5 tips for an eco-friendly car wash

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5 tips for an eco-friendly car wash

A clean car doesn't have to cost the earth. With a few simple tips that'll save you time, money and effort, your car will look good at no extra cost to the environment.

Now that the warmer months are upon us, your car might be looking a bit worse for wear from all the dust, dirt, sand and grime that comes with an Australian summer. Washing your vehicle is an important part of car maintenance, but have you thought about what happens to the runoff after your car is hosed down? The overflow, which can contain particles of oil, rubber, metals as well as any number of chemicals found in car cleaning products , tends to travel down the driveway, into the street and directly into the nearest storm water drain. Once there, it enters our waterways, ending up in rivers, lakes and possibly the ocean. This causes problems for the ecosystemi.

So when it's time to bring out the bucket and sponge again, why not consider some environmentally friendly ways to wash your car?

An accredited car wash service will do the job for you, saving you time and effort while minimising water wastage.

1. Choose an accredited 5 star commercial car wash

One way to get your car cleaned in an environmentally responsible way is to visit an Australian Car Wash Association (ACWA) approved commercial car wash. The accreditation, which is indicated by a five star Water Saving Rating, recognises car wash operators for their environmentally responsible business practices. The Federal water efficiency label, the Smart Approved Water Marki, will also indicate that the car wash uses best practice in water management. To find the closest one to you, the ACWA has provided a five star car wash locator on its website.

The reason commercial car washes are preferable to washing your car at home is because in Australia, they are required to comply with regulations set out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), such as having approved 'trade waste' collection pits for all the runoff that accumulatesi. According to the ACWA, each time someone washes their car at home, 750mL of pollutants is released into the storm water systemi. At a commercial car wash, instead of entering the storm water drain, the wastewater is redirected into the sewerage system to be treated before entering our waterways. Car washes are the best alternative to washing your car at home because they have efficient systems in place that reduce water wastage and you don't have to do any of the work!

2. Park it on the lawn or on gravel

If you want to wash your car at home, parking your car on an absorbent surface, like grass or gravel, is better than parking on the pavement because the runoff can be absorbed and broken down by micro-organisms. In this way, the chemicals will be filtered before they enter waterwaysii, reducing the harm to the environment caused by at-home car washes.

3. Use a bucket

Choose a bucket over a hose to improve your water efficiency. Fill a bucket with water so that you can monitor how much water you're using instead of continually spraying your car with a hose. Keep another empty bucket by your side to wring out your sponge and prevent the runoff from flowing into the storm water drain. After you're done, empty the bucket into your laundry sink so that the waste water can go through the sewerage systemiii.

An adjustable hose nozzle will help control the water flow and shuts off when not in use.

4. Use a hose with an adjustable nozzle

An adjustable hose nozzle is preferable to those that only turn off at the tap; operated by a squeezable trigger, the nozzle will help control the water flow and will stop spraying when the trigger is released.

5. Use environmentally friendly car cleaning products

Another consideration when cleaning your car at home is the product that you're using. Choosing cleaning products with biodegradable ingredients or ones that are phosphate-freeiv makes washing your car a little less harmful to the environment.

iClean Up Australia 2010, Protecting our waterways begins at home, viewed 29 September 2014,

iiNick, J, 'Easy, Cheap, and Eco-Friendly Car Washing Tips', Organic Gardening, viewed 29 September 2014,

iiiDrive Steady 2012, 5 Green Ways to Wash Your Car, viewed 29 September 2014,

ivBennett, T 2010, 'How to wash your car the green way', The Seattle Times, 8 June, viewed 29 September 2014,