Back in May Esurance polled our Facebook fans asking if they’d rather wash their cars themselves or run their rides through the car wash. Here are the results:

  • 48% Wash it myself
  • 42% Go to the car wash
  • 10% Let the rain take care of it

Sure, these numbers aren’t exactly scientific, but they do suggest that many people prefer washing their cars at home. Unfortunately, at-home car washes, while a refreshing way to spend a hot summer afternoon, aren’t necessarily eco-friendly.

When you wash your car in your driveway, the dirty water from the wash, which contains soap, detergent, and vehicle residues, enters storm drains intended only for rainwater. As a result, pollutants such as phosphate, grease, and oil end up in our streams, lakes, and rivers. Plus, the average home car wash consumes about 116 gallons of water — that’s 2 to 3 times more than most commercial car washes.

So what should you do?

Reconsider taking your car to a commercial car wash

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), commercial car washes are more eco-friendly than your trusty hose, sponge, and soapy bucket. That’s because commercial car washes are required by law to discharge dirty water into state-approved drainage facilities, treat it, or reuse it. They’re also generally more water-efficient than using a hose on your front lawn.

If you want to up your green factor even more, look for an eco-friendly facility that uses non-toxic products, recycles its water, and operates high-pressure washing systems (which consume even less water than your average commercial car wash).

If you still prefer to wash your car yourself, here are a few eco-friendly tips:

  1. Use only biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners
    Many car-washing products contain phosphates, sodium, potassium, and other chemicals harmful to aquatic life. Since dirty water from home car washes eventually finds its way into our streams, lakes, and rivers, using eco-friendly products minimizes pollution of our waterways and helps keep our ecosystem healthy.
  2. Use less soap
    Even if you do use green car-washing products, they’re likely not completely free of toxins. So the less soap you use, the better.
  3. Use a water spray gun with flow restriction
    By restricting your water usage, you’ll cut back on water consumption. And as they say, every drop counts.
  4. Use waterless car wash products
    Yes, they do exist. Waterless car wash products allow you to spray the formula onto the surface of your car and simply wipe the dirt and grime off. Just make sure that the product you choose is biodegradable, water based, and phosphate free.
  5. Wash your car on gravel or grass
    Washing your car on gravel, grass, or other absorbent surfaces will help filter the dirty water before it enters the ground or storm drain.
  6. Empty your bucket into the toilet or the sink
    Once your car is squeaky clean, make sure to dispose of the bucket water in the sink or toilet. Unlike storm drain water, household wastewater is treated before it enters our waterways.
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And hey, if you’re not in the mood to wash your car, let Mother Nature’s downpour do the dirty work. Or just drive a dirty car for a little longer. We hear that’s the hip thing to do now anyway.

Commercial car wash or DIY? Weigh in on the matter.

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about Vi

During her time at Esurance, Vi Tran worked as a PR and communications intern by day, and a marketing graduate student by night. One of the many reasons she enjoyed being a part of the Esurance team was that she could get huge props for her pristine driving record.