Eco-Friendly Car Cleaning Tips

By Tim Fox | Car

Feb 12
Eco-Friendly car cleaning tips

Everyone wants to keep their car in top shape and looking good. However, typical car wash methods can have some less than positive side effects on the environment.

For one thing, the average home car wash consumes an excessive amount of water. When washing your car at home with an open hose, you're using an average of 100-140 gallons per car.

The average home car wash also sends harmful pollutants down storm drains. When the water you’ve used washing your car goes down these drains, harmful pollutants and chemicals, remnants of fuel, gas, oil and tar go along with it.

Many storm drains don’t lead to sewage treatment plants but instead flow directly into streams and lakes, meaning these pollutants are causing damage to the environment, fish, microorganisms, and more.

Interestingly, it's more eco-friendly to wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash than at home. Commercial car washes follow various efficiency standards to conserve water. Water used in commercial car washes also flow into the sewage system after use, rather than into rivers, streams, and bodies of water.

Nevertheless, a large percentage of vehicle owners prefer to wash their cars themselves. Washing your car at home is seen to be more convenient. It also tends to save money.

Fortunately, there are some great ways to clean your car yourself while also minimizing negative effects on the environment. The below tips will help you to reduce water usage and consumption, avoid sending harmful pollutants out to rivers and lakes, and be more energy efficient.

Use Less Water By Doing Away With the Open Hose

Investing in an automatic shutoff nozzle for your water hose is highly recommended. The nozzle will stop your hose from flowing continuously while washing your car and can save you up to 70 gallons of water per wash.

Another alternative is to use a power washer which uses an average of 2-5 gallons of water a minute. Compare that rate to an open hose which uses 10 gallons per minute, and it’s easy to see how the savings will add up.

Careful Where the Water Goes

Many storm drains don't lead to sewage treatment plants but instead go directly to streams and lakes. It’s best to avoid sending motor oil, tar, and other harmful substances into these delicate ecosystems.

While many people wash their cars in their driveways, it's better to wash your car over a grass or gravel surface. By doing so, the water will soak into the ground and filter out harmful contaminants.

Consider Using No Water At All

Believe it or not, waterless car wash supplies exist and are great for minimizing water usage. These spray-on waterless formulas, waxes, and car dusters can be found at local hardware stores and do a surprisingly great job making your car shine.

These waterless car wash products are also incredibly easy to use. You spray on the product, and then you wipe it clean. Of course, make sure that the product you get is biodegradable, water-based, and non-toxic.

Reconsider Your Choice of Soap

Many standard soaps and detergents contain chemicals which are harmful to the environment. In particular, many soaps contain phosphates which have been shown to decrease water quality and have negative effects on aquatic life.

Especially if you're unable to wash your car over gravel or grass, be sure to purchase a soap or car cleaning detergent that is phosphorous-free and biodegradable.

Use an Energy Efficient Vacuum

car cleaning vacuum

Not only can vacuums suck up a lot of dust, dirt, and debris, but they can also suck up a lot of energy. Another environmental concern to consider when you clean your car is the amount of power you’re using.

Consider investing in an energy efficient car vacuum cleaner or a vacuum that has been Energy Star approved.


Making your car washing routine more eco-friendly is easy to do if you follow the steps above.

While you may not be able to implement all of these ideas at once, this list should give you all the information you need to start being a bit kinder to the environment each time you clean your car.