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Washing your car at home can do more harm than good

(BPT) - Whether a Saturday morning ritual or a charity fundraiser, washing vehicles on driveways, parking lots and streets can do far more harm than good. That's because the dirty...

(BPT) - Whether a Saturday morning ritual or a charity fundraiser, washing vehicles on driveways, parking lots and streets can do far more harm than good. That's because the dirty water entering storm drains from pavement washing does not undergo treatment before it is discharged.

A study by the city of Federal Way, Wash., found that residential car washing led to numerous pollutants being released each year into the city's storm sewer system, including 190 gallons of gasoline, diesel and motor oil; 400 pounds of phosphorus and nitrogen; and 60 pounds of ammonia.

These numbers are startling for a community of just 62,000 passenger cars. With more than 300 million registered passenger vehicles in North America, the pollution is sizable. So is it possible to keep your vehicle clean and protect the environment at the same time?

You may be surprised to learn that professional car washes are typically a much greener option for washing vehicles than washing your car in the driveway at home. Washing at home with a garden hose can use more than 60 gallons in as little as five minutes, but most professional car washes treat and recycle water, virtually eliminating waste. The average homeowner uses 116 gallons of water to wash a car, according to the Mid-America Regional Council, and most commercial car washes use 60 percent less water for the entire process than a homeowner uses just to rinse the car.

WaterSavers professional car washes use only 40 gallons or less of fresh water per car wash - that's less than the typical home washing machine uses per load. The process cleans and re-uses the water for future car washes, or it undergoes treatment prior to returning it clean to the environment. For more information and to find a certified location near you, visit WashWithWaterSavers.com.

Another question eco-conscious car owners ask is how often they should wash their vehicles. While this is a simple question, there is no easy answer. How frequently you drive, the type of environment you drive in, and what the manufacturer recommends, are all factors to consider.

As a general rule, vehicles should be washed when the paint starts looking dirty from two car lengths away, according to J.D. Power & Associates, or immediately if contaminants like bird droppings, winter salt or tar are present.

Keep in mind many professional car washes offer discount days during the week, special pricing if you're purchasing gasoline also, or bulk packages that allow you to buy multiple washes for a highly reduced rate.

This summer, instead of grabbing a bucket and hose, take your car to a local professional car wash to help save water, protect aquatic life and preserve the environment.

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