Eco-Friendly Car Washing

Few people realize that washing our cars in our driveways is one of the most environmentally un-friendly chores we can do around the house. Unlike household waste water that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into storm drains — and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks other ecosystem havoc. After all, that water is loaded with a witch’s brew of gasoline, oil and residues from exhaust fumes — as well as the harsh detergents being used for the washing itself.

green car wash

Commercial Car Washes Treat Waste Water
On the other hand, federal laws in both the U.S. and Canada require commercial carwash facilities to drain their wastewater into sewer systems, so it gets treated before it is discharged back into the great outdoors. And commercial car washes use computer controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps that minimize water usage. Many also recycle and re-use the rinse water.

The International Carwash Association, an industry group representing commercial car wash companies, reports that automatic car washes use less than half the water of even the most careful home car washer. According to one report, washing a car at home typically uses between 80 and 140 gallons of water, while a commercial car wash averages less than 45 gallons per car.

Think Green When Washing Your Car
If you must wash your car at home, choose a biodegradable soap specifically formulated for automotive parts, such as Simple Green’s Car Wash or Gliptone’s Wash ‘n Glow. Or you can make your own biodegradable car wash by mixing one cup of liquid dishwashing detergent and 3/4 cup of powdered laundry detergent (each should be chlorine- and phosphate-free and non-petroleum-based) with three gallons of water. This concentrate can then be used sparingly with water over exterior car surfaces.

Even when using green-friendly cleaners, it is better to avoid the driveway and instead wash your car on your lawn or over dirt so that the toxic waste water can be absorbed and neutralized in soil instead of flowing directly into storm drains or open water bodies. Also, try to sop up or disperse those sudsy puddles that remain after you’re done. They contain toxic residues and can tempt thirsty animals.

Waterless Car Wash Products are Good for Small Jobs
One way to avoid such problems altogether is to wash your car using any number of waterless formulas available, which are especially handy for spot cleaning and are applied via spray bottle and then wiped off with a cloth. Freedom Waterless Car Wash is a leading product in this growing field.

A Better Car Wash Option for Fundraising
One last caution: Kids and parents planning a fundraising car wash event should know that they might be violating clean water laws if run-off is not contained and disposed of properly. Washington’s Puget Sound Carwash Association, for one, allows fund-raisers to sell tickets redeemable at local car washes, enabling the organizations to still make money while keeping dry and keeping local waterways clean.

Source: environmental issues

river contamination

Contractor washing construction vehicle in the Komati River

Washing vehicles is a necessary part of maintenance.  However, some people go to extremes and waste f a r too much water just to remove superficial dirt.  Generally, using a bucket as opposed to running water from a hose , will save water.  Eco-friendly cleaning products allow you to wash your car on your lawn- thus saving irrigation water.  As an added bonus, many eco friendly cleaning formulas are better for your car’s paintwork.  In many parts of rural Africa, vehicles are parked in or on the edges of rivers and washed.  This is a normal activity for many with no thought of water contamination from carwash soap and oil and grease from the vehicle. During c onstruction projects, contractors can be heavily fined if any of there vehicles are washed outside of a proper washbay that has oil traps installed.  Many aquatic organisms are super-sensitive to even minute amounts of contaminants.  Edu cation at school level is required to put an end to this environmentally damaging habit. A clean, shiny car is often a source of pride to the owner but it’s not acceptable if the environment is harmed to keep it that way.  Use waterless washing formulas to clear away light dirt and when a major wash is required, try to use an automated car wash that recycles water.  Water Rhapsody have developed a special water recycling system for automated car wash machines; and have begun installing these around southern Africa.  Contact us for all your water conservation needs (we supply and install water tanks too!).

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