How to Save Water When Washing Your Car

Washing your car with water efficiency in mind

The weekend car wash is a familiar ritual to many of us and an important part of regular car maintenance, but how can you effectively wash your car while still managing to save water?

Did you know that washing your car can use anywhere between 100-300 litres?

So what is the most water efficient way to wash your car?

    1. Save Water while Washing your Car at Home

The best way to wash your car at home is with a bucket and sponge on a lawn so that waste water can be soaked up instead of entering the stormwater system.

If you use a hose for rinsing only and if the hose has a ‘trigger’ attachment fitted, you will conserve more water when you release the trigger, as the water flow stops and you do not waste this precious resource.

The actual car washing process is fairly simple. Find a cool, shady spot if possible as this will prevent excess water evaporating and saves water as a result. Ideally the spot should be close to a water source so you don't have to carry water very far and if you are parked on the lawn, even better as the water run-off will water the lawn. So you won’t need to water the lawn later on and you will conserve water. You will need only three small buckets of water to wash the whole car. With your first small bucket and using a sponge or soft cloth, give the car a rinse to loosen dirt and grime. If you have any water left over, pour the water into a watering can and rinse the car off.

For the next step, add a small amount of car shampoo (not kitchen detergent) to the second small bucket. It is a good idea to start with the windows while your sponge and soapy water are at their cleanest. Then wash the car from the roof and working your way over each section. Save water on rinsing and be careful not to use too much detergent as more water will be needed to wash the soap off. Try to rinse off each section as you wash so the suds don’t dry on the car.

Finally, pour the remaining grey water from this third bucket into a watering can to rinse the car of suds and dry off with a chamois. Then use the third small bucket to give the car a final rinse. If you’re extra-dedicated, apply a polish and wax for a showroom finish.

Using this method it takes just 3 buckets to clean the whole car, saving a huge amount of water while not sacrificing an amazing and shiny appearance. Water efficiency at its best!

You have used only a small bucket and washed almost the whole car. How water efficient is that?!

If you want to save even more water try Waterless Car Cleaning. This may sound unbelievable as you don’t need water at all to wash your car and you really can get the car sparkling clean without it.

    1. Save Water while Washing your Car at the Car Wash

When at a car wash, if possible try to use a “green” carwash that recycles water so that pollutants such as brake dust, sediment and detergents do not enter the stormwater system. A ‘green’ carwash is more conscious about water efficiency and using “environment-friendly” soaps.

Washing the car yourself at a self-service car wash is a good idea as it uses high pressure, low volume sprayers and helps you save water in contrast to washing your car in the driveway. Moreover, most manual car washes will allow users to “blast” the hose or simply stream water. This will help save water as you will use lower amounts of water pressure for the pre-soak portion of the wash. Only set the hose for high-pressure when you're trying to remove dirt and grime from a specific area of the car.

Only use as much water as you possibly need. If your car is fully rinsed, shut the hose off as doing so will save litres of water and when you are ready to leave, allow your car to drip-dry in the car wash before leaving. Allowing excess water to drip in a car wash that recycles water allows the water to go through the system properly which will also save a good amount of water.

Three Tips on How to spot a more Water Efficient Car Wash?

  • Recycles water and uses recycled water
  • Low flow spray-wand nozzles at self-serve car washes
  • Positive shut-off valves on hand-held spray wands

Note: Some establishments (not all), display signs or association logos that will help identify them as a water conserving car wash. Edited from Reader’s Digest and Arizona Department of Water Resources