Washing the family car in the driveway is a summertime ritual for many Canadian families. It's also an environmental hazard. The gunk from your car has to go somewhere when you wash it off, so where does it go?
The truth is when you wash your car, you are removing oils, rust, and other fluids from the car, adding soap and then flushing that concoction down your driveway, along the curb and directly into the storm drain, which eventually empties . . . into a lake, river or pond. There is no treatment or filtration for pollutants, which go directly into our environment. This can affect plants, fish and the overall ecosystem.
You also use a lot of water. It is estimated an average of 110 gallons of water is used by the average D.I.Y. car washer who uses a hose. Pressure washers can use up to 80% less water to accomplish the same cleaning task. However, the problem of pollution remains, and this is one reason it can be better for the environment to use a commercial car wash.
Car wash operators have to follow guidelines on how they collect and dispose of their dirty wash water. Many systems filter and recycle the water they use before sending their runoff water to municipal wastewater treamtent plants. You can also look for carwashes that have the EcoLogo program which certifies environmentally preferable products for commercial car washes to use.
If you choose to wash your car at home, there are a couple of things you can do. Park your car on your lawn and wash it there to minimize runoff to storm drains. Keep as much dirty water in the bucket as possible and pour it down your sink or toilet. Use phosphate-free soaps that are easily biodegradable. Some people even use boat cleaners because they are designed to be safe for use in waterways.
There are many ways you can reduce water use and pollution in your day-to-day life. If you have any suggestions drop us a line!