Greener Car Washing

Jessica Harlan by Jessica Harlan | August 18th, 2009 | No Comments
topic: Green Living

We just got back from camping in the redwoods and I am truly impressed by the amount of dirt we ended up bringing back with us — on our clothes, in our hair, between our 6-month old’s fingers and toes and especially on our car. While it was easy to jump in the shower and give Riley a bath, the car posed a dilemma. After a week of camping and a lot of driving, neither of us really wanted to go out there and wash the car.

Luckily, a little research delivered the perfect excuse for letting someone else wash the car: waste and pollution. Washing a car at home with a hose wastes a lot more water than at the car wash. Even more importantly, all that wasted water takes with it oil, grease, mud, rubber, and gasoline from your car. The dirty water enters the storm water system untreated and eventually the waterways and oceans.

Professional car washes can save between 35 and 95 gallons of water per wash. They also pollute less because they are required by law to drain the wastewater into sewer systems that will be treated. If you 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 water.

If you must wash at home, it’s important to green the process as much as possible. Here’s how:

Conserve water
Resist the urge to run the hose the entire time you’re washing. Use a nozzle that enables you to shut it off without having to run back to the spigot every time. It’s also a good idea to have two buckets — one with sudsy water and the other with clean rinse water. Before re-dipping your sponge in the sudsy water, rinse it in the clean water. This way you’ll reduce the number of times you have to refill the sudsy water bucket and thus the amount of soap and water you’ll need. Even better, recycle household grey water or rainwater for this job.

Use greener soap
Car wash products are typically petroleum based and many contain known carcinogens. Try this homemade recipe using chlorine-free, phosphate-free, vegetable-based detergents.

Easy car soap
1/2 cup liquid dishwashing detergent
1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent
2 gallons water

Choose a green spot
Where you wash your car can make a big difference. Find a shady spot on the lawn and you’ll save water because the sun won’t bake on your suds making it more difficult to rinse. Also, the lawn will act as a filter 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.

That said — if you’re like me and can think of a million things you’d rather do than wash the car, you’ll skip the home car wash all together and be more than happy to leave this job to the professionals!


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