auto-clor vs. ecolab

Joined May 8, 2009
Our lease is up on our A-clr one rack dish-washer. We've been renting it for almost 10 years. We've been using eco product in our other dish-washer and our two glass-washers, though, and were strongly considering buying a Jackson machine to replace the A-clr machine. I always thought that it just went without saying; if you can't afford to buy a machine, then you rent one.
But now after talking with eco reps and A-clr reps (who just contradict each other) I'm not sure which way to go...

Any thoughts?
Joined Oct 10, 2005
No one's replied untiil now, I guess

Eco-lab is going to make money one way or the other.

It is cheaper to outright purchase a machine and get the detergent through your local purveyor. Intial cost for doing so is high, but average it out over the next 10 years and it is waaay cheaper.

Unless you're running a hospital or senior's home, you don't need the eco-lab stuff. You can get the soap through your purveyor, hand soap at Costco, specialized chemicals at food equipment dealers or janitorial suppliers, and usually the prices are a substantially cheaper then through Eco-lab. Take a look at other prices.

Remember, with a high-temp dishwaher your sanitizng is achieved with high temperatures, not chemicals.

Low-temp machines use much more "stuff", especially sanitizer (which high temps don't) than high-temp machines. True, high temp machines use a bit more power, but they do the job much, much better--especially on glassware.

Shop around and see who has machines for sale, what is the price, how much power and water do they consume per load, cost, and warranty.

Hope this helps
Joined May 8, 2009
I was kinda expecting more replies, but maybe it's a boring topic.

Why would only a retirement center need to use eco products?
Another assumption I made about dish-washing machines is that the high temp machines are nicer (cleaner dishes), but use more than "a bit" more power. But you're saying that it's not that much power? I'll look into it then. Thanks for the reply.

Oh, btw, one of the reasons I don't want to buy detergents from Costco is that with A-clr and eco, I get free PROMPT repairs (minus parts if not renting machine). Very useful. I'm not sure I want to lose that service.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
High temp machines need hot water. If your regular h/w heater is good then you only need a booster heater, which boosts the water temp. Many senior's homes have the hot water temps set very low so residents don't scald themselves, an require a separate hot water hater for the kitchen. If you have 220 volt 3 phase wiring, then you can lower your power consumption a bit. A low temp machine will still require power to run the pump and of course regualr hot water as well. Low temps are notorius for sucking up sanitizer and detergent, they also do a poorer job on glassware simply because the water isn't hot enough to clear off lipstick, fingerprints, grease, etc.

Never said to buy detergent at Costco. Costco usually only sells powdered detergent: Nasty stuff, it is abrasive and harsh, and very wasteful when compared to liquid detergent metered out by d/w machines. It's also very hard on your machines

Most purveyors--the kind you get your produce and staples from--will carry liquid detergent and rinse aid, most purveyors will carry a partial line of cleaning and sanitizing stuff, you order it in with your regular orders.

Hospitals and senior's homes require very thorough sanitizing, and it's to be expected when feeding people with compromised immune systems. Health inspectors and internal management require very thorough sanitizing procedures and prefer brand name products. Eco-lab is great, but Generic stuff is just as good.

Servicing A good dishwasher only needs servicing maybe once a year--provided YOU keep up with daily maintenence and supervision of the actual dishwasher operating the machine. Dishware MUST be scraped clean before loading. If you don't, food debris gets caught in the pump and pump impellor, in the filters and filter baskets, in the spray arms, and in the rinse arms. Stuff like baby clams, toothpicks, wrappers, citrus seeds etc, wreak right havoc with the machines. This stuff can be removed easily, but you have to catch it early. Same goes for grease, even hot water water won't keep the interior of the machine clean, can't stuff a plate with a 1/4" of bacon or prime rib fat on it, and expect the machine to keep itself grease free.

Sanitizer, by it's very nature is very corrosive, and the feed lines to a low temp machine need to be replaced much more often. High temp machines don't require sanitizer.

Big boys like eco-lab like to do a package deal. Soaps and stuff for the kitchen and bar, handsoap and air fresheners for the guest rooms, etc. It all costs money, and if a supplier can't make money they won't offer the service. It's your money. A creative owner/manager will source different suppliers for soap, paper products, cleaning products, etc.

