Washing your car on the lawn: The Double Whammy

“Few people realize that washing our cars in our driveways is one of the most environmentally un-friendly chores we can do around the house. Unlike household waste water that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into storm drains — and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks other ecosystem havoc. After all, that water is loaded with a witch’s brew of gasoline, oil and residues from exhaust fumes — as well as the harsh detergents being used for the washing itself” ( http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/car_wash.htm).

As I woke up on Saturday I realized that it was time to mow the lawn for my parents. After gathering all my necessary materials and starting the lawn mower I looked up to see that there were three cars parked on the front lawn; my mother’s, my father’s, and my brother’s cars, splayed across the yard. It was early enough in the morning that my brain was still partially in snooze mode and I had no idea what was going on. Eventually I put it together—my parents were washing the family cars AND watering the lawn, at the same time!

I generally think of washing cars as a waste of good healthy drinking water, and the same could be said of watering the lawn (and don’t get me started on lawn fertilizer).  In terms of conservation, I only ever thought of reducing frequency, however, never of identifying sustainable ways to accomplish these tasks.

Obviously, being the sustainability connoisseur that I am (this is why the world needs a sarcasm font), I had to find out if this new idea was, in fact, sustainable. So I diligently typed it into Google, and I discovered that washing your cars on the lawn is universally heralded as the best, most sustainable way to go about the task at home. The article posted above does seem to insist that car wash industries are overall the best way, but if you’re going to do it at home, do it on the lawn!

One other thing to keep in mind: Wash with biodegradable soap. Simple Green’s Car Wash or Gliptone’s Wash ‘n Glow are great, or you can make your own!


1 Cup liquid dishwashing detergent

¾ cup of powdered laundry detergent

(these should both be chlorine and phosphate free and non-petroleum-based)

3 gallons of water

Mix these ingredients and use sparingly with water over exterior car surfaces

So I guess my Mom and Dad beat me to the punch on this one. Not only is washing your car on the lawn much more environmentally friendly as far as preserving drinking water but it also doubles as a good way to water the lawn. It’s like saving two birds with one stone? …And thus it shall hence forth be known as the “Double Whammy”.

Note: “Even when using green-friendly cleaners, it is better to avoid the driveway and instead wash your car on your lawn or over dirt so that the toxic waste water can be absorbed and neutralized in soil instead of flowing directly into storm drains or open water bodies. Also, try to sop up or disperse those sudsy puddles that remain after you’re done. They contain toxic residues and can tempt thirsty animals“ (http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/car_wash.htm).

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