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Conserve Water and Ditch the Chemicals for Your Next Car Wash

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A thorough scrubbing is good for your car; it gets the gunk off before it can cause damage, protects the life of your paint job, and it makes it oh-so pretty. But car washes are not necessarily good for the Earth because a typical car wash uses a ton of water and soap that saps resources and pollutes organic water sources.

According to Rodale’s Organic Life writer Jean Nick, that water and soap washes away dirt, grime, oil, and other toxic substances from your vehicle into the closest storm drain, which eventually pool into lakes or rivers in close proximity.

But a healthy Earth doesn’t necessarily equal a filthy car (which is bad for the environment, too!); there are ways to wash your car without sacrificing the health of this beloved planet.

If you’re washing your car by hand at your residence, the first step toward a greener wash is to relocate your vehicle from the pavement to a more “permeable surface like your lawn, gravel, or dirt,” recommends Nick. This way, the more porous surface can absorb and break down the yuck from the rinse water and stop it from settling into your storm drain.

A self-service car wash is really the best of both washing worlds—it combines the satisfaction of hand-washing with Earth-friendly techniques like collecting the runoff water and delivering it to a plant for treatment, using only about 15 gallons of water, and allowing drivers to tote their own biodegradable dish soap, according to Nick.

Even though drive-thru car washes use about 35-50 gallons of water, which is more than a self-service wash does, it’s still significantly less water than what you’d be draining at home, according to Nick. To be as eco-friendly as possible at a drive-thru wash, Nick suggests refraining from the waxes and extra treatments offered.

A waterless car wash is possible, too, with pre-made, eco-friendly waterless car wash products, according to Nick.

News Source: Rodale’s Organic Life