The amount of automated car washes in the UK has rapidly fallen after an increase in the amount of unregulated eastern European gang-run hand washes.

Reports have shown that the number of car wash machines has halved in the last 15 years, from 9,000 in 2000 to 4,200 in 2015.

It is reported that the hand car wash industry now employs up to 30,000 people, many of which are often illegal and unregistered foreign workers.

Brian Madderson, a chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, told The Times: “Over the last 10 years, this has almost killed off the mechanical rollover car wash. About 70 per cent of all retail washes are now done by hand and the great majority of these people are completely unregulated.

“They’re using all kinds of horrible chemicals, particularly to clean alloy wheels, and there’s very little to be done to stop this stuff just being flushed into local waterways.”

The number of hand car washing sites has risen sharply over the fifteen-year period mentioned, going from 4,000 to at least 15,000.

A submission to the government’s Valuation Office Agency showed that 11,700 cubic meters of solids and 7,100 of chemicals are “illegally disposed of into surface water drains and groundwater” by hand wash operators each year.

The submission also said that “in the absence of available skilled work, many migrant workers have taken semi-skilled work including roles that are considered unattractive to the local population.”

Jack Evans


After completing his university studies in English and Creative Writing in Cardiff, Jack is now a full time motoring writer at Blackball Media. His love of cars stems from his childhood years when he began to live and breathe all-things automotive.

December 14, 2015

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