Hector Rodriguez smelled an opportunity while pressure washing garbage cans to earn extra money.
He realized he could launch a business offering the service, as he knew just how stinky and filthy garbage bins could be. They also can be a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, especially on hot days.
He launched Teto Eco Wash about two years ago, knowing the service filled a niche.
He acquired a specially designed truck to dispatch to homes or businesses. It lifts bins like a garbage truck and then blasts the insides with hot water and an environmentally-friendly soap.
“Seeing people’s expressions was a game changer. When they’d say, ‘I haven’t seen my bin so clean in years,’ it was really rewarding,” Rodriguez said.
Kennewick-based Teto Eco Wash offers a variety of payment plans for the service in Benton and Franklin counties.
He said the business is eco-friendly. When people flip garbage cans over after hosing them out, the residue that leaks onto the ground can attract pests. He said the cans can become breeding grounds for not only smells but salmonella, E. coli, listeria and other bacteria, and pests like rodents, flies and wasps.
Waste and residue can build up in bigger, commercial dumpsters multiplying the smell and gross factor, he said.
Rodriguez, 32, said the products his company uses to clean dumpsters and garbage cans are 100% environmentally friendly.
“It doesn’t do any damage to any person or any animal. We’ve done a lot of research that these chemicals don’t affect anybody and are 100% eco-friendly. That’s why we wanted to call ourselves Eco Wash,” he said.
The name Teto comes from the nickname he had growing up in Walla Walla. He also likes that it stands for “trust, eco, time and optimism,” which he considers the cornerstone values of his business.
To finance his new business, Rodriguez got creative. He sold all his “trucks and toys” and plowed the money into his new venture. He didn’t require any financing.
“We started doing it by hand as a side job. It was basically for tips until we had enough funds to license it. Everything we’ve done has been pushed back into the business,” he said.
Rodriguez said he’s been able to expand the business, mostly through word of mouth.
Teto Eco Wash employs three people, and Rodriguez recently quit his day job to focus on promoting and growing it.
Today he uses a modified truck, which can lift up to 10 tons. Water heated to 250 degrees shoots into the bins and dumpsters with a hopper catching the runoff. He disposes of the gray water at RV dump sites.
He says this is better for the environment than any do-it-yourself method that runs into storm drains.
The bins are hand-dried so no water is left behind. Teto Eco Wash also offers the application of an additional fresh scent deodorizer – it’s $1.50 extra – to ensure “it smells nice and clean.”
The business’ truck can handle up to 100 loads per day, and Rodriguez planned to add another truck to his fleet by the end of the year.
“As we’re taking on more projects, we need to bring in more equipment,” he said.
Rodriguez has his elevator speech down to promote his business because he knows people are skeptical: What’s the point of it? Do I really need my garbage cans cleaned if they’re going to get dirty again?
“What’s the point of sanitizing your hands?” Rodriguez said. “Why are people sweeping floors if it’s dusty? It’s the same concept.”
He brings up the Apple Watch. Fifteen years ago when it was first introduced, people were skeptical. They said they didn’t need it when they already had a smartphone, Rodriguez said.
“Fast forward to now. We can’t go without knowing how many calories we burn in a day. Or not getting a message on your wrist,” he said, saying regularly servicing dumpsters also should become a part of our daily routine.
EverStar Realty in Kennewick signed up for Teto Eco Wash’s service in December 2021 after seeing a demonstration on how the process worked.
Vera Owens, EverStar’s portfolio manager for multifamily properties, was impressed that there was no mess and it was so self-contained. She signed up 13 of her multifamily properties for the quarterly service, saying the rates and customer service have been amazing. Four of EverStar’s commercial properties also use Eco Wash.
“You don’t think there’s a need for it until it’s done. It’s kind of like a haircut,” Owens said.
Just how much does the service cost?
Regular household bins ranging in size from 96 to 98 gallons run $14.99 a month, $28.99 quarterly or $38.99 biannually.
Commercial dumpster service (1 to 10 cubic yard dumpsters) is offered monthly ($200) or quarterly ($350). Rodriguez said he used to offer commercial service biannually but to maintain good dumpster hygiene it required more frequency.
“It was just killing us with labor. Some of the dumpsters, after a week or two, are back to being really nasty,” he said.
He’s optimistic the business will grow as more people learn about it.
“It’s been all about taking risks and having faith that the next big thing is going to happen,” he said.