When You are Washing Your Vehicle in the Driveway

Remember You're Not Just Washing Your Car in the Driveway .....

What's the problem with car washing?

There's no problem with washing your car. It's just HOW and WHERE you do it. Soaps and detergents, even biodegradable products are lethal to fish and other aquatic life in relatively small amounts. When you wash your car in the street or driveway, the soap along with dirt, oils, metals, and other pollutants washed from your car, the driveway, and the street, flow into nearby storm drains which flow directly to our lakes, streams, and the ocean without treatment.

Here's some tips on how you can reduce the environmental impact of washing your car.

Recommendation from Sammy the Steelhead, "Go to a commercial car wash when your car needs cleaning to conserve water and prevent stormwater pollution." Commercial car washes recycle water and send wastewater to treatment systems where it is treated before being discharged into a waterway.

If you must wash your car at home, use the environmentally friendly car washing tips listed below to reduce water use and prevent stormwater pollution:

  • Use a bucket and special biodegradable soap. Use as little soap and water as possible. Look for products that do not contain nonylphenol surfactants that act as endocrine disrupters that change the sex of fish and phosphates that contribute to algal blooms and low oxygen levels in waterways. When you are done, dump your bucket of soapy water into a sink, drain, or toilet that goes to a treatment system or into a vegetated area.

  • Use a trigger spray nozzle to control water flow from the hose and reduce water use.

  • Wash the car on a grassy area or other porous surface where soil microbes and vegetation can filter and break down pollutants and keep wash water out of the street and storm drains.

  • You can also dike off your driveway and direct wash water into a landscaped area or vacuum it up with a ShopVac rather than allowing it to run into the street.

  • Support environmentally friendly charity car wash events that block off nearby storm drains, use minimal amounts of water, and divert wash water to the sanitary sewer or nearby landscaping.