Dear Driving for Dollars,
I live in New England and in the winter, they use a lot of salt on the roads. I always hesitate taking my car to the car wash in the winter months. I thought that since they are reusing the water, it must be loaded with salt. My friend says I shouldn’t worry. Who is right?
— Stan

Dear Stan,
Your friend is probably right. In most states, there are Environmental Protection Agency regulations in place that require car washes to recycle or “reclaim” their water and treat it to remove all the dirt, oil, grime, sludge, salt and anything else. And in some places, city or county ordinances are in place to test that the car washes are doing their job, akin to the Health Department checking up on a restaurant to be sure it meets the health codes. Sometimes, self-service car washes are regulated differently than full-service washes that use machines that touch or are touchless to clean your car.

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There are various ways that car washes can get the salt and other solids out of their water before they use it again on someone else’s car. The systems can include different types of filtration, separating out the solid particles and even treating the water to dissolve solids such as salt.

If you really are concerned about what is in the water from the car washes in your area, you can contact your city or town to ask about their regulations for car wash businesses or visit the EPA site for your state. 

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