Monday, June 26, 2017

BLOG: Clean Car, Less Water

by Sally Phillips, freelance writer

If you're washing your car at home, you could be wasting a lot of water. The average home car wash uses about 80 to 140 gallons of water. This water picks up all the pollutants off your car, such as fuel, gas, oil, and tar and mixes it with the soapy car wash ingredients. This soapy, oily mixture then flows from your yard, to the storm drain, and ultimately to streams and lakes where it damages the environment and causes harm to marine animals. So how can we keep our car in top shape while still protecting the Earth and its fellow inhabitants? Here are some eco-friendly tips for washing your car at home.

Do Away with the Open Hose
Many people prefer washing their car at home, but to reduce the amount of water you use, try an automatic shutoff nozzle for your hose. This nozzle prevents the continuous flow of water and can save up to 70 gallons of water per wash. You can also use a power washer, which uses about 2-5 gallons of water per minute, compared to an open hose which uses 10 gallons per minute. Simply using a bucket is also a great way to manage how much water you use. Fill your buckets with water and refill only when necessary. This will allow you to calculate exactly how much water you’re using and force you to cut down.

Watch Where You Wash Your Car
Most people wash their car in their driveway, but this water goes directly to the storm drains. These typically don’t lead to sewage treatment plants but instead go directly into our lakes and streams. An eco-friendly approach to car cleaning is to move your vehicle to a grass or gravel surface. This allows the ground to soak some of the water and filter out the harmful contaminants that make their way into runoff water.

Use the Right Products
Many soaps that we use to wash our cars have chemicals that are harmful to the environment. These chemicals decrease water quality and damage the life of aquatic species. Instead, opt for a waterless cleaner. You can get a spray-on product and wash your car with minimal or no water at all. These solutions are also biodegradable so they don’t add any chemicals or pollutants to the environment. Simply spray on your car and use a microfiber towel to remove dirt.

Following these three tips will help reduce the amount of water you use when washing your car, and ultimately protect the aquatic environment from harmful pollutants.


Sally Phillips is a freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible. Reach her at

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

1 comment:

Mike Weimar said...

It really seems like you used to see a lot more people with buckets washing their cars vs. just letting the water run. Water isn't really any cheaper now than it was, and you still need a place to put your soap. So why the shift? I also wonder where exactly the drains in a self-service car wash lead to. You would hope it would be someplace filtered and cleaned, but I am sure not all of them are.