Earth-Friendly Car Washing Tips

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Did you know that vehicle washing can contribute pollutants to our rivers and streams – depending on where your vehicle is cleaned? However, soap suds and water run-off from vehicle washing on driveways, parking lots, and streets typically flow along the gutter and into a storm drain before it empties into a creek or river. Soap is only one part of the discharge problem. Even if only water is used, oils, grease, heavy metals, particulates from vehicle exhaust emissions, and brake dust and rust are being washed into the stormwater system.   Whenever possible, wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash facility.  Dirty water from commercial car washes goes into the city’s sanitary system and is treated at the regional wastewater treatment plant or is recycled on-site, preventing pollutants from entering the stormwater system.

If you do plan to wash your vehicle at home, here are some earth-friendly tips.  

  • Choose soaps, cleaners or detergents labeled phosphate-free and biodegradable. Vegetable or citrus-based soaps are the safest products.
  • Before you get started, sweep driveways to prevent leaves and trash from being carried to the storm drain.
  • Control water volume by using a spray nozzle and wash your car in an area where runoff won’t flow to the street. Divert runoff to the lawn.
  • When you are done, discard dirty wash water onto your grass, flower bed or into the sink.