What’s the most eco-friendly way to wash your car? According to some experts, it’s the automatic car wash, which runs vehicles through an efficient series of cleaning processes and minimizes water use and chemical run-off.
But there are additional risks that come with automatic car washes. The dirt and grime from other vehicles can stick to some of the cleaning mechanisms in an automatic car wash and scratch your paint.
Car washes that use brushes instead of pressurized water washing systems could also damage your car, if the brushes aren’t properly maintained.
Despite the energy-efficiency of modern car washes, some people don’t want to risk a scratched car and prefer to wash cars at home. But to minimize harmful effects on the environment, you’ll want to take a few precautions.
Practice water conservation
When washing your car at home, if you let the hose run when it’s not in use, you’ll waste gallons of water. That’s one behavior to avoid, if you’re trying to be eco-friendly. In addition to turning off water flow when it’s not in use, consider buying a high-efficiency water nozzle to reduce the water’s rate of discharge.
Use non-toxic cleaning products
You don’t need to use harsh cleaners and toxic chemicals to clean your car. Earth-friendly cleaners are just as effective and don’t pose a significant threat to the environment. And you can make your own car wash, if you want to save money.
Alternatively, there are organic, non-toxic cleaners meant for exterior car cleaning that are just as effective. You can also use club soda to clean stains inside the vehicle, and spiff-up exterior chrome with rubbing alcohol.
Wash cars on absorbent surfaces
The driveway is the typical locale for do-it-yourself car washings, but this isn’t the most environmentally friendly place to polish your prized vehicle. Car wash runoff can send gallons of water into storm drains and directly into bodies of water in your area. If toxic chemicals are present in the water, this can be devastating to the environmental quality of those water bodies. Even if safe chemicals are used, the waste water can still be disruptive.
Instead of washing a car on the driveway, consider moving the vehicle onto grass or gravel. These porous surfaces will absorb waste water rather than letting it flow unencumbered to the sewers and storm drains. As long as you are using biodegradable products and not harsh chemicals, the ground’s natural filtration processes will help break down the biodegradable compounds and clean the water before it enters the larger water supply.
When it comes to green living, most consumers have to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. An environmentally friendly lifestyle can require some sacrifices that are impractical in some cases and impossible in others. But even if some aspects of your life aren’t completely green, there are always small steps you can take to reduce your negative impact on the environment.