Cars are so convenient, but also create so many environmental challenges. That’s true not just when using them, but also when cleaning them.
The issues are water usage and toxic cleaners. An inefficient car wash can waste a lot of water, and many cleaners are very harmful to the environment. To make things worse, runoff from a car wash is usually allowed to enter storm drains, which take the toxic waste directly to local streams and rivers.
Here are seven tips for a greener car wash:
1) Use a certifiably green cleaner. I’ve previously talked about and recommended Simple Green, a biodegradable green cleaner that bears the highly meaningful Green Seal certification for environmental responsibility. A 1:1 solution of water and Simple Green will make easy work of the toughest car wash jobs. Using a non-toxic, phosphate-free cleaner will go a long way towards reducing the environmental footprint when cleaning your car.
2) Use rainwater. If you use a rain barrel, then washing your car is a perfect use for the rainwater you’ve accumulated. The water is a free gift from nature that isn’t taken from your local water supply.
3) Use a bucket as much as possible. Using a bucket for as much of the car wash as you can will save a great deal of water. Save the hose for the final rinse.
4) Use a hose with an adjustable nozzle. Once you’re ready for that last rinse, use an adjustable nozzle that can adjust the water pressure flowing out of the hose. That way you can control exactly how much water you need, instead of splashing uncontrolled water all over the place.
5) Avoid the storm drain as much as possible. This is especially important if you’re not using an environmentally friendly cleaner. That foam will head right to local streams and make a big mess. The less water you use, the less there is to flow into the drain. Also, let water sit around so that it eventually evaporates. You can lessen the amount of water going into the drain by covering it with a rubber mat. You could also wash the car on grass or gravel and let water seep into the ground–though I’d minimize that if you’re not using something biodegradable.
6) Pick the right time of day. Consider washing the car in the early morning when the sun is barely up, or late afternoon as the sky starts getting dark. A cloudy day is also a good choice. If none of these times work for you, then try washing the car in a shady spot. Hot metal will quickly dry up water and cause you to use more of it to avoid water spots.
7) Let your car get a little dirtier. Your car doesn’t really need to be washed every week, does it? Can you get away with once a month? Obviously the fewer you wash the car, the better for the environment. In the interim, you can use a soft cloth every now and then to wipe off dust or pollen.
Hopefully you’ll find these green car wash ideas fairly easy to implement. Also, let’s not forget that using less water also means saving money!