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Why you should wash your car on the lawn

  • 7/21/2017 10:42:00 AM
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If you’re looking for a creative way to spend a hot summer afternoon with your kids and be productive, consider washing your car on the front lawn. Washing the car on the lawn instead of the driveway may look odd to the neighbors, but it conserves water and helps preserve the ecosystem in your community.

If you wash your car at home, park it on the grass to keep soaps and cleaners out of the storm sewer - more tips | Iowa DNRWhen you wash on concrete, soapy runoff travels through storm drains and directly into rivers untreated. This can harm fish, plants and other aquatic life and can cause irreversible damage to the ecosystem.

In other areas, water can flow into a larger lake where the effects of the chemicals can be larger, longer lasting and more impactful, says Steve Konrady, with the DNR’s Watershed Improvement Program.

The ground works as a natural filter for pollutants by neutralizing harsh chemicals used in soaps and cleaners. Phosphorus, found in most commercial detergents, can impact the health of a waterbody through excess algae growth, suffocating the ecosystem.

To avoid lawn damage, don’t use acidic cleaners and strong all-purpose cleaners. Instead, use biodegradable soap. It’s safer for lawns and widely available. It’s important to use chlorine- and phosphate-free cleaner when washing the car, either on the lawn or not. One pound of phosphorus can grow 500 pounds of algae.

Many people don’t know where the water they use ends up or the effects their actions can have on it. Their water travels through a watershed, a large area of land that drains to a single body of water.

“It is important for Iowans to know about their watershed because understanding how a watershed works and how we can make changes is important for improving and protecting water quality,” says Steve Hopkins, with the DNR’s Watershed Improvement Program.

However, washing your car at a car wash remains the best option for the environment. With properly permitted car washes, the water goes to a sanitary sewer where wash water can be properly treated to remove harsh chemicals.

“Although it's true that washing a car on a lawn is far better than on a driveway, some of the wash water from a lawn will still runoff into the street when the soil in the lawn becomes saturated, and how quickly it happens depends upon how compacted the soil is to begin with,” says Hopkins.