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Green Car Wash

Green Car Wash

We like to pretend the most responsible car wash is no car wash at all, but that’s because we’re lazy sods. In truth, keeping your car clean of grime and salt can help prolong its life, which keeps you out of the car-consumption game. So what’s the greenest way to wash the car?

The most water-friendly way to wash the car might surprise you. Doing it at home might be cheaper and handier, but it’s nearly always better to go to the commercial car wash. By mixing air and water half and half, car wash businesses use 60 percent less water in the entire process than you use just rinsing off your car!

U.S. commercial car washes are also required to send their used water off for treatment, or to take other measures that lessen the impact of their discharge. Some of them even reuse their water.
Home washes, on the other hand, waste approximately 116 gallons of water, which usually drains directly to storm sewers, eventually emptying into streams, lakes, rivers, or bays, adversely affecting our fish friends and their habitat.

A survey by the International Carwash Association found that a little under half of Americans prefer to suds up in the driveway, though. So if you do decide to keep washing the car at home, here are a few tips.

  • Try not to do it very often.
  • If you can, park the car on your lawn, which acts as a natural filter for the soaps, dirt, oil, and other gunk that would otherwise run straight into storm drains. (Of course, you might not want that stuff on your lawn, either; see first tip.)
  • Use less water by buying a nozzle that controls the flow from your hose or by using a bucket—this will help you keep an eye on how much you’re using.
  • Collect rain water or lightly used water (like the soapy stuff in your dishwashing bin) from your house and wash with that.
  • Try an eco-friendly soap like Dr. Bronner’s, or no soap at all. The detergents in regular car cleaners hurt fish, and even those labeled biodegradable and low-phosphate can make our fish friends unhappy.

Read more: Life, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, Transportation

Excerpted from "Wake Up and Smell the Planet" (Skipstone, 2007), by Grist.org.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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16 comments

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11:51AM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

good to know

3:05AM PDT on Jun 9, 2011

My boyfriend washes the car at house. He uses a machine that mixes air with the water.
With this machine, he washes tha all car using a few liters of waters.

4:23AM PST on Jan 25, 2011

Thanks for the info.

5:49PM PDT on Oct 14, 2010

Interesting. Here I was, all bent out
of shape because my landlord won't
let us wash our cars on the property.
I've been going to a commercial car
wash for over a year now and didn't
know that I was being a good citizen!

8:25AM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

I hand wash the car

6:42AM PDT on Jun 5, 2010

Having collected quite a few car stickers, i've been patiently waiting for school to let out so my grands can help me wash the car & decorate it! Maybe we'll wait for rain ... expected nxt wk!
Thanks! :D

1:33PM PDT on Apr 19, 2010

thank you

8:28AM PST on Nov 25, 2009

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8:26AM PST on Nov 25, 2009

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11:20AM PDT on Apr 21, 2008

Those tips are great. But if you're going to wash your car...there are a lot of great products out there for entirely waterless washing. There's Eco Touch, Lucky Earth, Biokleen...the list goes on. Of those, I've only used Eco Touch. But it works really well and one bottle saves 800 gallons of water.

You can check out more about waterless car care at the Green Home Huddle: http://greenhome.huddler.com/products/category/car-care

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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