How Much Water Does a Car Wash Use? – Average Usage

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how much water does a car wash use

Just how much water does a car wash use? If that’s a question that takes up much space in your mind, then the simple answer to your question is this: The average car wash needs about 65-80 gallons.

But on a more in-depth view, it really all depends on the methods used and the many other factors that come into play. Interested to learn more? Read on for all the bits and pieces!


Water Consumption of Different Types of Car Washes

How much water does it take to wash a car? Well, to get an accurate answer, you first have to look at the type of car wash it is.

A commercial car wash takes on many types and forms, and with all that, their systems differ vastly, and this goes the same for their water consumption. Here are some of the types of car washes.

Automatic Car Wash

An automatic car wash makes use of different machines without manual labor. Automatic car washes usually operate with the use of a tunnel that has built-in pieces of equipment.

There are two options when it comes to an automatic car wash: a touchless car wash or a soft-touch car wash.

1. Touchless Car Wash

For the touchless, the car is cleaned solely with a pressure washer that is built into the tunnel or whichever machine the establishment is using.

70 gallons is the amount of pressure washer use to wash a car spotlessly:

  • Per day – If a car wash accommodates 100 cars in a day, the average water consumption is 7,000 gallons or 31,823 liters of water.
  • Per month – 210,000 gallons
  • Per Year – 2.52 million gallons

2. Soft-touch Car Wash


A soft-touch car wash uses soft brushes and cloth to get rid of the car’s dirt and dust. The soft bristles thoroughly enter the hard-to-reach spots and make the car crystal clean.

For an in-bay soft-touch car wash, just about 35 gallons of water per car is used.

  • Per day – For 100 car washes daily, the average water consumption is 3,500 gallons or 15,911
  • Per month – 105,000 gallons
  • Per year – 1.26 million gallons

3. Manual Car Wash

In some parts of the world, manual car washes are still a thing and it’s just as similar to washing a car with a hose at home.

Some studies suggest that a driveway car wash wastes a lot more water than car washes with technologically advanced equipment. Especially now that modern car washes implement a system that recycles water, sustainability just gets easier and easier.

You can expect that manual car washes use a lot of water, mostly because it is not automated by any system. Manual car washes use 100 gallons of water or more on just a single vehicle.

  • Per day – If the average gallons in a car used is 100 gallons and a car wash accommodates 100 cars a day, that’s 10,000 gallons per day.
  • Per month – 300,000 gallons
  • Per year – 3.6 million gallons

Car Wash Water Consumption Compared to Other Water Uses


1. Dishwashing

An automatic dishwasher uses 3 to 4 gallons of water. But if it’s an outdated-styled dishwasher, there is even more water consumption but rest assured that it’s not alarmingly high. Outdated dishwashers take up as high as 15 gallons of water maximum.

But if we’re talking about handwashing, then it’s a lot higher. For that, 27 gallons is the usual amount of water.

2. Showering

How much gallons of water does it take to shower? Surprisingly, car washes are still increasingly high as compared to showers. On average, showers only use 17 gallons of water for an 8-minute shower.

3. Bathing

A bath which is 3% of the most consumed water in the household still doesn’t compare to the consumption of car washes in terms of gallons per use. Interestingly, one regular bath uses only 30 gallons of water.

Of course, baths are a day-to-day thing while car washes aren’t as frequent. However, a car wash owner who does car washing daily consumes water way more than regular baths.

4. Clothes washing

What comes close to the water consumption of a car wash is clothes washing. A standard washer takes up 40 – 45 gallons of water.

Since it’s often done weekly, this means that 40 – 45 gallons are used weekly for washing clothes. In a month, that’s 160 – 180 gallons.


Do car washes have to use recycled water?

Yes, car washes certainly do this to use less water. While it’s not compulsory, some parts of the world have made it illegal to not have a recycling water system for their car wash.

However, some businesses prefer not to set up their recycling system. We can’t blame them, a car wash water recycling system cost isn’t affordable. You’ll have to invest $35,000 to $100,000!

Of course, there are also car wash owners who choose to make the investment since it will also benefit them in their car wash water bill. One example is Watershed Car Wash Austin.

How to recycle water from a car wash?

Car washes save water by using special equipment. Not all water recycle systems are the same but generally what they do is that they keep water in tanks, process them, and make them available again for reuse, making the car wash water efficiency process more sustainable.

Self-serve car washes recycle water using the same system but others don’t wash with 100% recycled water since they usually mix recycled water with fresh water.

Shouldn’t you use the garden hose to wash a car?

Yes, you shouldn’t use a garden hose to wash a car. This is highly discouraged because there’s so much waste that comes with it. For every minute a hose is open, it runs 10 gallons of water.

You only need about 40 gallons to keep the whole car tidy and fresh. This means that by using a hose, you’re using way too much water than the average usage in a car wash.


How much water does a car wash use? Know you now. At the end of the day, the more waste, the more we put ourselves in jeopardy. It’s bad for the environment, bad for business, and it heavily affects us in the long run.

So take time to reflect and go to a car wash that conserves water. If you would rather wash your car at home, make sure to neglect the hose, pick up the bucket, and remember that the small simple steps make way for the great big changes!

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