EDUCATION & ACTION
Vehicle Maintenance: Car Washing
If you wash your car in your driveway or in the street, the grimy soapy water that washes off your car travels down the driveway and street and into the stormwater catch basin (storm drain). Dirty car wash water contains toxic pollutants from the car and the soap. Contrary to popular belief, this dirty wash water does not get cleaned at a wastewater treatment plant before it enters into the nearest stream, lake or Puget Sound. These contaminants can harm fish and wildlife; pollute streams, lakes and Puget Sound; and even seep into our groundwater, which is the source of drinking water supplied by the City of Lacey Water Utility.
How Can I Keep My Car and Streams Clean?
The best way to keep streams clean when you wash your car is to take it to a commercial car wash. The dirty water from commercial car washes is piped down the sanitary sewer to a treatment facility.
If you do wash your car at home, you can protect local streams by washing your car on the lawn (be careful not to park over your septic drainfield) where the dirty wash water can seep into the ground and not run down the storm drain. You should also choose a low or no-phosphate biodegradable car wash soap.
What about Charity Car Washes?
Charity car washes are intended to raise money for good causes, yet, they are often unknowingly held at locations where the dirty wash water can run off into storm drains and eventually into our streams, lakes and Puget Sound.
The best alternative is to use a commercial car wash. Many local car wash businesses help charity groups by allowing them to use the car wash facility. (Inquire at a local car wash business if they offer a charity car wash incentive.)
Groups can also sell car wash fundraiser tickets that are customized with the group’s name. The tickets can be used at local participating commercial car wash. There are several participating locations right here in Thurston County. To find out more, visit the Stream Team's webpage about car washing.
Clean Cars, Clean Streams Charity Car Wash
|If you decide that a traditional charity car wash is your group’s only method for fundraising, the next best alternative is to make sure the site at which you plan to hold your charity car wash is an approved Clean Cars, Clean Streams site. These sites offer appropriate runoff water treatment, which help prevent polluted car wash water from contaminating streams. |
If you are planning a charity car wash, simply call one of the numbers listed below. Staff will help you determine if your proposed site is an approved site, and they’ll loan you a FREE Clean Cars, Clean Streams car wash kit. The kit includes buckets, sponges, biodegradable non-toxic soap, hose nozzles and a Clean Cars, Clean Streams sign to show your customers that your group cares about water quality.
To find a Clean Cars, Clean Streams approved site and to reserve a free car wash kit, call:
- City of Lacey – (360) 438-2687
- City of Olympia – (360) 753-8346
- City of Tumwater – (360) 754-4148
- Thurston County – (360) 754-4681 ext. 8