There is much debate over which method of cleaning your vehicle is better: washing at home or going to the car wash. The argument depends on what you consider “better”. A clean car is important, but there are other factors to consider as well. If you are environmentally conscious and are most concerned with leaving a small carbon footprint, then going to the car wash is almost always a better option.
When you wash your vehicle at home, all the dirty, soapy water has to go somewhere. If it does not soak into the ground, it can end up in the storm drains. Doing this can cause problems for sea life. A lot of car washing chemicals contain phosphates that can cause an unnatural growth of algae that in turn can throw off the delicate balance of the sea ecosystem. Automatic car washes have receptacles and proper drainage for all their spent water.
Also, the amount of water used at home versus the amount used at a car wash is usually significantly more. A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute meaning you use 100 gallons of water with only a 10-minute car wash. Automatic car washes can reuse the water for several cars before disposing of it, so it saves more water than a home washing could do.
However, washing your car at home can certainly give your vehicle a much better clean. In some cases, washing at home might result in a clean that lasts longer therefore reducing the number of times you need to clean your car. The bottom line is to weigh your options thoroughly before getting out the hose and bucket. If you can find a car wash that suits your needs, it might not only save you some time, but it could save water and possibly the environment, too.