PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — On a trip to the grocery store during the COVID-19 pandemic, Billy VonWolf placed his young son in the shopping cart. Then the father’s wheels started turning: how safe from the novel coronavirus is his son and family while doing their essential errands?
He got together with two other dads, friends of his since grade school in Olathe, Kansas, and came up with a solution: Cart Kings.
VonWolf and his partners say it’s the first mobile, shopping cart sanitizing service in the United States.
“It’s really important for us to keep our kids safe and our families safe,” Rob Albright explained.
The three fathers still work their day jobs, none of which specializes in industrial cleaning. So they brought on a partner with 45 years of experience in the industry to help them find the right chemicals and devise the best application procedure.
A self-contained trailer with a conveyor belt, power washer and several spray nozzles was born. It kind of looks like a miniature, mobile, touch-less car wash or a big dishwasher.
“There’s a process involved here that a lot of the stores are missing today by just cleaning the handle,” Albright pointed out. “We’re cleaning the whole cart. Really sanitizing and cleaning the entire cart, which gets the whole process done.”
Once they set up in a parking lot, the group lines up hundreds of carts and rinses each one as it loads onto the conveyor belt. The trailer sprays carts with extremely hot water then sanitizes carts and covers them in an EPA-approved bio-static, antimicrobial coating, which Albright said keeps viruses and bacteria off the carts for 30 days.
Many companies use similar coatings to eliminate odors on clothing and other materials.
“We thought we hit the motherlode there with that type of chemical. It’s EPA approved, it’s safe for kids to be in the cart and touching,” Albright explained.
Doctors from the University of Kansas Health System said most household cleaners are strong enough to kill the novel coronavirus, so they don’t doubt Cart Kings’ process gets rid of the virus.
Dr. Dana Hawkinson, the medical director of infection prevention and control, said he doesn’t know enough about the particular bio-static coating Cart Kings uses to comment on its effectiveness. He said COVID-19 most often spreads through the air, and a process like the one Cart Kings uses wouldn’t be a bad thing in preventing the spread of the virus, but he still suggests people wash their hands after using a shopping cart.
“[The virus] only becomes a problem when you start touching your face, particularly your eyes, your nose, your mouth,” Hawkinson said.
Before the Cart Kings clean and sanitize the carts, they swab a handful of carts to see which viruses, germs and bacteria live on the carts.
Albright said they’ve found coronavirus, influenza, E. coli, and so much more on carts.
He said a reading of 30 RLU is dirty and they’ve had results come back as high as 2,000 RLU. When carts leave the trailer, they typically read between 10 and 20 RLU.
Albright believes numbers like that will keep his company in demand even after the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why the group is looking to expand across the Midwest and country.
“A lot of the grocery stores don’t understand how dirty their carts are,” he pointed out.
The Cart Kings trailer collects the water and sanitizer it sprays on carts so nothing ends up in the drainage system. You can see which stores use Cart Kings on its website.
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