While certain parts of SA are experiencing flooding, the City of Cape Town announced this week that they would be introducing water rationing in an attempt to battle the ongoing drought and impending water crisis. Unfortunately for responsible citizens who are trying to save water, that means that your faithful set of wheels is going to be denied it’s weekly car wash for another few months.
Or does it?

The days of water-wasting car washes – with bikini-clad babes spraying hoses at each other and having soap-throwing fights – may be over (sigh), but that doesn’t mean that your poor car should have to suffer. There are waterless car wash alternatives that work just as well as the old-fashioned hose, sponge and soap method… some even work better!

The ‘Car Wash’ crash of ’17

Many car wash owners in Cape Town have raised concerns with the municipality that the tighter restrictions will lead to loss of income and even loss of jobs. However, the city has taken a hard stance against water wasters, and unfortunately for car washes, even if they recycle their water they still have a big part in this. A conventional car wash uses up to 250 litres of water, which is often contaminated with harmful abrasive chemicals. When this water and chemicals it contains are washed away, they contaminate almost 2000 litres of groundwater. If 20% of all the cars currently driving in SA were washed without water, more than 7 million people could be supplied with 2 litres of fresh drinking water per day for a whole year! Some car washes have already moved to waterless alternatives which use little or no water.
Residents of Cape Town are well beyond the simple tasks of turning off a tap or using less water when washing their cars – all citizens of the Cape have to find innovative and effective ways to save water and the time has come to invest in waterless car wash solutions, at home or at the car wash.

Car wash: tips on how to save water

#1 Use a waterless car wash:

There are a number of these businesses available throughout the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa. Look for Eco Wash, Durawash or Green Machine franchises or other car washes that utilise their products and technology. Instead of over 200 litres, these car washes use under 1 litre per car! Many of the people who run these car washes are small business owners and entrepreneurs, so by supporting them you’re not only helping with the water crisis but helping to grow small businesses in South Africa.

#2 Wash it yourself:

Most leading retailers stock waterless car wash products, so head down to the nearest supplier and grab some! Try to purchase products that cause the least harm to the environment – go for palm oil-derived products like Green Machine’s range, as these are water soluble and don’t  pollute the water system.

#3 Get some microfibre clothes

When it comes to wiping the cleaning product off, any old rag won’t do – make sure you buy a couple of high-quality microfibre clothes. Microfibres are tiny hair-like fibres that collect dirt. These are thicker and have a better pile height than other clothes which means that there’s more space to catch dirt and dust, reducing the chances that you’ll scratch the paint job when wiping the product off. Go for clothes with a minimum weight of 300 gsm (grams per square metre). If you can’t find microfibre clothes, experiment with other materials to find the cloth that absorbs the best without causing scratches or swipe marks. This isn’t just for water savers: this method is used by most antique or high-value car collectors – some of these guys with cars worth more R10 million haven’t used water in years!

#4 Started at the bottom now your cloth is dirty

Divide your car into sections based on which areas carry the most dirt: your rims are more likely to get dirty than your roof, for instance. Start with the least dirty areas first, to make your clothes last longer. This usually means starting at the top of the car and moving down, as the closer you get to the road the more dirt the surface of your car will come into contact with. It also helps to have separate clothes for different areas, since each of these areas will come into contact with different substances – think about how dirty your rims or engine block gets, compared to your windows. When cleaning your clothes, wash each section’s cloth separately to avoid cross-contaminating the clothes with different substances.

#5 Regular washing

These products aren’t Superman – if you’ve just returned from a month-long off-road adventure and you’re thinking, “I could swear my car used to be red, not brown?” then these products probably aren’t for you. Similarly, if you wait for dust and grime to build up to a level that would scare even the Handy Andy guy, don’t expect a single wash to do the trick. By regularly cleaning your car and removing grime and dust, you’ll prevent that layer of dirt from getting stuck onto your car, making your life easier and ensuring that you don’t have to go to extra lengths to get the muck off. Most waterless products have the added bonus of waxing your car as well, which creates an extra layer of protection against dust and dirt – by using these products regularly, you’ll prevent new dust and dirt from sticking to your car.

#6 Use grey water

If you absolutely have to use water to get the most obstinate of dirt off, make sure it’s grey water from the shower: place a bucket in the shower or under the drain to catch as much of your shower water as you can, and use that for your wash.

#7 Make hay while the sun doesn’t shine

Singing in the rain might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but car washing in the rain should be. Next time a drizzle or downpour starts outside, pick up your sponge, put on a raincoat and get scrubbing!
Found these tips useful? Then check out our super-useful Vehicle Finance Repayment Calculator and our Fuel Consumption Calculator.
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