Few people realize that washing our cars in our driveways is one of the most environmentally un-friendly chores we can do around the house. Unlike household waste water that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into storm drains — and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks other ecosystem havoc. After all, that water is loaded with a witch’s brew of gasoline, oil and residues from exhaust fumes — as well as the harsh detergents being used for the washing itself.
Commercial Car Washes Treat Waste Water
On the other hand, federal laws in both the U.S. and Canada require commercial car wash facilities to drain their waste water into sewer systems, so it gets treated before it is discharged back into the great outdoors. And commercial car washes use computer controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps that minimize water usage. Many also recycle and re-use the rinse water.
The International Carwash Association, an industry group representing commercial car wash companies, reports that automatic car washes use less than half the water of even the most careful home car washer. According to one report, washing a car at home typically uses between 80 and 140 gallons of water, while a commercial car wash averages less than 45 gallons per car.