Environment
  • After lawn watering, summer car washing produces the second largest demand for peak summer water use. It has been estimated that professional car washes use less than one tenth of one percent of the water used by a municipality daily.
  • Many professional car washes use water reclamation systems to significantly reduce water usage.
    Professional car washes discharge their water into a separate sanitary sewer or treat and recycle it. Discharge is not emptied into storm drains. Most storm drains carry excess rainwater directly into nearby waterways without any additional cleaning of that water. Putting anything down a storm drain is the equivalent of dumping it straight into your local lake, river or steam.
  • Many residents do not associate the effects of driveway washing with local water quality, and may be unaware that the pollutants that enter storm drains are not treated at plants before being discharged into local waters.
  • Detergents, even the biodegradable ones, can have a toxic effect on a wide variety of marine life. For home car washing, use a bucket of water and dispose of the water in the sink (so that the water will be treated). Wash on a grassy area or other pervious porous surface such as gravel that can provide filtration layers for small discharges – and prevent travel into storm drains.
  • If your organization is hosting a carwash fundraiser, consider using a local self-serve or commercial facility. Professional car wash facilities collect detergent and road grit from washing cars and dispose of it in a safe manner that protects our environment. “Charity car washing is no trivial matter. During a typical event between 2,000 – 7,000 gallons of water are combined when soap, detergents, oil and grease, heavy metals and other pollutants, are washed down the storm drain. Water from these events typically runs into a storm drain that discharges directly into receiving waters.”*

*Natural Resources Defense Council, November 2002.