Is washing the car myself an eco no-no?

Discussion in 'Detailing' started by Nathan, Oct 12, 2009.

  1. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

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    By MATT HICKMAN | Mother Nature Network (mnn.com) • Published October 12, 2009

    Q: My filth-encrusted Mini Cooper and I have just moved from the valley of plentiful car washes, San Fernando, to Portland. I've spotted a few car washes here and there in my new neighborhood, but it's nothing like Southern Cali where it's car washes for as far as the eye can see. Here's the thing: I have a nice long driveway, plenty of garden hose, a pile of old beach towels, and I need to work on my tan ... you know what I'm getting at. I also wouldn't mind saving a few bucks by giving Mini a bath myself. But I've heard that performing a DIY driveway scrub-down is an eco no-no. Should I seek out a commercial car wash like I've done in the past?

    A: Hold off on donning that bikini and stick with what you know. Sorry to hear that finding a decent car wash joint in your new Portland 'nabe isn't as easy as it was in SoCal, but make it happen (but please, don't drive all over tarnation on a mission to rinse off your ride). Washing Mini in the comfort of your own driveway could be a fun weekend afternoon-in-the-summertime diversion, no doubt, but the toll that it'll take on the environment is pretty harsh compared to a spin through a commercial wash.

    Here's why: commercial car washes, both in-bay automated ones that you'll find at gas stations and self-serve establishments where you can DIY, use much less water and they're required by law to drain that nasty, murky wastewater into municipal sewer systems where it's treated.

    Let's look at some figures for comparison: the average at-home car wash uses 80 to 140 gallons of water while a commercial one uses about 45 gallons of H2O. How's this possible? The heavily regulated commercial car wash industry is actually keen on water-saving techniques and most legit businesses employ all sorts of fancy, advanced nozzles and pumps. It may seem like a ton of water is used at those super-fun in-bay automated car washes, but in reality it's much less than what you'd use from a garden hose.

    Just as taxing on Mamma Nature as excessive water use is the pollution associated with at-home car washing. When doing the dirty deed, untreated water rushes straight into storm drains, taking with it motor oil, dirt, exhaust and rust, not to mention whatever soaps and degreasers you are cleaning with.

    From there, the chem-ridden H20 is dumped into local waterways in your case, the beautiful Willamette or Columbia rivers where it's a threat to aquatic wildlife. It's straight-out nasty. Just imagine dumping a small bucket of motor oil, a fistful of dirt and a sprinkle of rust directly into the Willamette ... these aren't exact amounts, of course, but that's pretty much what happens when you wash your car at home.

    Before you settle on a commercial car wash, do a bit of asking around to see how seriously a business takes the art of eco car washing. It's a given, thanks to the Clean Water Act, that the nasties scrubbed off of your Mini will be treated, but some businesses go a step further. I recommend Portland's ECO Car Wash chain.

    I don't drive these days so I'm not fully invested in the world of automobiles, but every time I see someone washing a car on the street, I cringe a little. Don't be one of those people who make this non-drying, water-sensitive green advice columnist cringe. Treat Mini to a commercial car wash. And wear your bikini if you must.
     
  2. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    I've addressed this nonsense before. The figures they state for "average" at-home washes is absolute rubbish IMHO. I couldn't use that much water to wash 4 cars unless I tried. I really think the way they fabricate those numbers is to turn on a hose without a nozzle and let it run the whole time you're washing a giant SUV. Which might be the way they do it in the bikini car wash videos, but isn't the way any normal person washes their car.

    I've measured how much water I use to wash my MINI. Typically it's under 20 gallons. When I try to conserve, I have methods that use less than 10 gallons. Either of which is less than the vast majority of commercial car wash facilities. Combine that with biodegradable soaps, and ideally with a driveway that slopes down to a grassy lawn (not to the storm sewer) and you're using dirty and extra water to water your lawn. Done.
     
  3. MD-IN-UK

    MD-IN-UK New Member

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    I couldn't agree more.

    Furthermore, if your as nuts as I am about keeping your MINI as clean as possible as long as possible, try using the spray and wipe products that seem to be available almost everywhere these days between washes. It keeps the car looking good for a good while longer, thereby avoiding the at home wash frequency rate all together.
     
  4. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
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    Yep - I use Quick Detailer (Prima Slick) when the car is just buggy or dusty, but has no "dirt" or mud stuck to it. I use Griot's Spray-on Carwash when it's a little too dirty to QD but still has no "caked on" mug or large-particle dirt. And I do a wet-wash when it's really dirty. When we have periods with no rain here to drive in, I can go for weeks between washes, and my car looks freshly washed.
     