Hope this helps
Joined Oct 10, 2005
I'd recommend buying your machine.....all the companies out there will rip you off if you don't know how to wash dishes and run a machine......ecolab,
puritan, cheney, etc. As the posts say....all it takes is one bar straw to get caught in the wrong place and the concentration levels fall and you rip through solid power or the like at $80 a cs like crazy....take the time to learn about your machine....figure out whether its better to dispense detergent by cycle or with a concentration meter....don't let the company you pick set the
concentration levels at optimum....its twice to much and costs you way to sure and use delimer and maintain your machine....above all know your machine and monitor your chemicals...good luck
Joined May 8, 2009
That would actually be the biggest difference between the two competitors:
A-clr charges per rack, not for detergent used.
Eco charges for detergent.
In fact that's what Eco guys keep saying, "I don't sell dish-machines, I sell detergent".

That said, it would behoove A-clr to over dilute their detergent and Eco to run their mix rich. I don't believe the people that I've dealt with, on either side, would try to pull that with us. We're a fairly big account and it would be stupid of them to "kill the goose", so to speak.

Both companies rent machines, and they want you to rent -not buy.
We're buying. That's all there is to it. We're not signing another contract.

I just wanted some outside references; some opinions from people who don't stand to benefit from our decision.
You've given me that, so...

Joined Jun 25, 2009
Dear Left4bread,
I am a Auto-Chlor Representative. I have worked in this industry for 10 years and possess a bit of knowlede in this area.
Please know that I am not sending you this message to try to direct you one way or the other.
I am only sending this to try to help you make an informed decision. You can do the math yourself.

To really know if it is a good decision to purchase your own machine you need to figure out how much money you will save each billing period and divide that # by the price of the equipment you plan to purchase.

To do this you will need your last 6 invoices from AC. If you do not have these call your AC office and they will get those for you.

You will find the "Total DW Cost" toward the top right of your invoice, this is the cost of your dishwasher rental and extra racks wash combined. It does not include any extra items such as janitorial supplies or tax. Only the cost of operating your dishwasher for the 4 week period.
Add up all six invoices and divide by 6. This will give you the Average dishwashing bill for the last 6 periods.
Now add up the racks washed on each invoice and divide by 6. this will give you the Average racks washed per 4 week period. you will find this number on the top left of the invoice marked "Racks".
I assume Ecolab has proposed an Estimated per load cost and am going to guess that that cost is around 4.9 cents per load.

The rest is simple.
Take your average racks washed and multiply by the estimated per load cost of 4.9 cents.

Example: Lets say your run 8000 racks per 4 week period.

4.9 x 8000 = $392.00 chemical purchase for your machine.

Average dishwashing bill from AC = $412.00

Savings of $20.00

Now take the savings amount and divide that by the purchase amount of the machine and you will find the amount of time it will take to regain the money you have paid for your investment.

Cost of machine $3500.00 divided by $20.00 = 175 four week periods or 13 years.

You will also have to pay for parts that may wear during this time.
Something that you do not do currently if you have an Auto-Chlor machine.

Now you just have to decide if the amount of time to regain your investment back makes sense for your business or if you would be better off investing that money someplace else.

Hopefully this has helped you make an informed business decision about your potential investment.


Joined Oct 10, 2005
I've got trouble with those numbers....

8,000 racks per 4 week period = 2,000 racks per week, or 285 racks per day (assuming its a 7 day/week operation)

One d/w cycle is 120 seconds, or two minutes . 285 x 2 = 570, divided by 60 (minutes in an hour), gives me a figure of 9.5.

Or in kitchen-speak, the dishwasher is running 9 and a half hours per day non-stop, or every two- three minutes the whole day, and those numbers are based on a 7/24 operation.

The cost given for a new d/w is $3,500 which leads me to believe that this would be an under-counter model. No undercounter dishwasher can stand that kind of volume for sustained period of time like two or three years.

I'm currently paying $115.00 per 2 x 10 liter (or aprox 5 US gallons) case of detergent, and $175.00 per 2 x 10 ltr case of rinse aid.

Granted, my consumption is based on volume, but $392 for a month's worth of d/w chemicals would be very high. For a larger place with banquet facilities yeah, sure, but for a place with a single tank, under-counter model?
Joined Jun 25, 2009
Rated at 40 racks an hour, an Auto-Chlor Machine has a 90 second cycle time regardless of design (under counter, pass-thru or corner model) and uses only 1.5 (real world) gallons of water.

