Most of us spend so much time in our vehicles that we come to see them as a reflection of ourselves. Having a clean and shiny vehicle becomes a priority, and who among us hasn’t felt on top of the world driving a freshly-cleaned one? Unfortunately, washing can release hazardous chemicals into the public water supply. It is important to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect our water while cleaning your vehicle.
When you wash your vehicle outdoors, huge amounts of dirt, oil, road grime, and heavy metals cascade into our waterways. Dirty, soapy water flows through the streets and into storm drains, reaching local water supplies with no filtration or cleaning. For this reason, a commercial car wash is the best bet to keep toxic chemicals out of our streams and lakes. Commercial car washes recycle the water they use and send it to a wastewater plant for treatment.
If you must wash your vehicle at home, wash it on the lawn so that the water will soak into the ground and the soil will serve as a filter for pollutants. Do not use harmful chemical cleaners; choose instead a phosphorous-free soap that will not be as harmful to water quality and aquatic life. If you are involved in a group that washes vehicles to raise funds, consider selling car wash coupons from local car washes instead. Alternatively, choose a site for your event that diverts runoff water away from storm drains and into the sewer system, where it will be treated.
Changing the way you wash your vehicle is a small thing, but it can make a huge difference for the public water supply. It is important to consider the effects of your actions. Always dispose of chemicals safely, fix leaks before they cause pollutants to leak onto your driveway, and find alternate modes of transportation whenever possible to reduce your impact. Even small actions have a large effect when many people participate.