buying the hand cleaner? When you look at it from a shop owner standpoint, it’s a substantial expense. It’s necessary, and just part of business, but one of the drawbacks of owning a shop is obsessing about every last penny, and shop supplies give you gray hairs quick.

When a technician uses way too much hand cleaner and you see big globs in the sink or on the floor, you just see dollar signs running down the drain. So, you encourage the efficient use of it. Then you try to buy something that is more efficient. Tool dealers know it’s a huge expense, so they play on the stresses of shop owners and try to sell their more efficient hand cleaning solution.

Is there one that truly works better and is more efficient, resulting in substantial savings? I believe there is, but there’s that number one problem, it takes more time. It doesn’t take MUCH more time, but a minute can seem like an eternity when your entire day is based around time.

The bottom line in my experience is that any and all of it works great, but it all takes time. A small amount goes a long way if you take the time to work it in. It’s hard to build that mindset until you start paying for it. If you’re thinking about your own shop someday, be prepared for the fun parts. Oh yeah, then there’s the most important decision of all…orange or cherry? TS

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