A greener car wash

It was time. 2.5 years had passed and my van needed a wash. Nature has not been kind during the last couple of years in providing much of a car wash from the sky (rain). Living in a dusty area frequented by birds, my neglected van was dropping property values in the neighborhood.

It’s the kind of vehicle that you don’t polish to make it look good, just to help keep the rust at bay. Still, it serves its purpose in the form of what we call in Australia a “bush basher” and for carting stuff too big or icky for the other vehicle. I think the van only covered 700 miles in the last two years (odometer no longer works) and I was contemplating sending it to the wreckers. However, my big adventure into self-sufficiency is finally looming, so a stay of execution has been granted.

Using a hose was out of the question due to the mammoth task that faced me – would have used way too much water. I’ve heard that car washes are more water friendly, so I decided to opt for that. Plus I was feeling lazy :).

Luck was on my side! It turns out that the local car wash also recycles their water! Given this, I was half expecting a lousy wash, but it was pretty darned good. The van rocked as the jets of water buffeted the sides; a good thing as I was able to establish it’s still waterproof.

Given the time of the morning, no-one was around for me to ask questions about the system they were using, but generally speaking car wash water recycling units are quite complex; not only filtering water, but separating oil and also disinfecting the the water before it’s returned to storage tanks.

Washing a car by hose can use up to 100 gallons of water. A conventional car wash uses around 40 gallons. A car wash that recycles the water may “lose” as little as a few gallons of the precious liquid for each vehicle.

The tradeoff is the energy consumption in driving my car the mile to the wash, the energy usage of the wash and recycling system I guess, but in a dry state such as South Australia, it’s likely the lesser of the two evils.

The benefits for car wash operators are substantial too. Less water usage = less $ in water rates and from what I’ve read they also gain financially through less additional fees imposed on them by local government.

While my van is still by no means ready for a show and shine event, it is looking a lot better and ready for the next 2.5 years before it likely sees another wash – and I’m greatly relieved that little water was wasted.

From what I understand, these recycling systems aren’t overly expensive, particularly when you take into account the savings on other ongoing costs; so if your local car wash isn’t recycling their water as yet – perhaps let them know it may be worth investigating.


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