Skip to main content

Don't DIY: why you shouldn't wash your car at home

A father and daughter washing a black car with soapy sponges

Make sure your summer car wash supports the environment

It’s summertime in the Pacific Northwest! That means you can finally wash your car without the fear of rain the next day. Owning and maintaining a car has its own environmental impact, and you may wonder what the best way is to give your vehicle an eco-friendly car wash this summer. Before you grab your bucket and sponge, read on for the truth about “green” car washing. 

Many people think that washing their vehicle in the driveway or street will have less impact than a commercial car wash. The truth is, washing personal vehicles at home is one of the most environmentally harmful chores we can do! Bringing your car to a commercial car wash is better for the environment. 

Commercial car washes use water efficiently and safely 

Federal laws in the U.S. require commercial car wash facilities to drain wastewater from car washing into sewer systems. The water then gets treated and filtered before it’s recycled back into the region’s water sources. 

In contrast, washing your car at home means all the dirt, oil, exhaust fume residue, soap chemicals gets washed into storm drains and into our region’s streams, lakes, and waterways, where they can harm wildlife and destroy sensitive ecosystems.  

Water usage is the biggest environmental impact of car washing. Washing at home typically uses more water than an automatic car wash. Commercial car washes use high-pressure water nozzles that use water more efficiently than a standard garden hose, and many commercial car washing facilities recycle the wastewater that is collected in drains.  

Keep it green at home 

If you do wash your car at home, follow these tips to protect the environment and keep hazardous chemicals out of our region’s waterways: 

  • Choose a non-toxic, biodegradable soap that is free of phosphates, fragrance, chlorine, and petroleum-based ingredients. 
  • Don't pour your bucket of dirty water onto your driveway, sidewalk, or street. Take it inside and dump it in a sink or toilet. 
  • Before washing, make sure your car isn’t leaking oil or other fluids. 
  • Don’t leave the hose running while you’re soaping up and washing the car. Try to rinse quickly.  
  • Use reusable cloths to wash and dry your car. 

Research before you wash 

Before you wash your own car, look for car washing facilities that use eco-friendly products or self-wash facilities where you can bring your own safe products.  

Many folks think about car washes when they are brainstorming ways to raise money. For kids and parents planning a car wash fundraiser, check out the Western Car Wash Association’s Charity Carwash Program, which helps communities partner with local car wash businesses to host fundraisers and keep waterways clean.  

Recent stories

Stay Connected

Sign up for the latest news and information about our services