Road salt. Tar. Dust. Soap. Copper (from brake pads). Zinc (from tires). Residue from exhaust fumes, gasoline, and motor oils. Suds up your car in the driveway, and that’s what you’re sending down the storm drain and into area wetlands, streams, and lakes. Not to mention the 80 to 140 gallons of water you’ll use to spray off the grime.
So what’s an ecofriendly Northwesterner to do if you don’t want to ride around looking like you just competed in a mud rally?
Go commercial! Whether automated or DIY, commercial washes use about half the water of a driveway wash. And by law, commercial car washes must recycle their water or ensure it drains to a sewer system (so it gets treated before it’s released back into the environment).
Still, if you’d rather pass on the commercial wash price, try these five tricks for a home shine that will leave your car and the environment sparkling:
Wash on grass, not pavement. As water soaks into the soil, it’s naturally filtered so soap and debris particles don’t drain directly to waterways.
Use a flow-restricted nozzle that shuts off between sprays. A constantly running hose makes the water meter spin!
Go easy on the soap. Even green products aren’t totally toxin-free, so the less you use, the better. A couple of tablespoons of dish soap in your wash bucket plus a shot of vinegar (to prevent water spots) is all you need.
Go waterless. If your car isn’t super grubby, you may be able to get by with a spray-on, wipe-off waterless product made just for washing the car. An added bonus – you can do it right in your garage, no matter the weather. (Test it on a small, inconspicuous spot first. If you see even a hint of scratching as you wipe, stop.)
Empty your bucket of dirty water into the sink or toilet. That way, the contaminants it contains go to a wastewater plant for treatment.