Greener Car Washing

Here are some little know facts about car washing:

Washing your car at home with a hose wastes a lot more water than at the car wash. This doesn’t seem possible to those of us who have done both, but this is a fact. If you really think about it, it makes sense. The water sprayers at the car wash are highly powered and very focused. Water is metered out in an even stream for a preset period of time. It is impossible to do the same thing with a water hose at home. A lot of water is wasted while you’re soaping up, rinsing off, lifting the wipers, scrubbing the windows, etc… while at the car wash, all of this is done at the same time. As a result, professional car washes can save between 35 and 95 gallons of water per wash

But even more important than the water you are wasting is the polluted crap that ends up washing away with it. It takes oil, grease, mud, rubber, even gasoline off of car and into the storm water system. This ends up being untreated water that then runs off into the waterways and oceans. It is actually environmentally cruel to wash your car in your driveway!

Professional car washes are required by law to drain the wastewater into sewer systems that will be treated. And if you look and are lucky enough to find an eco-friendly car wash in your area, you’ll also find less-toxic detergents along with innovative ways to conserve (such as “waterless” car washes available in some cities) and even recycle the water.

But here are some great tips for those of you who must wash the car at home or don’t have a car wash located nearby:

To conserve water do not run the hose the entire time you are washing. Fix the hose with a nozzle that shuts on and off. You can just turn it on to rinse and off while you’re scrubbing. Also, try to use more than one bucket. You use less water by doing this. Keep clean rinse water in one and sudsy soapy water in the other. Before dipping your sponge in the soap you can dip it in the clean water and this will reduce the amount of water you need to change out and the amount of soap you will use. An even better water conservation practice is to use recycled gray water if you have it or put buckets out during rains and keep the rainwater for this use.

Also try to find natural or “green” car wash products. The regular products you are used to using are typically petroleum based and can contain known carcinogens. Try a homemade recipe using chlorine-free, phosphate-free, vegetable-based detergents and recycled water where possible.

To make your own natural non toxic car wash soap, mix together 1/2 cup liquid dish washing detergent and 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent in 2 gallons water. This will take off everything and leave your car squeaky clean.

And remember that where you wash your car can make a big difference. You should try to choose a shady spot on the lawn so the sun won’t evaporate water quickly or dry out the soap and make you use more. Also, the grass will act as a filter for the runoff, keeping the toxins out of the storm drains. If you wash your car regularly, a waterless car wash product can work really well to keep it clean.

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