If you own a vehicle, you’re faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to go to a car wash or to wash your vehicle at home. For the eco-friendly vehicle owner, the question arises, which is best for the environment? To help answer this question we’ll look at the pros and cons of both methods as well as some eco-friendly alternatives.
According to data from the International Carwash Association, the average commercial car wash system uses less than 45 gallons of water. This is half the amount of water that even the most environmentally conscious detailer would use.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 stipulates that car washes in the US and Canada must drain the water into the correct drainage channels in order to be reused and protect the drinking water against pollution. Car washes also use more water efficient machines that are electronically controlled. These commercial facilities recycle their water to be reused where-as at home detailers don’t.
When washing your vehicle at home you can expect to use 80 to 140 gallons of water. This really isn’t the worst. The gas, oil, exhaust, and toxic substances used for cleaning are washed directly into sewers that then flow into streams and creeks.
This means that every time you wash your vehicle you are essentially putting toxic substances back into the water which poses environmental risks. With that said there are still a number of great eco-friendly alternatives if you are dead-set on washing your vehicle at home.
Products labeled as biodegradable are usually good enough. This label simply means that the soap is capable of breaking down over time. It doesn’t mean that it is necessarily better for animals or the environment. When looking at products labeled biodegradable, also look for non-toxic.
Essentially you want to avoid products that contain: petroleum, distillates, and silicone.
Create Your Own Soap
You can create your own car wash solution at home by mixing one cup of dishwashing soap to 3 liters of water. This solution can be used throughout the exterior of the vehicle and can also be safely disposed of.
Waterless Car Wash
You may consider an eco-friendly product like a waterless car wash. Auto-essentials lists a few pros and cons and the most notable con is the use of other chemicals since they aren’t water-based. With that said they are non-toxic, and biodegradable. If you live in a state with harsh water restrictions, this type of product may be your own solution.
Environmentally Friendly Car Washing Tips
You should consider using microfiber clothes as they are more absorbent than traditional paper towels and can be reused as they are washer safe.
If you wash your vehicle on your driveway, you want to ensure that you wipe and disperse of any remaining soaps. This prevents thirsty animals from drinking the toxic residue. Then again if you opted for non-toxic products this wouldn’t be an issue.
Use a foam cannon or a nozzle on your hose to control the water flow. This allows you to use minimal water, rather than wasting it.
Consider using a two bucket wash to clean your vehicle. In this case you are limiting the amount of water that is used and can potentially contaminate the water supply.
Wring your sponges and rags into your buckets of water rather than on the ground.