Green Tip #159: Use a Commercial Car Wash

commercial car wash
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You might think that using a commercial car wash would be the worst for the environment and your pocket book but this is not the case. In fact, washing your car at home in your driveway is the worst thing to do. It may seem harmless to vacuum your car, wash the dirt off and then buff it to a shine with creams or waxes, but the soapy suds that flow down your driveway to the sewer join storm water runoff and end up in a nearby lake or river. That means your untreated, grimy water heads straight into the lakes and oceans of this planet.

Also, that dirt on your car is a mixture of exhaust fumes, gasoline and motor oil mixed with lubricants, tar, suspended matter, heavy metals, hydrocarbons and micro-organisms. This is not something you want to return back to Mother Nature.

Instead use a commercial car wash. Commercial car washes are typically not allowed to let rinse water run down into storm drains unless it’s been treated as wastewater. They also use at minimum of 50 percent less water than the average home wash.

So next time your car is dirty, take it your local eco-friendly car wash vendor and save yourself the work and Mother Nature the pollution.

18 thoughts on “Green Tip #159: Use a Commercial Car Wash

  1. This is a great tip for people who drive run of the mill cars. For anyone who wants to keep their paint job in top notch shape, these commercial places are terrible. Guaranteed scratches your first time through one.

    I did use these places when I drove a Geo Prizm though. Just good to remember that sometimes if you want the best, it’s better to do it yourself.

    1. There are places that do detailing cleanings and fancy cars. You would just need to find the one in your area. The other option is to go to a DIY car wash place where they have all the water treatment facilities, etc there. You can still wash your car by hand but in an appropriate place.

  2. We have a car wash which can accommodate RVs, but I have solar panels attached permanently to the roof of the RV and it is getting dirty and want to wash it. But can a commercial car wash with its brushes harm the solar panels on the roof.

  3. Thanks for letting me know- I had an inkling but I guess was playing ignorant because its cheaper to clean the car at home than taking it regularly to a wash.

    I’m going to take my car to get a good clean soon (not at home!).


  4. I’ll add that not washing your car at all would be the most sustainable. I can’t remember the last time I washed mine. Of course that could be frugality, environmentalism or laziness… I plead the fifth, but I rarely find my car too dirty to drive ;)

    1. Good point. I think it really depends on where you live and what gets on your car. For example, in Canada where I live they use a lot of salt and sand in the winter to keep the road safe to drive on. When you get this mixture on your car it accelerates the rusting process. Therefore, I wash it regularly so that I can prevent this. If I lived a climate that was sun all of the time with clean roads, I probably wouldn’t wash my car either.

  5. Great news! Finally, getting my car washed commercially (the lazy route) is actually good for the environment. Thanks for that info.

  6. Wash your car and consider the environment.

    Probably the greenest car wash in the country and possibly the world exists in Tempe, AZ.

    1. They cleaned up an abandoned gas station and returned the site to the tax roll and created jobs.
    2. They collect all of their rain water in a 5000 gallon tank and re-use it in their fountain and landscape irrigation.
    3. Buildings are constructed using recycled foam blocks.
    4. Buildings are insulated with recycled jean material.
    5. All car wash process water is recycled.
    6. A geothermal air conditioning process re-uses water as the heat exchanger.
    7. Infrastructure is in place for solar panels and electric car charging stations.

    A VERY interesting site.

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