Can I wash my car during a hosepipe ban? What the law says

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What the law says about using tap water to wash vehicles during restrictions and how to keep your car clean

Households in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight face a ban on the use of water hoses from Friday August 5th, while South East Water has announced that similar restrictions will be lifted in Kent and East Sussex from Friday August 12th. will come into effect.

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Hose bans are rare in the UK and other water authorities have so far indicated no plans for such measures. However, several customers have asked to conserve water where they can and the Environment Agency has convened the National Drought Group to discuss water supplies, which could portend further restrictions in the future.

As the name suggests, hose bans restrict how households can use outside water supplies, and under a hose ban you cannot use a hose to wash your car, caravan or trailer.

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Cleaning your car with a bucket uses a lot less water than with a hose

Washing a car with a hose uses a lot of water – between 400 and 480 liters according to USwitch – which is why it has been included in the ban.

If you’re caught breaking the ban, you could face a fine of up to £1,000.

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How to wash a car during a hosepipe ban

Despite the limitations, you can still wash your car using other methods that are far less water intensive.

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You are still allowed to fill a bucket from a tap and use it to wash your car. It is estimated that this uses around 32 liters of water compared to the 400+ liters used by a hose. You can even use a watering can to rinse off soapy water.

Alternatively, you can use “grey water”, i.e. water that has already been used, for example in the bathroom. However, it is not advisable to use water that contains regular washing-up liquid as it is not good for a car’s paint or plastic and rubber parts.

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And if you have your own water supply, such as a private borehole, or a water recycling system like a water butt, you can still connect a hose to it for outdoor use.

You can also consider waterless detergents. There are dozens on the market that claim to break down and remove dirt with a quick spray and wipe of a cloth – eliminating the need to pre-wet or flush your car.

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Once you’ve cleaned your car, you can also take steps to reduce the need to wash it again. Applying a suitable protective wax will help keep it looking shiny and repel dirt for longer. And if possible, park in a sheltered spot where dust and dirt are less likely to collect while you stop.

Who is exempt from a hose ban?

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Although most private households are affected by the bans, some are exempt, e.g.

Commercial car washes are also exempt from the restrictions, meaning you can still pay someone else to do the hard work for you.

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