Fall is coming — and with it falling leaves which might deposit debris on your car. This is all in addition to the regular kinds of dirt which accumulate over time. We all want to keep our vehicles clean, and the temperate fall weather might make it the right time to seize the moment and clean the car. But when cleaning your car this fall, make sure to keep in mind the various impacts that even a simple car wash can have on the environment.
The first thing is that washing your car at home uses a lot of water. According to the EPA, the typical home car wash uses 116 gallons of water. Not only is this a lot of water — it means a larger water bill too! And if you happen to wash your car on your driveway or any other impermeable surface, it’ll most likely make its way to a storm drain and eventually into our water supply.
This might not seem like an issue, but soaps with phosphates can pose a huge problem if they’re caught in runoff. If enough of these nutrients runoff into our lakes and streams, the algae in the water can begin to grow out of control in an algal bloom. These blooms sap the water of its dissolved oxygen and reduce the ability of other aquatic life to survive. Moreover, they diminish the beauty of our waterways and make them unsuitable for recreation and enjoyment.
Fortunately, there are plenty of sustainable options to choose from when we have to wash our cars. The most sustainable choice is going to a carwash. Car washes have infrastructure which allows them to both recycle used water and keep pollutants out of our water supply. They tend to have new technology that can ensure a more sustainable operation, and overall this is recommended as the best choice for washing your car in an environmentally-safe way.
However, if you would rather wash your car at home, there are plenty of options to make sure you keep the water clean. Consider a biodegradable, phosphate free soap to reduce the risk of water pollution and algal blooms down the line. And try using less soap too – you might find that a little bit of soap can go a long way. Hose nozzles that turn the water off when not being used are great ways to keep your water usage down – they could reduce your water usage by up to 70 gallons. And washing your car on a permeable surface like your yard allows the water to be filtered by the soil. Impermeable surfaces like concrete allow water to runoff and move pollutants into waterways, and avoiding washing your car on them can make a big difference.
Stay safe this fall and enjoy your clean ride in sustainable style! And if you want to read more about sustainable car washing, check out the links below.