Automobile Washing

Most residents wash their cars in the driveway or on the street.  Washwaters typically flow to a storm drain or ditch, which discharges stormwater directly to the nearest stream, river, lake or waterbody.  Soaps and detergents, even the biodegradable ones, can have immediate and long-term effects on fish and wildlife living in water bodies.  The grime washed off the car also contains a variety of pollutants that can harm fish and wildlife.

Suggested Best Management Practices:

  • Consider not washing your car at home.  Take it to a commercial car wash that has a recycle system and discharges wastewater to the sanitary sewer for treatment.
  • Wash your car directly over your lawn or make sure the wash water drains to a vegetated area.  This allows the water and soap to soak into the ground instead of running off to a local waterbody.
  • Ideally, no soaps or detergents should be used, but if you do use one, select one without phosphates.
  • If you can’t wash your car over a lawn, sweep driveways and street gutters before washing vehicles to clean up dirt, leaves, trash and other materials that may flow to the storm drain along with your wash water.  This helps reduce stormwater collection system maintenance costs as well as protect water quality.
  • Commercial products are available that allow you to clean a vehicle without water.  These were developed for areas where water is scarce, so a water saving benefit is realized as well as reduced pollution.
  • Use a nozzle on your hose to save water.
  • Do not wash your car if rain is expected.