Wax On, Waste Off: 5 Ways Carwash Owners Are Embracing Sustainability


Washing and waxing your car is an essential part of vehicle maintenance, and commercial carwashes provide an unparalleled level of convenience for car owners. Learn how your carwash can help save the planet.

Why Is Sustainability Important for Carwashes?

Obviously, making your carwash more environmentally sustainable is an important contribution to a brighter future. But did you know it’s also vital for keeping your business running strong in the future?

Standing behind social causes like the environment has corporate benefits beyond saving the planet:

  • Cost savings: Sustainable carwash technologies and practices cut down on water consumption and energy use, which also reduces your operating costs. You can then use those savings to invest in other green solutions.
  • Reputational enhancement: As the climate crisis worsens, more consumers are looking for brands that take the issue and their role in it seriously. Demonstrating your carwash’s commitment to sustainability through transparency and more eco-friendly practices can appeal to these consumers and make them feel more comfortable using your services.
  • Future success: More environmental regulations are being passed at the state and federal levels now than ever before, and this increase is likely to continue. Investing in sustainability now can help you get ahead of the curve and survive the changes as they come.

How Carwash Owners Are Making Environmental Change

Thanks to ongoing research by industry pioneers and environmental scientists, the carwash industry seen amazing increases in its ability to reduce harm and even give back to the environment. Here’s a quick overview of some of the many ways carwash owners are embracing a greener business model.

1. Using Greener Products

The Clean Water Act of 1972 states all commercial car washes must drain their waste water into a sewer system. However, conventional car wash products contain harsh chemicals that can harm wildlife and destroy habitats, not to mention the amount of water you have to use to ensure everything gets completely rinsed off.

Many sustainability-focused carwashes have begun using replacing standard products with green alternatives in their services, such as:

  • Hyper-concentrated detergents: These “waterless” cleaning products only require a little water to dilute them for use, which helps reduce the total amount of water you use. They also rinse away with less water than traditional cleaning solutions.
  • Biodegradable cleaning agents: The chemicals in these products naturally break down over time, which prevents them from creating toxic buildup in the environment.
  • Eco-friendly protectant: Newer, “greener” car waxes and ceramic protectants are just as effective at preserving that sparkling exterior without the need for toxic chemicals and excessive rinsing.

While eco-friendly cleaning agents can be more expensive on the surface, sustainability is often more profitable in the long run. One study revealed 35% of consumers are willing to pay up to 25% more for sustainable products. 

2. Installing Reclaim Technology

One recent study has revealed the world is likely to experience a global freshwater shortage of about 56% by 2030. Reducing water consumption is clearly vital for preserving the planet — but while commercial car washes use significantly less water than washing by hand, they still have a long way to go before they can be called truly sustainable.

That’s where reclaim systems come in. Using a series of treatments, they restore used water to wash quality. The wash then reuses that treated water for everything but the final rinse, where it adds fresh water to ensure a high-quality clean.

3. Switching to Renewable Energy

Reliance on fossil fuels is killing the planet, and if your carwash gets its energy from the grid, you’re contributing to the problem. Fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane when burned, which rise into the atmosphere and lead to rising global temperatures.

Switching to renewable energy sources at least part of the time can help you shrink your business’s carbon footprint and even save you some money in the long run. Depending on what’s available in your area, you might be able to use any of the following renewables:

  • Solar: While solar power is a big investment for most enterprises, it can save you on electricity in the long run. If you have your own photovoltaic panels, for example, you can also store excess solar energy for emergencies like storms and power outages.
  • Wind: Wind energy is the most widely used renewable energy source in the U.S.. While the majority of distributed wind farms are on the East Coast, recent advances in offshore wind energy production mean it may be more available to the West Coast in the coming years.
  • Hydroelectric: If your business is located in a particularly wet climate like the Pacific Northwest, you’re likely able to use hydroelectric power in your carwash. For more information on where hydropower is currently available, check the National Hydropower Association’s industry page.

Some areas may have other types of sustainable electricity sources available to company owners, so be sure to do your research to make sure you’re choosing the right power for your carwash.

4. Increasing Water Pressure

While the average homeowner uses 116 gallons of water just to rinse their car off, the average commercial carwash uses only 45 gallons for the entire process. High-pressure water jets clean more efficiently than hoses and old-fashioned jets, which means you need less water to get the same sparkling results.

If you combine these jets with a closed-loop reclaim system and waterless cleaning agents, you can dramatically reduce your overall water usage. You’ll help save the planet while spending less.

5. Using Reusable Materials

Plastic and paper waste from product packaging, marketing materials and other disposable items only add to landfills, even though some of that material can be recycled. Switching to reusable and recycled alternatives can help your carwash not only reduce waste, but also reduce overall costs. 

For example, rather than giving out disposable cloths for customers to wipe their cars off with, you could provide reusable microfiber ones and ask them to place them in a special bin after they’re done.

You can either choose to phase in this change over time or make the switch all at once, depending on your customer base. Some will appreciate a sudden change, while others will feel immediately resistant and be hesitant to choose services that could be more expensive.

Connecting With Eco-Friendly Customers

Make it clear through your advertising that you value the environment. Connect your investments to your mission statement — or write a new mission statement if you don’t have one already — and provide accurate information to anyone who asks. 

This transparency can help you avoid accusations of greenwashing. It can also help to incentivize customers to start making more sustainable choices at your facility.

For example, you could create a “green” wash service that uses only environmentally friendly products and give customers who choose that service a coupon for a small discount on their next wash. Ultimately, while how you do it is up to you, sustainability is a necessity in the carwash space — just like in every sector.

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