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The Environment

The Hazards of Home Car Washing

Few people realize that washing their cars in their driveways is one of the most environmentally un-friendly chores we can do around the house.  Unlike household waste water that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into storm drains – and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks other ecosystem havoc.  After all, that water is loaded with a witches brew of gasoline, oil and residues from exhaust fumes – as well as the harsh detergents being used for the washing itself.

Soap and water loosen oil and grime, but they also pick up and hold onto all sorts of particles.  Car wash water can contain grease, elements from brake linings, rust and trace amounts of benzene, chromium and other nasty things toxic to fish and other animals.

Did you know that there are NO acceptable detergents or soaps that can be discharged to a surface waterbody without treatment?  There are NO licensed or approved products that may be used to wash vehicles outside.  Even non-phosphate ‘biodegradable” soaps must not be allowed to enter a surface water directly.  These products contain ingredients that may cause unsightly foaming in receiving waters and can be toxic to sensitive stream organisms at small concentrations.  Research has shown that even the smallest amount of soap can cause fish to absorb other pollutants in the water.

Car washing at home has the potential to release these elements into the environment virtually unchecked!
Home car washers are typically not aware of the water quality consequences of car washing, and do not understand the chemical content of the soaps and detergents they use.  Most home car washers do not realize the amount of water consumption they use and that almost all commercial car washes use up to 60 percent less water in the ENTIRE washing process than a simple home wash uses just to rinse off a car.

Average Water Consumed Washing Your Car

Professional Car Washing

Federal law requires commercial car wash facilities to drain their wastewater into sewer systems, so it gets treated before it is discharged back into the great outdoors.  And commercial car washes use computer controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps that minimize water usage.  From observing the table above “Average Water Consumed Washing Your Car”, it demonstrates how an automatic car wash uses almost half the water of even the most careful home car washer.
Professional car washes use sophisticated technology and specially designed equipment to conserve water.  The contaminants are washed off and channeled through sanitation sewers to water treatment plants.  Home car washing wastes water, and soap and dirt end up in storm sewers which flow into our lakes, streams and rivers – polluting our environment.