For aspiring entrepreneurs eyeing up the lucrative car wash industry, the choice between a regulated and an unregulated business model can be a minefield. After all, what makes a car wash regulated or not? And how does this impact business?

In this blog post, from PSD Codax, the UK’s leading provider of car wash access technology, we’ll dissect the nuances of regulated and unregulated car washes, shedding light on the distinct operational frameworks, compliance factors, and potential advantages or challenges associated with each. Armed with this knowledge, we hope to make it much easier for you to make informed decisions to chart a successful course in the competitive world of car cleanliness.


What Is a Regulated Car Wash?

A UK-regulated car wash operates by the industry-specific laws and regulations set forth by local authorities and environmental agencies. These regulations encompass various aspects, including water usage efficiency, proper disposal of chemicals, wastewater management, and adherence to health and safety standards.

In a nutshell, a regulated car wash is committed to meeting the prescribed guidelines, ensuring not only a clean and polished finish for vehicles but also contributing to environmental sustainability and complying with the legal framework governing the car wash industry in the country.

What Is an Unregulated Car Wash?

An unregulated car wash refers to a facility which operates without strict adherence to the aforementioned established laws, regulations, or environmental guidelines governing the car wash industry. In such cases, businesses might not comply with specific water usage, chemical disposal, or wastewater treatment standards.

The absence of regulatory oversight can lead to variations in practices and standards, potentially resulting in environmental concerns or inconsistent service quality. Unregulated car washes may not be subject to the same level of scrutiny as their regulated counterparts, raising questions about their environmental impact and adherence to safety standards.

Furthermore, the lack of regulatory controls in an unregulated car wash business can also have far-reaching consequences for the well-being of workers and the surrounding community. Without proper guidelines, there is a higher likelihood of exploitative labour practices, inadequate employee training, and poor working conditions. In some cases, unregulated car wash businesses have been linked to organised crime and money laundering. The people who work there are sometimes exploited and victims of modern-day slavery. This not only poses risks to the individuals directly involved in the car wash operations but can also contribute to a broader societal problem.


How to Ensure Your Car Wash Is Regulated in the UK

Despite the clear need for tighter regulations of car wash businesses, the UK government is yet to establish a clear licensing scheme.

In May 2023, the prime minister declined to commit to any action after the Conservative MP for Birmingham Northfield Gary Sambrook called in the House of Commons for national licensing rather than the voluntary Responsible Car Wash Scheme (RCWS).

The RCWS is a not-for-profit accreditation scheme created in 2018 to promote compliance and raise standards in the car wash industry following criminal and environmental concerns across the UK. The voluntary RCWS Code of Practice was developed in partnership with Government agencies and through consultation with the industry. It comprises of five sections:

  • Consent to trade and Trading Standards
  • Financial Transparency and Corporate Governance
  • Providing Safe and Hygienic working conditions
  • Protecting the Environment
  • Compliant and Ethical Employment Practices

Read on for more information on how to sign up for the RCWS >


While there’s not yet any official UK regulatory licensing for car washes,  it’ll benefit your business significantly by adhering to some common practices. This not only ensures you are hitting environmental laws and regulations but will also help your conscious customers feel at ease when choosing to use your facilities.

Follow these steps to get you on your way:

  1. Research Local Regulations: Understand the specific laws and regulations governing car wash operations in your local area. Regulations may vary, so it’s crucial to be aware of the requirements set by local authorities.
  2. Environmental Compliance: Pay particular attention to regulations concerning water usage, chemical disposal, and wastewater management. Ensure your car wash practices align with environmentally friendly standards to minimise your impact on the surroundings. Check out our previous blog on how to improve water efficiency at your car wash >
  3. Health and Safety Compliance: Familiarise yourself with health and safety regulations applicable to car wash businesses. Implement proper employee training, equipment maintenance, and safety protocols to meet these standards.

Learn more about health and safety at a car wash >

  1. Business Licensing: Obtain the necessary licenses and permits for operating a car wash business. Check with local authorities to identify the specific permits required in your area.
  2. Waste Disposal Plan: Develop a comprehensive plan for the proper disposal of waste generated during car washing, including wastewater, chemicals, and other materials. Adhering to waste disposal regulations is crucial for environmental compliance.
  3. Employee Training: Ensure your staff are well-trained on regulations, environmental practices, and safety protocols. Regular training sessions can help maintain compliance and enhance the professionalism of your business.
  4. Regular Audits and Inspections: Conduct regular self-audits or hire external inspectors to assess your operations for compliance. Address any issues promptly to maintain regulatory adherence.
  5. Stay Informed: Keep abreast of any changes or updates in regulations related to the car wash industry – in particular any movements regarding national licensing. Regularly check for updates from local environmental agencies and other relevant authorities.


By diligently following these steps, you can help ensure your car wash operates in a responsible and sustainable fashion.


Provide a Top Car Wash Experience with PSD Codax

Here at PSD Codax, we have long provided market-leading car wash technology to car washes across the UK and beyond. Our top-quality range of entry systems, car wash controllers and management software enables business owners to feel at ease that they are offering customers a compliant and well-rounded professional experience.

Our proprietary business management tool WashConnect logs all the data for your car wash location, with full GoBD certification. From washes sold, chemical and utility usage, and staff hours worked to payroll, taxes due and profit/loss analysis letting you focus on growing your business with peace of mind.

Our line of EMV compliant payment terminals secure the payments that support your bottom line, so you will always know what was sold, where and when. Be regulation ready with PSD Codax!

Speak to a member of staff about our range of car wash access technology, get in touch today, if you’re looking for more helpful advice on how to run a successful car wash business, check out our blog page full of expert tips!