The San Bernadino County Sun calls it the reverse Ice Bucket Challenge. There’s no water involved. A conservation group is encouraging residents of drought-stricken Southern California not to wash their cars for 60 days. And they’re mailing a sticker to anybody who does it.
But is it really necessary?
The group, L.A. Waterkeeper, is essentially saying that not washing your car is a civic responsibility in a dire time. According to the Sun:
Washing a car at home uses about 85 gallons of water, says Los Angeles Waterkeeper. And the runoff from bathing your alloy-rimmed beauty goes right into the sewer system, then to the ocean.
Even at a commercial car wash, putting your vehicle through the soap-soaked brushes, water-shooting spritzers and big rotating furry thingamabobs uses an average of 56 gallons of water, says L.A. Waterkeeper. And that “average” includes car wash facilities that recycle their water, so you can’t pull that card.
Wait. Why can’t we pull that card? If it’s an average, then the ones that recycle are helping to pull that average down. And the really efficient car washes are pulling it way down. Here’s a car wash that uses only 11 gallons of water per vehicle. In this 2002 study from the International Carwash Association, 11 car washes that used reclaimed water were examined; the average number of gallons spent per car wash about 28.
If you don’t need to wash your car, and you’re living through a drought, then don’t wash your car. But keep these accurate statistics in mind. That bird poop and grime can cause expensive damage to your car.