You've seen their ads on our show, and you see RVers everywhere using it in one form or another. That's probably why Aqua-Kem is the number one-selling holding tank deodorant of all time. Like most folks, we were curious as to what goes into making Aqua-Kem, so we headed over to the Thetford facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to learn firsthand about the operation.
Besides Aqua-Kem, Thetford also makes a lot of other RV products at this location, from toilets, to a large array of RV cleaners, protectants, polishes, and waxes.
When it comes to making any type of chemical product, it all starts in the lab, where formulas are developed and tested. And with today's environment, there are a lot of things to consider, as Thetford's chemical manager, Paula Dumont, explains.
Paula Dumont: "Well, RVers today want to make sure that they are very conscious of the environment. The EPA makes sure we're conscious of the environment, so when we're designing products for RV use, our first and foremost concern is that the products are being used outside, and when you clean your RV, any runoff from that has to be compatible with the environment that it goes in, the campground, so our products are all designed to be direct release, so that means that you can wash your RV with the product and not worry about the runoff because it's completely biodegradable, and even our non DFE products are all biodegradable as well. Some might take a little longer than others, but most of them are readily biodegradable."
Paula: "Right now, we have four scents for Aqua-Kem, and we are constantly innovating every year. We surveyed the marketplace with our fragrance suppliers about what consumer trends in home air care are, and we target the ones that smell the best to us in the lab, and then we take them to our fellow employees, and we have them evaluate and vote on the scent that they like the best."
Now let's head out to the factory and see what the process is for making Aqua-Kem. The one thing that's obvious is there are a whole lot of tanks here, and each one holds a different ingredient that goes into making Aqua-Kem. The tanks are constantly monitored and controlled. When it's time to mix a new batch, the formula is input into the computer, then the proper amount of each chemical is piped over to the mixing vessels. Once everything is mixed, the finished product is stored in these large holding tanks until it's time to be piped over for packaging.
To make the dry form of Aqua-Kem, the dry chemicals are put into these large rotating drums, along with the liquid scent, and mixed for a specific amount of time. Then the powdered mix is put into some very large bags to be transported over to the packaging department. Here, in the dry-packaging line, you'll see the large holding bag on top of the hopper. The dry ingredients are dumped into the hopper, which then feeds the product into the packaging machine. On this line, the ingredients are put into individual packets. The packets are then put into boxes, cased, and they're ready for shipping.
In liquid form, Aqua-Kem is available in various-sized containers. It so happens, the day we were there, they were doing gallon-sized bottles. The empty bottles are dumped into a hopper, where they are fed onto the line. The bottles next go through a unique machine that senses what direction the bottle is facing, and spins the bottle so that they're all facing in the same direction. Now the bottles head to the filling station, where six bottles get filled at once. Next, the caps are put on, and just to make sure the caps are tight, they go through a re-torquing machine. Next, the labels are put on, and the finished product is boxed and ready for shipping.
Now, the next time you open that bottle or take out that packet of Aqua-Kem, you know exactly how it was made and why it's still number one after 50 years. By the way, Thetford has come out with a whole new Aqua-Kem product called Aqua-Kem Shotz, the industry's first micro-concentrated holding tank deodorant. Click here more information on Aqua-Kem and the new Shotz,