  5. BThayer23

    BThayer23 Well-Known Member

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    If you have the option, wash your car in a spot that drains to your lawn, as opposed to a place that drains to curb inlets. The lawn will filter any chemicals (salts, soaps, hydrocarbons) and solids (dirt, brake dust, tar) that you wash off, and the water will infiltrate and recharge the groundwater. Biodegradable soaps, like Simple Green, are a great idea, too. 4' of sod and soil are enough to filter the volume of water produced by a typical car wash.
     
  6. fullcollapse40

    fullcollapse40 New Member

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    you can use a rinseless wash like Optimum No Rinse and use less than 2 gallons to clean you MINI with virtually no runoff. As an added bonus you can do a wash in your garage with ONR.
     
  7. Deviant

    Deviant Banned

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    My average car wash uses about 8 gallons of water, I'd like to know what mud encrusted hummer needs 80+ gallons of water. On top of that a properly maintained vehicle finish (not one continually damaged by automated car washes) will last longer requiring fewer repaints. In my mind (and without any actual proof) maintaining your car's finish properly in your driveway is better for the environment than using automated car washes and needing a new paint job every five years or letting the vehicle finish wear away and allow corrosion to set in.
    On top of that a well maintained finish also results in better resale value so you're saving money on that front as well.
     
  8. Bimmer Lite

    Bimmer Lite New Member

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    Oh.


    My.



    Gorsh.




    Carwash? Seriously? Paint me the most selfish, earth-hating fella there is, because there is no chance I'm taking my car to a carwash - EVER. Like forEVER ever.

    Remind me to submit THAT column to Nathan - Roundel - April 2009.

    - Marc
     
  9. Octaneguy

    Octaneguy New Member

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    Using my Nomad Pressure Washer, I can make an empty parking lot or a lawn a car washing station. Using bottle distilled water---2.5 gallon jug, and two more jugs in 3 gallon wash/rinse buckets.. I can get away with 7.5 gallons of water thats much safer and more effective than ONR. And I can just let the water sit on the paint and dry into the atmosphere since it's distilled. No water spots. No need to dirty up some towels that will then have to be washed and dried in a machine using more water and energy.

    Richard
     
  10. orangecrush

    orangecrush New Member

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    X2!!!!

    Not to mention I wsh my car 3-4 times a week. The only time I don't is when I'm trying to conserve if there is a water conserving rule going on.


    Mark
     
  11. Bimmer Lite

    Bimmer Lite New Member

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    :Thumbsup:

    Bravo. Your MINI loves you.

    - Marc
     
  12. orangecrush

    orangecrush New Member

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    Tis a two way love affair..... :lol:
     
  13. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

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    #14 Nathan, Oct 12, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2009
    Ah, the wonderful speed of the interwebz...

    The article is now reprinted on M/A

    For your reading pleasure....

    The things I do to show my car I care make others wonder



    Oh, and little teaser, the Oct 09 column is so darn good and timely that we are going to reprint that one come November.
     
  14. Mike

    Mike New Member

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    Please add the tag "absolute rubbish" to this thread, to honor the article at the top. Give me a *@#&$^ break.
     
  15. nabeshin

    nabeshin New Member

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    The eco impact of home car washes is a joke.
    What do these people think happens when it rains and all the crud from every car in the city rinses off and is washed down the storm drains?
     
  16. Friskie

    Friskie Well-Known Member

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  17. Bimmer Lite

    Bimmer Lite New Member

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    Thanks:Thumbsup:

    The whole column isn't about car washing, but it's in there.

    Reminds me of a great story a reader sent me. Long story short: He was in his E46 M3, waiting in line for what he thought was a "touchless" car wash, one that doesn't put your rims into some conveyor system. There were a lot of cars in line. When he realized there was a conveyor, he made everyone behind him back up into traffic so he could get out of line, thus saving his rims from damage. Apparently this caused a traffic jam on the main road, but his M3 sped away unscathed. Classic :lol:.

    - Marc
     
  18. orangecrush

    orangecrush New Member

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    Now Rich, you know I respect your thoughts and ability BUT.... washing my car without the pressure from a pressure washer is like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon.

    IF your car is basically clean, I'd say that would work.... but after a rainstorm, the crap I see that gets washed away would make a maggot gag.

    I guess being in the bodyshop business, I'm overly attentive to paint and paint scratches but I think I can pee harder than an 18V washer.


    Mark
     
  19. silky

    silky New Member

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    Car Beautiful. by Watts, Henry. ISBN: 0962057304. Publisher: Sunnyvale, CA: Loki Publishing Company, 1987.
     

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