Eco-Friendly Car Wash

Washing Green or green washing?

Why it's Hard to Find a Green Car Wash

A commercial car wash typically offers a more eco-friendly alternative than a home car wash. These facilities are legally  obligated to provide better wastewater management. All commercial car washes divert wastewater to public sewage systems for processing. From there, all water is treated prior to being released into area waterways. Yet, there are some companies who use this alone as the sole reason to advertise being green. When in actuality, they are simply meeting the minimum standard to legally open there doors. Others boast about the usage of energy efficient light bulbs, solar panels or how many trees they have planted. While these are all admirable activities, none speak to the virtues of their service. Some businesses even go so far as to include the words eco-friendly or green in their names while their service is anything but environmentally safe. 

What Makes a Commercial Car Wash Eco-Friendly?

They might be a little harder to find, but actual green car wash companies do exist! What makes them stand from the majority of other companies is what they do above and beyond what is legally regulated. It involves being fully invested and committed to contribute to to a safer, greener environment.
close up of car wheel at car wash
One example is water consumption. Where wastewater eventually goes is federally regulated, however, how much water is used is not. Some forward thinking commercial car washes re use water multiple times prior to sending it on for processing. This greatly reduces waste and increases efficiency. Water usage and wastewater disposal are among the two main topics many self proclaimed green car wash facilities like to talk about. Where most suddenly become quiet is when asked about what is about the chemicals used in their detergents. By law, Commercial car wash companies ARE NOT obligated to reveal what the ingredients of their soaps are. This opens the door for vague references to being eco friendly while remaining tight lipped about their product's potentially dangerous chemicals. Below we have listed some of the commonly found chemicals that can pose serious environmental risks.

Car Wash Chemicals You Should You be Concerned About

Car wash soaps use various chemicals to clean, shine and protect your vehicle. A few in particular pose considerable environmental dangers. There is also potential rick to those who frequently use these toxin filled detergents. This is particularly true for prolonged occupational exposure. One big problem is manufacturers' of these  soaps by law DO NOT have to disclose product ingredients. For this reason many of these companies take full advantage by avoiding this topic on their web sites or packaging. What is even more frustrating is that many commercial car wash facilities promote themselves as being eco friendly but still  refuse to disclose detergent ingredients. They take the fifth knowing that they are not required by law to answer you. Companies that freely offer full disclosure are always your best bets. 

Phosphates: 

Phosphates soften water and enhance cleaning ability. But, phosphates released into our waterways cause excessive algae growth which reduces oxygen levels in the water. This poses a severe threat to aquatic species and other wildlife. For this reason, a voluntary industry ban on phosphates has been in place on laundry detergents. Yet, many car wash detergents continue to use this dangerous additive.

Chloride:

Elevated levels of chloride are making our waterways saltier; and the results are devastating. While chloride is naturally present in rivers, streams and lakes, excessive amounts are highly toxic to aquatic life and vegetation. What makes matters worse is that chloride does not break down or settle in water. Although not the only cause, chloride from home car wash detergents certainly contribute to declining water conditions. 

Hydrofluoric Acid or Phosphoric Acid:

Both Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) and Phosphoric Acid are cost effective and productive cleaning additives. They breaks down heavy grime and soot that build up on the surface of your car. The problem is, both are highly toxic and corrosive substances. They not only pose a danger to the environment, direct exposure during use can cause serious health risks. Even detergents containing less than 2 percent of these chemicals can cause severe burns on your skin. The CDC reports that exposure to hydrofluoric acid (HF) causes corrosive chemical burns and can be potentially fatal. In the state of Washington alone, 48 burn cases and one death have been reported from occupational exposure. These statistics punctuate the necessity to develop safer, more natural surfactants detergent alternatives.

Rating Eco Friendly Car Washes

We reviewed several so-called eco-friendly car washes to see which ones were truly going the extra mile. To be clear, this is not an all inclusive list, but rather a random sampling of self proclaimed eco-friendly car washes. Our includes both large and small companies alike. Our goal is to help you better identify who is (or is not) truly providing an eco-friendly service. During our search we found no shortage of companies stating that they were eco-friendly. Many even included the word "green" in their name. Yet, when it came down to backing up these statements, many offered little evidence to support such a claim. Several  companies took the fifth by ignoring all phone calls or emails requesting further information. Remember, at this time, companies are not required by law to disclose what ingredients are contained in their detergents. This opens the door to vague, misleading green marketing pitches. Genuinely, Eco-friendly car wash facilities are typically eager to answer questions about their process. Our advice... Avoid companies that are unable (or unwilling) to disclose this information. Rather than dwell on the negative, we have listed examples of eco-friendly car washes that offer transparency, not marketing jargon.

Mint Eco 
Car Wash 

Green Rating
Mint Eco Car Wash is a rapidly expanding Florida based company that has shown a great commitment to a green initiative. After a quick search of their web page, we found a downloadable Voluntary Environmental Audit that fully disclosed their entire cleaning process. Details revealed the following: All substances used are biodegradable and free of phosphates, aromatic solvents, chloride, hydrofluoric or phosphoric acid. Their self imposed green standard exceeds Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and sets a great standard for the rest of the car wash industry!

Green "N" Clean Car Wash 

Green Rating
Green "N" Clean is located in Kennett PA. Their PurWater Systems recycle up to 70% of the water used during their car wash process. The company's site reveals that detergents used DO NOT contain aromatic solvents, hydrofluoric acid, NPE, or HF/ABF. A quick message to Green "N" Clean also confirmed no phosphates or chlorides are used in their soaps. Today. simply stating your company is green without full disclosure of ingredients isn't enough.  Green "N" Clean's willingness to be fully  transparent made it easy to verify their environmentally friendly status.

Scrubs Express
Car Wash 

Green Rating
Georgia based, Scrubs Express Car Wash responded within one hour to our request for additional information. They were happy to confirm that detergents used at their facilities were biodegradable and contained no phosphates or chloride. Upon further inquiry, they did confide that phosphoric acid is used as a cleaning additive. That said, we appreciate the company's transparency and efforts to make Scrubs Express Carwash a greener, more environmentally friendly business.

White Water Express Car Wash 

Green Rating
White Water Car Wash has 100 locations throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. The company is still growing while maintaining an enthusiastic green philosophy. Federal laws require car wash wastewater to be sent  local sewage systems for processing.  However, there are no legal limitations on how much water they can use. Whitewater Express uses approximately 25 - 35 gallons per car. The company estimates this is half of what the industry standard is. Whitewater Express utilizes soft water and no phosphates in their wash process. 
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