Professional carwashes

Customers who choose the super deluxe option at their local carwash drive away with a shiny car. But how long will it last?

"If they advertise wax you're getting wax, but I think most carwashes advertise polish," says Mark Thorsby, executive director of the Chicago-based International Carwash Association.

A hand-applied wax may last 30 days or more, the liquid polish only 7 to 10 days, Mr. Thorsby says.

Polish is all about shine. It creates a reflection, helping to keep ultraviolet rays from fading the paint. Wax conditions the surface and helps it stand up to the elements.

Polish may only cost $1 or $1.50 extra at the carwash, Thorsby says. It's not meant to last long. What a good wash does, though, is prepare a car for waxing.

Some customers, however, are dubious since many automatic carwashes use recycled water.

"I think if people knew the technology, they would be surprised at how clean recycled water is," Thorsby says. "There's probably more salt in the water when it comes out of your tap than when it comes out of a recycled system."

Carwashes are not required to recycle water. The International Carwash Association, however, does encourage operators to recycle. Recycled water is typically used at the prep stage, either alone or with fresh water. The final rinse is generally done with nonrecycled water.

American carwashes are required to be attached to a sanitary sewer, which means they're in the water-treatment loop. Cars washed at home on the driveway are outside the loop, meaning that dirty water may end up in storm sewers.

"I guess the soap that ends up in storm drains has some [environmental] impact, but I don't know if it's enough to worry about," says John Flowers of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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