It may come as a surprise that washing a car in the driveway or front yard poses many environmental hazards to the surrounding water systems. When soapy water travels to the storm drains, it moves through the system and into surrounding rivers and oceans untreated. Soap, dirt, and debris pollute the water ways and are toxic to wildlife.
In order to minimize the impact of at home car washing, there are many easy tips to employ. Using a biodegradable and environmentally friendly car washing solution reduces the impact on water quality and wildlife. A few drops of biodegradable laundry detergent is also a great alternative over traditional soaps. Location has a big impact on the pollution of the stormwater runoff. Choose to wash in a grassy area so that the grass and soil act as a natural filter and reduce the amount of pollutants that reach the storm drains and surrounding water ways. Lastly, water conservation is imperative to reduce runoff from carrying pollutants to local water ways. A typical garden hose will run about 10 gallons a minute. Therefore, only rinsing at the beginning and end of the wash can save 150 gallons of water per wash.
Professional car washes have many environmental benefits over washing a car at home. Professional car washes are required to drain their waste water to the sewer system instead of the storm system. This ensures that the many chemicals, dirt particles, and other pollutants that come from a dirty car are treated and do not enter the waterways and harm the wildlife and water quality.
Additionally, commercial car washes use high pressure systems that minimize water usage, an important control as the state of California struggles with a severe drought. When compared to over 150 gallons that could be used during a private car wash, a professional car wash only use 45 gallons or less. The conveyor system of professional car washes will recycle the rinse water, resulting in only 16 gallons of new water used per vehicle.
Pollution of stormwater runoff due to car washing may never be completely avoided, even in commercial car wash facilities. Therefore, it is advised to limit car washing. In doing so, water is conserved, pollution is minimized, and the rivers and streams stay clean.