Are you one of those people who think you’ll save energy and water if you wash your car at home?
Sorry. Just the opposite is true. When you wash your car in your driveway or on the street, the wash and rinse water – loaded with dirt, exhaust fumes, oil and detergent – runs off down the storm drain and eventually into rivers, lakes and streams. All that dirt can contaminate the water and threaten the fish, birds and other wildlife that live there. Plus, washing a car at home usually uses far more water than at a car wash, since so many people just leave the hose running while they scrub away.
An environmentally-friendly car wash saves water, energy, and chemicals.
Commercial car washes use computer-controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps to minimize water use.
Many facilities also recycle and re-use the rinse water. As a result, automatic car washes may use 50% less water than someone who washes her car at home: 45 gallons per car at the car wash compared to between 80 and 140 gallons at home.
Plus, by law (in both the U.S. and Canada), commercial car washes must drain their wastewater into sewer systems so it can be treated before being discharged back into waterways.
The downside of many commercial car washes is that they use sprays and cleansers on the inside of the car that may contain phthalates and other chemicals you don’t want to inhale. Either bring your own and give them to the cleaning staff, or do the interior cleaning yourself. Make sure you leave the windows in the car down for a few minutes after the cleaning to get fresh air circulating.
If you must wash your car at home:
* Do so on lawn or gravel to minimize run-off into the street.
* Use a biodegradable liquid soap that contains no phosphates or synthetic fragrances. like Dr. Bronner’s , or brands like Greenworks or Bright Green that are easily available in most grocery and big box stores.
* Turn off the hose while you’re soaping the car up; rinse quickly.
* Skip throwaway paper towels in favor of sponges to scrub and cotton towels, used t-shirts or microfibers towels to dry.
My little trick: I often wipe down my car when it’s raining. The rain loosens the dirt and grime; I wipe off the vehicle with towels I can launder. When the rain stops, the car is clean. It didn’t cost me anything, and it didn’t pollute, either.
Want more green living tips? Get your own copy of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World.