The 411 on H20 When it Comes to Car Washing


Hopefully one of your New Year’s resolutions was saving water; it’s definitely one of ours. We looked back and remembered last year’s #dirtycarpledge, and though we intend to uphold the promise into the new year, we want to be smart about water conservation when we do wipe our cars clean. So, what’s the dirt on car wash water usage?

At-Home Car Wash
Your typical home wash, with garden hose, buckets, and sponges uses anywhere from 80 to 140 gallons of water per car. That’s a lot of precious H20. But not only does a driveway wash use a lot, it contaminates a lot; rinse water flows off driveways directly into storm drains that lead to streams and rivers, and eventually into the ocean. In this case, DIY is neither economical nor resourceful.

Commercial Car Washes
Commercial car washes tend to use more water-efficient equipment than your typical garden hose, like high-pressure nozzles and computer-controlled systems. Also, many commercial companies recycle rinse water — a practice nearly impossible with your driveway wash. As for run-off, all commercial car washes are required under the Clean Water Act of 1972 to drain wastewater through appropriate channels like sewer systems, instead of into storm drains.

When it comes to water-usage, not all commercial car washes are alike. The International Carwash Association (ICA) states that the average commercial conveyer carwash uses less than 45 gallons of water per car. (Though the ICA’s priorities may not be focused on water conservation, the numbers are backed up by several estimates and they do have a water conservation program that publishes guidelines for conscientiousness car wash owners.)

Commercial in-bay carwashes, however – the kind where you drive into a high-tech hut and the machines move around your stationery car – can use up to 75 gallons of water. No good.

Self-Serve Car Wash
Self-serve car washes are connected to sanitary sewers that carry wastewater to treatment plants. Utilizing equipment outfitted with positive shutoff valves and high-efficiency nozzles, hand washes use on average only 12 -15 gallons of water per car.

This is your best option, but only after your 60-day #dirtycarpledge is up, of course. The pledge should be easy to keep — you’ll only have to wash your car six times in 12 months. Easiest New Year’s resolution ever!