You are absolutly correct, 8000 loads is an awful lot of loads for an under-counter machine although it could be done, and with good service the machine would last for quite some time.
The machine we are talking about here is a low-temp pass-thru or corner model not an under-counter.
We have many locations that run 10,000 - 12,000 loads on this same machine in a four week period of time.
Lets assume that this location was only open 10 hours a day that would be an average of 28.6 racks an hour to reach 8000 loads in four weeks.
As this person said "we are a fairly big account" this tells me that the loads I have estimated should be in the area of 6,000-10,000 per 4 week period so I split the difference.
$392.00 in chemical costs for four weeks running 8000 loads is actually a ridiculously low cost for chems (Detergent, Sanitizer and Rinse) on this machine. Granted this is based on an estimate.

I would venture to guess that if you measured (cc's or ml's) the amount of chemicals being dispensed into your machine and worked the math you would find that you are spending more than that. Probably more like 5.5 - 8.0 cents per load.
It's easy to do, if you would like to know how let me know.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Fair enough.

I do not like low-temps for a number of reasons, the first being that they usually get the "hairy eyeball" from the health inspector. Usually they (inspectors) want to see inspections every 6 mths for feed lines, pumps, and general corrosion. And they like to see ph strips to test the strength and age of the sanitizer. With high temps all they want to see is the final rinse temp., clean water in the tank and then they're gone

The second reason being that low temps do not do a good as job on glassware as high temps, and more importantly, washed ware takes much longer to dry because the final rinse temperature is much lower than a high temp machine.

The last reason is the cost of sanitizer. True, sanitizer is the lowest priced of the three (detergent, rinse aid, and with low temps, sanitizer). Still it adds a cost that can be avoided by using hot water. And yes, high temps do consume more energy in terms of hot water heating, but then a low temp will still draw hot water as well. So its 6 of one and 1/2 dozen of the other, but for me the benefits are much better with a high temp machine.

Most machines can be set for 90 seconds or 120 seconds. The final rinse time is the same. I find I get better results with the 120 second program. Virtually every new machine now meets the 1.5 US gallon per load water consumption, be it Jackson, Hobart, Berkel, Champion/MD, and a host of European machines that are slowly infiltatrating the N.A market.

Pricing. Cities, purveyors, distances and machines vary greatly. In spite of this, I have found that purchasing chemicals through broad liners or purveyors is usually cheaper--by almost 7%, than going through a chemical company. It is still the same product.
Joined Jun 25, 2009
You have your personal opinion, and I respect that. You know your business better than anybody else does, as does Left4bread.
Whats good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.
I'm not trying to sway the decision to the left or to the right. I'm am only hoping to show these folks a tool to judge weather or not it would be a good investment to purchase their own equipment.
By the way the "Hairy Eyeball" (love this quote) has never been a problem with an Auto-Chlor machine. Health inspectors usually smile when they see one in a kitchen because they know that this equipment gets regular 4 week maintenance from a qualified service tech. It would be unlikly that this location has ever got a negative mark from the health dept on the dish machine in the last 10 years.

Thank you for your responses.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Yes... everyone has their opinion. Problem is, the O.P (original poster) was seeking the opinion of Chefs, and this forum is dedicated to Professional Chefs only. I am sure the O.P has done his due diligence and contacted the AC rep in his area.
Joined May 8, 2009

We received a visit from an AC rep a couple of days after I started this thread. edit: I should say that they did actually mentioned this thread on this site when they visited.
When I realized that my repeated use of the company's name was making the thread show up on the top of a Google search, I went through and edited the names out of my posts.
I apologize for that. It wasn't my intention to draw unnecessary attention to the thread.
So, the replies are, more likely than not, directed towards me, personally. The numbers used are from my place. Yup, 8000 average; 10,000 racks last August.

They found me.

I appreciate the line of conversation, but Foodpump is right: I was seeking the opinions of professional chefs on the matter. Both companies were throwing numbers around and my mind was swimming with stats and numbers. I just wanted a normal conversation, down to earth, with a few peers. I have all of the information from AC already so it's getting kind of redundant in here.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Welcome aboard left4bread!

