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Keeping your car clean can be tough on the environment—we all want a great-looking car, but it’s hard to keep your ride clean without wasting water or using damaging chemicals.

You can make several parts of the typical at-home car wash a little greener. These include the amount of water used, the types of cleaning products used, and where the water ends up after you rinse your car.

Washing and Wiping

Most auto aficionados have a favorite sponge or car-washing mitt for foaming up dirty fenders. A great natural option is a sheepskin wash mitt, commonly available in the auto section of most big-box stores. When drying your car, opt for clean, used T-shirts or other cotton clothing rather than throwaway paper towels.

Don’t Waste Water

A regular garden hose uses about 10 gallons of water per minute. That means you could use 100 gallons of water in just 10 minutes of washing or rinsing. Make sure you use a hose nozzle that you can shut off between rinses.

Go Waterless

Completely waterless car-wash products claim to have advanced wetting agents and emulsifiers to soften and remove dirt and grime. The downside is that they require the use of many separate cloths to wash an entire car, so if you go this route, be conscious of trying to reduce the number of cloths you use.

If you want to go a step further, you can make your own eco-friendly DIY car-wash solutions with common household ingredients. Here’s a simple recipe for one: 1 cup of Borax, 1 tablespoon of Castile liquid soap, and a pail of water.

Where You Wash Makes a Difference

Anything that runs off your property has the potential to infiltrate local groundwater. This is called nutrient pollution, and it is a leading cause of polluted waterways. Washing your car on a solid surface such as a driveway or a road forces water to flow into storm drains. If you have the opportunity, parking your car in the grass, on a gravel driveway, or in an open field will eliminate this problem by allowing water to drain down into the ground.


Henry Sapiecha

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