Car Washing and Maintenance

Driving and washing our cars may generate substances - such as motor oil, gas, and soapy wash water - that can harm our local waterways if not managed and disposed of correctly. Follow these car maintenance and washing tips to protect our creeks and rivers!


Car Maintenance Tips

  1. Maintain: Keep up with regular car maintenance to prevent oil, antifreeze, and other fluids from leaking onto our driveways and roads. This will also save you money on car repair.
  2. Recycle and safely dispose: Used oil, oil filters, antifreeze, and car batteries are considered hazardous waste because they can be harmful to humans and the environment if put in a landfill. Instead of throwing these items in the trash, safely dispose of use oil and oil filters at a used oil collection center and other items at an HHW center.
  3. Clean up spills: When changing car fluids, make sure to use a drip pan to collect spills. You can use absorbent materials like kitty litter to soak up any leaks or spills that do happen and then dispose of the litter and  used oil at a collection center. 
  4. Manage trash: Keep a reusable trash receptacle inside your car to collect trash as you travel.



Car Washing Tips

  • Take it to a car wash: Most commercial car wash facilities either recycle the wash water or dispose of the water in the sanitary sewer system which will treat the wash water before it reaches our waterways.
  • Wash on the grass: If you do choose to wash your own car, wash it on a permeable surface such as grass or gravel. This will allow the wash water to absorb into the ground, helping to filter out soap and other residues. Additionally, when you pour out buckets of wash water, make sure to empty them onto landscaped areas (where the water cannot reach a storm drain) or into sinks or toilets.
  • Choose non-toxic: Opt for car cleaning products labeled “non-toxic,” “phosphate free,” and “biodegradable,” which are more environmentally friendly.
  • Be water wise: Save water and money by being conscious of how much water you use while washing your car. Make sure the hose is turned off when you’re not actively using it.


How You Can Protect Water Quality During Community Car Washes

Community car washes can be a great way to fundraise for a cause that you care about. However, it is important to make sure not to discharge wash water into the storm drain system. 

Follow these tips to make sure your community car wash is also waterway-friendly:

  • Never discharge wash or rinse water into streets, gutters, parking lots, or storm drains. 
  • Identify all exposed storm drains and cover them or block them off with sand bags.
  • Use biodegradable soaps.
  • Consider partnering with a car wash business for your fundraiser, as their facility will likely already be set up to follow these best management practices.