Do yourself a favour and check the prices on d/w chems with your Broadliner.
Joined Jan 6, 2010
You are all absolutely right. I'm in this business 17 yrs & there is a lot of hog wash being brought up by chemical sales people who are trained to do say exactly the same thing: "I can do it cheaper", "My chemicals are better then..." - & Chef who keeps on beating suppliers' heads over 5% or 10% of the chemical costs that boil down to $30-50 per month. Guys, this is not a food comparison between egg and an egg. There is more to it. You know what really matters? 9:00 pm on Friday when dishmachine is down, guests overflow your restaurant & the guy shows up at your place with confidence to fix problem caused by some knucklehead who thought that leaving a chicken bone on a plate is OK as long as the boss didn't see it.

Get serius, going to Costco, Sam's Club, Home Depot to save 10-15% of your chemical costs that boil down to $30-50 per month? Why not to spend the time on stuff that really matters in your buiness? Besides, Warehouse Clubs will not give you modern dispensers that can help you control usage. The best so far I'd seen is an advice to get your stuff through a Broadline distributor. They usually have the house brands (no dispensers, except for overpriced Sysco stuff made by EL) and the national brands like EL, Puritan (owned by EL), JD, or some regional players - these will have a follow up visit by service tech who will do installation of dispensers that let you have some handle on costs (as long as your own staff does not get the glag, glag method of uing concentrates).

Last remark about glassware and high temp dishmachines. Anything over 160 deg F will speed deterioration of glassware. If your water on final rinse gets to 188-190 deg F, count yourself lucky if your glasses last six months. Low temp washing will remove lipstick, if wash temp is above 155 deg (min) and does excellent job at 160 deg F. Moyer Diebel makes excellent conveyor and "marry-go-around" glasswashers that are widely used in the industry (I do not work for them). They use hot (160 deg) water to wash glasses and COLD water with sanitizer to rine them. You absolutely can not beat the results. Moreover, glasses are nice and cold - to be used immediately without a need to cool them. Low-temp batch style dihwashers do not do too good of a job on glassware, as they use 120-140 deg water and grease or lipstick stains will not get removed. Poorly washed glass will not sheet properly, so it will leave stains. Regular, hot water dishmachine does good job (except fortoo high final rinse temp) as long as you only process glasses. Once you put your dishes, you get grease introduced into the wash tank and the results look poor.

There is more to it. You can make any soap do the trick as long as ... you know what you are doing. This is what you paying for in your chemical purchases: LEVEL OF EXPERTISE. If you are lucky enough to find a chap who actually has enough scientific background in what he is doing - KEEP HIM, even if he is more expensive than Warehouse Club. :thumb:
Joined May 29, 2006
Have dealt with Eco lab many years . They are expensive and so is evertone else
Soaps and detergents are one of the most profitable products sold. Markup probably 300% or better. To lease a machine for 10 years to me does not make sents. Take the monthly lease price and times it by 120 monthes see how muich it comes out to.Plus in most states your paying sales tax on 120 monthly payments. The trick with all these soap companies is these dispensers can be regulated by them to use chemicals in excess. The liquid detergents are 85 % water and the powders 85% potash or fillers.
Some of the dispensers were invented by Rube Goldberg( hope everyone has heard of him). Negotiate,Negotiate, Bargain, Bargain. Get best prices you can and maintain your machine to keep it running well. Don't let salesman send in product on his or her own . You figure what you need and you order, don't stockpile you are just tying up your money.
Bleach will clean many things and it sanitizes and is fairly cheap.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
I am going to mention this topic to our owners.. we are currently in a contract with ecolab but if we look at our costs, buying the dish machine outright and then getting the chemicals from local purveyors might serve us well. We have already done away the knife service and bought our own knives (from a restarant supply house) and a sharpener and that is working out well for us.
Joined Jan 6, 2010
Yes, you guys right about the dishmachine lease being expensive. Yes, you are right about soaps being very profitable (no, it is not 300% - more like 1,000%). However, the chemicals and packaging are not what you are buying. You are buying someone's knowledge and servicing (Vehicle, tools, payroll, benefits, and the whole overhead), so he can point to you that BLEACH DOES NOT CLEAN but only optically whitens surfaces and that its prolonged usage will cause surface degradation (unless you slept through your HS chemistry course and have no clue). He can also help to get that dishmachine going after hours (when your service company charges overtime or lets you wait till next day), so you can run your restaurant. What are you buying in the lease is the maintenance, parts replacement at N/C, emergency service, training of your always rotating staff, etc. Yes, it is like a lottery. You sometimes pay for... nothing. Everything runs smoothly, machine never breaks, dishes are always clean, eh? Then think again. Maybe, just maybe, that service guy does a fantastic job. He is every time making sure to replace parts PROACTIVELY - before they even cause you a major breakdown. maybe he diligently tests water hardness and iron content, does occassional TDS test, tests and adjusts chemicals, replaces squeeze tubes every 2-3 months, replaces feed lines every 9-12 months, makes sure that fresh posters are there, and talks to your staff, so they do not make mistakes. Maybe, just maybe you should count yourself really lucky to have a guy like this. Do not assume then that you do not need him. He becomes an integral part of your operations. he helps you to run it smoothly. He is your PARTNER. So, treat him with respect every partnership deserves. Unfortunately, some people who call themselves Chefs, act like jerks to their service people.

