Though nature has been providing its own waterworks this year, one of the suburban signs of summer is the dedicated car owner, lovingly scrubbing his or her vehicle in the driveway. The sight has always seemed quaint and sort of nice to me, the way any instance of someone taking care of the material objects in their life seems nice. Some things to keep in mind for the next sunny weekend:
- Conserve water. Apparently, washing your car in front of your house is actually pretty wasteful. A typical garden hose will use about the same amount of water as a commercial wash after only 2 minutes. A water-saving nozzle helps, but no matter how skimpy you are with the water at home, commercial washes are more water efficient, especially because they tend to recycle water. Even their recycled water typically mixes 40 to 80 gallons of fresh water for each car that goes through the wash.
- Go waterless. Car washes using no water and environmentally-friendly cleaners are popping up around the country.
- Use responsible detergents. At home and at the car wash, the detergents should be a cause for concern. Phosphates and toxic chemical runoff have a major impact on our water systems, so look for facilities that don't use ammonium bifluoride and hydrofluoric acid-based cleaning solutions but rather phosphate-free, biodegradable detergents. Another way to ask about this is to request EcoLogo certified products.
- Recipes for homemade car cleaners, including soap, wax, and tire cleaner
- Drain responsibly. It's recommended that you pour any dirty carwash water into the sink or toilet rather than the storm drain.
Of course, it would be better for the environment to rely on public transit, renting a ZipCar or similar service when necessary. Many Americans don't have that choice, however, but regular maintenance like proper washing can help make car finishes last longer
. Cars are actually threatened by environmental factors like industrial emissions. These deposits along with bugs, tree sap, and bird droppings can get baked on the car surface, causing permanent stains or damage. Making stuff last longer is one way to reduce the amount of stuff we consume.