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Entrepreneurs: Meet the founders behind water free car wash firm Dropless

·3-min read
 (Handout)
(Handout)

Have you ever considered how bad washing your car is for the environment?

Me neither, until just now.

The business making me think about it is called Dropless, which wants to wash your vehicle without using any water. At all.

It’s dry cleaning for your car, and they come to you to do it (you book via an app, of course).

Some stats: The average car wash uses about 150 litres of water, which once the clean is complete leaves behind a fairly toxic chemical waste. That typically runs into drains, and thence into the Thames (other polluted rivers are available).

Dropless reckons there are another 1kg of CO2 emissions from a car wash, water aside, based on a study it did with Oxford University.

With Dropless, two dudes turn up on electric mopeds without any water whatsoever and use a nano solution on a cloth to do the clean.

How does it work? The nano solutions are sprayed onto the vehicle to breakdown dirt. They remove the dirt with microfiber towel; that leaves a carnauba wax that they buff down.

The vacuum cleaner on the back of the moped looks standard issue, but it doesn’t require water either.

Can they revitalise a car that has seen better days?

The vehicle in question is a stylish, if old, BMW 3 Series soft top convertible coupe. It is presently sitting outside the WB Yeats, an establishment near Finsbury Park, which seems to be where it lives.

The Beemer used to be mine, but I gave to this bloke from the pub. It’s a long story.

Dropless began in 2018 when co-founders Christian Duncan and Mike Grindy wanted a car washed in a hurry for a wedding. Why couldn’t someone come to them, they wondered.

Duncan, 30, and Grindy, 36, are also keen to improve the lot of workers who clean cars. Their staff, a mixed bag of former warehouse workers and delivery drivers, have proper jobs, they note. This feels like a strong point.

Car cleaning garages are all over the place and do a great job, but there is always a slight scent when you drive away of Eaux De Exploited Ukranian. It’s not a great feeling.

A typical inside and out clean with Dropless costs £33, which is more expensive than from a standard car wash, but worth it to some.

Duncan says: “Our demographic would rather pay more for convenience, customer care and sustainability.”

Customers are typically in their late 20s to 50s with a high disposable income, he says. Given the time involved and how hard the cleaners work, £33 doesn’t look like it would offer a big profit margin, but the company says it works out.

Dropless is owned by the founding pair and 10 angel investors who were in early doors.

Pembroke VCT, the venture capital trust, also put in £1.75 million a while ago.

Duncan says: “We are in the process of raising another round of investment. We are talking to Royal Mail and Sainsbury’s and looking at overseas expansion.”

Germany, which has banned roadside vehicle washing on environmental grounds, is an obvious place for them to expand.

In the UK, Dropless covers Bath, Bristol, all of Greater London, Cardiff and Manchester

The business claims a 400% growth rate over the course of 2020, despite challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the year, Dropless worked with the NHS to apply its technology to disinfect and sterilise vehicles used to transport patients, a service which it is now rolling out to all customers.

The lads are nearly done and we stand back to admire their work.

The BMW looks amazing.

Two things are clear. You should make a point of sending your car to the dry cleaners once in a while.

And I want my wheels back.

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