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Over half (51%) of British motorists are forfeiting the environment for a gleaming set of wheels by regularly hand washing their cars , mistakenly believing this has the least impact on the environment compared to regulated car washes, according to a study released today by Total UK and supported by

Whilst nearly three quarters (74%) of Brits understand that their individual actions have an effect on the environment, they appear to be unaware that washing a car on streets and driveways causes dirty water to run into the nearest rivers and streams, where it affects water quality and harms wildlife . If half of the 43 million British motorists decided to hand wash their car, 14 billion litres of untreated water would flow into local waterways .

The study also reveals that nearly six out of 10 (58%) motorists are potentially putting a bigger strain on the environment by washing their car once a month or more, and 430,000 (1%) are doing so more than once a week. It would appear that women drivers are the worst offenders, with two per cent of the fairer sex admitting to cleaning their car once a week, compared to one per cent of men.

Faye Sunderland, Editor,, says: It’s shocking to see how many people are not aware of the impact hand washing a car has on the environment. It’s a serious issue as phosphates from the detergents used to clean vehicles can cause excess algae to grow, which not only affects the water quality but uses up oxygen in the water that is required for fish and other marine life to survive. Using a regulated car wash helps avoid this potential devastation as it ensures the water is properly treated before being pumped back into the waterways.”

Water down the drain
The study also indentifies a knowledge gap among British motorists when it comes to estimating the amount of water used to wash a car, but it seems men are much less realistic than women. Over 16.5 million (71%) male drivers believe hand washing uses less than 50 litres of water, compared to just 12.7 (61%) million female drivers. In truth, hand washing uses 650 litres when using a hose pipe - six and a half times higher than a roll over car wash .

Sunderland comments: “Using a hose pipe to wash your car at home can waste an incredible amount of water. One of the benefits of roll over car washes is that they can still operate during hose pipe bans thanks to the water usage reduction.”

Robert Doyle, Car Wash Manager, Total UK Ltd comments: “The gap between motorists’ perception and reality when it comes to washing their cars is a real eye opener and hopefully this study will encourage people to reconsider how they keep their cars clean.”

Top roll over car wash myths
• 19 per cent of motorists believe that cars with fixed aerials are not allowed to use roll over car washes
• 14.6 million (34%) motorists think that roll over car washes damage the paintwork

Doyle continues: “These myths are just that – myths. Total UK invests in some of the world's softest and safest materials for its roll over car washes to ensure that motorists experience a wash that is as gentle as it is powerful. The brushes are strong enough to remove grime and dirt, but soft enough that they do so without dulling the paintwork. In many cases hand washing cars can damage a car’s finish as a result of people using the incorrect detergents and dirty cloths, as well as by applying too much pressure . Motorists with fixed aerials also have no need to worry, as you can certainly use roll over car washes if your car has one.”

For more information on Total’s car washes, visit the Total Car Wash Website.


TOTAL is the world’s 5th largest energy group and Europe’s leading refiner and marketer of fuels. TOTAL has interests in 27 refineries and over 17,000 service stations throughout the world.

Total UK is the group’s UK refining and marketing subsidiary, and is based in Watford. It has one refinery, a lubricant blending plant and a bitumen plant as well as 850 TOTAL branded service stations throughout England and Wales, which accounts for 10 per cent of the UK market, selling over 3 billion litres of fuel and lubricants each year.

For further information, please contact the Total UK Press Office on 0870 241 4337.

An award-winning, definitive guide to green cars, providing a wealth of information on everything from electric cars, hybrid cars, efficient petrol and diesel cars to biofuels and hydrogen technology. With daily news, the green car advisory website is the most up-to-speed guide to greener cars available and the best place to find out more on ways to reduce your motoring-related environmental impact. Since its launch on 16th June 2007, has experienced a tremendous growth in traffic and now attains more than 150,000 page views a month.

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Text 100
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Text 100
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