Wash Your Car Without Wasting Water

Keeping your car clean during water restrictions

In South Africa, sadly we are no strangers to drought. In fact in recent years water shortages have become more and more commonplace, and with dam levels continuing to fall water restrictions have become the norm.

While the recent rains in some parts of the country have brought the water flowing back through the taps other parts remain dry and desert-like; more like a scene from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome than the lush green countryside of days gone by. In some areas, such as the Western Cape, the situation is so dire that they are counting down the days until the taps run dry.

Regardless of where you are in the country, what the droughts of recent years have shown us is that this is likely to be an ongoing way of life, whether it be sporadic in some parts of our country or permanent in other parts.

With water becoming such a scarce commodity, we are becoming more and more aware, painfully so, of just how precious it is. It is our lifeline, literally, and we need to save and preserve it in every way that we can. But not just in times of a shortage, water saving NEEDS to become a part of life if we are to ensure that the last quenching drops don’t disappear from our taps for good.

Every little bit counts, so we need to start making major changes to the way we use water in every area of our lives, including the way we wash our cars. Today the grave state of our water reserves means that using your hose is not only deemed socially unacceptable, but is environmentally irresponsible and even illegal in some parts of the country. So the big question is how DO you keep your car clean?

In days of old, when water usage was not a consideration, washing your car meant one of two things. The first was a commercial car wash: sitting in your vehicle while it was sprayed and scrubbed by an industrial looking beast. The end result was a shiny chariot, ready to hit the streets. The second was a home car wash that often involved the whole family. The kids would muck in and help, playing around with the spraying hose pipe, throwing wet soapy sponges at each other as they soaped and sudded the family car, then rinsing down with without a care in the world.

But sadly the tide has turned, and the water no longer flows freely. So what can you do to save water and keep your car clean?

Some people have made a conscious decision NOT to clean their cars at all. While this is very admirable, it is also extreme and can cause damage to your paint finish in the long run.
If this is the route you decide to go, it is very important to remove droppings so that the acid in them does not eat away at your paint finish. This can be done with a spray bottle and good quality microfibre cloth.

If you do want to clean your car however, but don’t want to be lynched by the water police here are a few tips that will help you clean your car, and conserve water:

  • The Old-fashioned Way – The good old bucket method ticks all the boxes – you get a clean car and your water usage is minimal. Begin by gently dusting the dirt off with a good microfibre cloth. This will eradicate the need to hose it down, and prevents scratching when scrubbing. Then, with the soapy water in your bucket, wash the car. While the car is still wet take a clean microfibre cloth and wipe the suds away. You can then dry and polish the car till it looks shiny and new.
  • Spit and Polish – A waxy car polish is a very good way of keeping your car cleaner for longer as it provides a waterproof layer for the dirt to run off.
  • Stay away from ground water – Driving at speed through puddles will not keep your car clean! This includes borehole water in certain areas where the water is more alkaline/acidic and could cause damage to your car’s paintwork. Be safe and have your borehole water tested before using it to wash your wife’s pretty new run-about.
  • Double the Dusting – Dust your car off regularly as this will maintain the wash for a little longer.
  • Go Zero-Water! – The drought has seen a huge surge in the number of waterless car washes and eco-products on the market. These use a special spray that breaks the dirt down so that it can be easily removed without water. You can achieve a “fresh off the showroom floor” look without using any water at all.

It really is up to all of us to do our bit to save water where we can. The reality is that we are consuming more than we should, and more than we can afford to. By making some very simple modifications to the way in which we consume water we can make a big change. Just by implementing one of these methods, you can have a clean car and clear conscience.


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