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Thursday, Aug. 4, 2005 07:11 pm

Earth talk

From the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear “Earth Talk”: Are there environmentally friendly car waxes, washes, and bug removers?
— Graham Berg, Portland, Ore.

Conventional car waxes, bug removers, and other auto-detailing formulas work because they contain strong chemicals. Unfortunately, these synthetic substances — including glycol monobutyl ether, a registered pesticide, and the petroleum derivatives naptha and cosmoline — can irritate skin, cause other more serious health problems, and get into our groundwater once they are rinsed away.

Luckily, consumers have many alternatives to choose from. A handful of companies have risen to the challenge of developing car-care products that won’t harm our bodies or the environment. Many car-wax manufacturers have discovered that wax extracted naturally from the carnauba palm of Brazil does a great job of protecting auto paint and clear coat from bird poop, dead bugs, and other nasties. Optimum Car Wax, for example, protects your car’s finish without abrasive chemicals, instead combining carnauba wax with lanolins (obtained from sheep’s wool) like those found in gentle hand lotions.

For washing your vehicle, Simple Green Car Wash Cleaner handles automotive dirt, grime, grease, bug stains, and everything in between without polluting. The concentrated formula contains none of the toxic volatile organic compounds found in most such cleaners. It can be used safely to clean paint, clearcoat, windows, chrome, rubber, canvas, and vinyl. Another environmentally sensitive way to clean off caked-on bug guts and other gooey debris without resorting to noxious chemicals is by dissolving baking soda in warm water, then gently rubbing the mixture into the car with a soft cloth.

Detailer’s Pride Gel Wheel Cleaner, available online at driveit.com, among other retailers, is an environmentally sensitive choice for removing caked-on brake dust from wheels and grime from trunk lids and engine compartments. It also gets stains off vinyl and convertible tops, cleans greasy door jambs, and is ideal for loosening and removing bug and white wax residues. It is water-based and contains no harmful solvents or chemicals.

For keeping your vehicle’s moving parts at optimal performance, Balchip Corp., based in Toronto, offers a wide range of environmentally friendly engine treatments and fuel additives that serve to dissolve corrosive buildups and keep parts working together smoothly. All Balchip products are derived from plants and trees and, as such, are completely biodegradable and nontoxic.

For more information: Simple Green, consumer.simplegreen.com; Detailer’s Pride Gel Wheel Cleaner, www.driveit.com/tirewheelcare.html; Balchip Corp., www.greencare.com; Optimum Car Wax, www.optimumcarcare.com.

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