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Sharing Ideas in a Time of Crisis

In addition to its serious impact on human health, the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is dramatically reshaping communities and businesses. (Visit coronavirus.gov for additional information about the health aspects of this crisis, or visit the CDC's Coronavirus landing page.) This page serves as a clearinghouse of ideas for car wash professionals to navigate through these challenging times. International Carwash Association is providing neither advice nor recommendation. In this rapidly changing environment, every business owner should observe the guidance issued by public health and/or governmental officials, and consult with their own professional advisors, prior to determining what ideas they may choose to implement in their own business. During times of crisis, lots of information circulates. Regardless of other information you've seen, ICA's only official positions and resources can be found here. Note: this page is being regularly updated.  

If you have additional suggestions for this page, please share them at info@carwash.org.

Navigating the CARES Act

The programs and initiatives in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in the United States are intended to assist business owners. When implemented, there will be many new resources available for small businesses, as well as certain nonprofits and other employers. Navigating the changes to law can be difficult; review the following resources for more information.

Navigating the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The new Families First Coronavirus Response Act amends the Family and Medical Leave Act through two new provisions - the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Expansion Act. Both apply to employers with less than 500 employees. Learn more by clicking here.  

FFCRA will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus while at the same time reimbursing businesses. The links below provide tools, resources, and answers about how to comply with and benefit from this legislation.


Enhancing Safety Measures at Your Wash or Operation

It is incumbent upon every business to do its part to protect public safety. All car washes are advised to consider additional actions to protect employees, customers and public health. Some examples could include: (a) limiting services to exterior washing, (b) maintaining social distancing between employees or reducing onsite staff, (c) restricting employee and customer interaction, (d) eliminating manual prep washing or wipe down services, (e) restricting access to any shared or publicly accessible areas (e.g. self vacuum areas, restrooms or vending machines) or (f) restricting wash access to subscription customers with the use of RFID/LP recognition systems. The virus can survive on surfaces, which is why it's important to eliminate opportunities for shared touching of surfaces such as kiosk screens, change machines, door handles, vending machines and self service vacuums.

For the latest on these processes and recommendations, visit the CDC's Guidance for Businesses and Employers webpage.

Workplace and HR Considerations

ICA partner AffinityHR has created a number of resources for businesses during COVID-19:

  • On March 13, AffinityHR prepared general guidelines for employers, including how to manage situations where employees become ill: learn more by clicking here.
  • On March 29, AffinityHR prepared an analysis of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Learn more by clicking here.
  • On March 30, AffinityHR prepared a Frequently Asked Questions video about the CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). View the video here.

Essential Business Declarations

Several states and localities have issued operating restrictions on businesses due to coronavirus. ICA advises every business to observe the declarations and guidance in its area. If a business is required to close, or asked by local authorities to do so, it should close. If a business is able to continue operating, and the business chooses to do so, it should take every precaution to operate in the safest manner possible.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued guidelines on which businesses may be considered part of essential critical infrastructure industries and therefore exempted from operating restrictions (link here). Included is the transportation industry, a subset of which are “automotive repair [and] maintenance… facilities.”

Some jurisdictions have determined that because car wash businesses are typically classified under North American Industrial Classification System code 811192, a subset of 8111 “Automotive Repair and Maintenance,” they may continue to operate due to their role in supporting critical infrastructure. Car wash located at gas stations, fast lubes or auto repair facilities may have additional qualifications under DHS guidelines.

The DHS guidelines do not supercede state or local rules. Operators should obtain clarity from local authorities for the specific rules in their area.

State emergency declarations (here) Source: MultiState Associates
State essential business declarations (here) Source: Fisher Phillips

Business Declarations Specific to Car Washing

In many states, restrictions on businesses are broad and difficult to analyze. Where states have made declarations specific to car washing, we've listed them here.

  • Illinois. Essential Businesses & Operations FAQ. (Link) “Exterior automated car washes, both free-standing and those connected with a gas station, are permissible. Full-service car washes are not permissible. Interior cleaning is prohibited. Self- service vacuums are also prohibited.”
  • Michigan. Executive Order 2020-21 FAQs. (Link) “… Car washes or car detailing businesses do not employ critical infrastructure workers and in-person operations should closed [sic] pursuant to the Executive Order 2020-21.”
  • New Jersey. Business.NJ.gov. (Link) “If your business is a retail business, but is considered essential, you may stay open; these types of businesses include… Auto mechanics (does not include car washes).”
  • City of Dallas (TX). City of Dallas FAQs. (Link) “Car washes are essential to the extent they provide services that are necessary to the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residents and essential businesses.”

If Your Car Wash is Closed

Business Insurance Evaluation

If your car wash is closed or restricted, you should contact your insurance agent to determine if any corresponding reductions in premiums - or even refunds - could be obtained. 

Serving the Community

If your car wash is closed due to government restriction or based upon your own determination of the risks to your employees and customers, owners may consider other options for serving their community. Examples include offering complimentary washes to emergency vehicles or offering the site's lot to be used for drive-through medical testing. You can also use this time as an opportunity for equipment repairs, painting or landscaping upgrades.

Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefit programs are administered by each state within federal guidelines. Recently, the federal government allowed new options for states to pay benefits related to the Coronavirus crisis, including for temporary suspension of operations, quarantine or leaving employment to care for another family member. Click here for more information, and to find benefits for each state.

United States Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans

The most up-to-date information about Disaster Loans through the SBA is available at their website, disasterloan.sba.gov. The page includes information about how to apply for a disaster loan, as well as additional relief options and resources for businesses affected by COVID-19.

  • The SBA will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. Learn more by clicking here.
  • Also, depending upon your location, you may be able to access emergency "bridge gap" loans. These are usually activated by state declaration, and administered by state or local entities. An example from the State of Florida can be found here.
  • The SBA has announced that borrowers still paying back SBA loans from previous disasters will have deferments extended through December 31, 2020. Additional details can be found here.