Yes, you can buy a dishmachine. It's like with a car. It runs OK during warranty and then... breaks down Friday evening, leaving you to either pay for overtime (& you are lucky, if service company does not charge you $50-75 for just showing at your dooor). Then are the costs of parts and labor, and taxes, and mileage, and shop supplies - ever scrutinized your repair bill for convection oven? Now, when steamer breaks down, you can always use alternative cooking methods and get same product out to the dining room. When your dishmachine breaks down and you refuse to pay overtime to service guy, you need to pull 3-4 people and get it going with three part sink. You'll feel the pain on a busy night (yes, those things usually break down at night - Murphy's law). Then the extra broken dishes, pissed off staff due to delays, unhappy guests who need to wait half an hour or more fro their meals, lost future sales due to them not considering your place next time, lost sales due to them telling 10 of their best friends about a lousy experience at your restaurant. Then you wonder why so many restaurants never make it. You need to look for PARTNERSHIPS in this business - low prices are OK (& that's part of the job to look after them) but they are not EVERYTHING.

So, do as you wish. The best way (out in Hamilton, leeniek) is to get EL head to head with JD and a local supplier (EL is in Mississauga and JD in Oakville, so they should both have decent and hungry sales people to sharpen their pens for you and they both offer leased dishmachines). Better yet, get GFS (JD) and Sysco (EL & JD) involved to put extra pressure on EL & JD . Let them do surveys, pointing out each other's shortcomings and you just listen, judge, and make the best decision for YOUR business.

After all, when all is said and done, your customers (while vitally interested in how clean your ware is) came to enjoy a meal - not just a look of clean plates. Do what you do best: COOK excellent meals, get best wait staff, and let your guests COME BACK - this is the only way you will make it in this business.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
My suggestion is to get a new dish maschine, make sure your building's hot water heater is up to snuff, and....... to have a REAL "Chef".

By real, I mean the person who trains EACH person operating the d/w what to do: how to pre-rinse, how to scrape out grease and crud from pots and pans with newspaper or box tops, how to drain the tank, how to look in the spray arms for blockages, how to clean the tank, how to monitor temp and detergent levels. This is the job of the Chef, and a good one will, ontop of this have, a 6 mth inspection for ALL mechanical equipment. Preventive maintainence, I beleive it's called.

With EL and the like, the sales guy and the soap come as an inseperable package, either take the whole thing or nothing, and then there's the "Extras" like special soaps (and of course, special dispensors) for guest washrooms, cleaning materials and detergents, and on and on.

Your choice, or rather your manger's choice.
Joined May 8, 2009

...OR rather, the owner's choice :p

I appreciate the CPR on this thread. It is actually STILL an issue I'm dealing with personally. I, speaking for myself, feel better about using EL because it's a product that our broadliner carries and my broadliner rep used to be an EL rep. If I feel unattended to, he WILL make sure that our needs are met. It's been put to test. I'm not sure if they are just trying to win my favor, but I've been given quite a bit of free detergent...They seem to be quite giving.
I've got the machine that uses their product set to use MINIMAL detergent and miniscule rinse: they know and set it up for me that way. Also, they told me NOT to buy their sanitation product; that bleach was cheaper... an angle perhaps? Nonetheless, I still feel comfortable and safe with EL...

You are right, foodpump, the machines need to be checked every shift. Thankfully, we have a couple mechanics on staff who can easily deal with w/e problems the dishmachine can throw at us. I glean what I can from them. The machines are pretty simple, but when it comes to a pump problem or a motor problem, I'm kinda lost.

The machines, though, DO get abused. There's no avoiding it.

That's all I got for now...
you guys keep talking, I'll keep reading :p (thanks)
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