Car-Wash

at the car wash

Only Soap?

It’s not just soap from washing your car that goes down the storm drain. It’s also the oils and dirt from you car that go directly into the drain and run right into our lakes and rivers, untreated, harming the fish and our water. So wash your car at a car wash, on the lawn or someplace where it can soak into the ground.

  • Wash your car at a car wash
  • Wash your car on the lawn or some impervious surface where it can soak into the ground

Charity / Fundraising Car Washes
Car Washes are a great way to raise money for your organization, but doing it yourself can be hard work and the soap, dirt and oils generated typically go down the street and into a storm drain and straight into our rivers and streams, untreated. This harms our marine life and water quality.

  • Use only nontoxic, phosphate free or biodegradable soap
  • Find a large grassy area to drive the cars onto/drain water
  • Wring sponges and rags into a bucket not onto the ground
  • Use or create a car wash kit


Build Your Own Car Wash Kit

Option #1

  • Wet/dry shop vacuum: as the car wash is being conducted, designate a person to vacuum up excess rinse water as it accumulates on the ground. Rinse water must be collected prior to entering the storm drain. Then dispose of the rinse water on a lawn area, landscaped area or stormwater swale.
  • GFCI adapter plug – ground-fault circuit Interrupter (Class A).
  • Extension cord: a 100 foot (or appropriate length) extension cord.
  • Safety Vests and Traffic Cones: orange safety vests and traffic cones are necessary when working in or near traffic.

Option #2

  • Storm drain protective mat: place a heavy protective mat over the storm drain to prevent soapy water from entering.
  • Wet/dry shop vacuum: after the water is allowed to pool it can then be vacuumed up with the shop vacuum and pumped through a garden hose or poured onto a lawn, landscape area, or stormwater swale.
  • Garden hose (optional): Some shop vacuums are available with a built in water pump that can continually pump water from the shop vacuum container through a garden hose as water is being vacuumed up.
  • GFCI adapter plug: Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (Class A).
  • Extension cord: a 100 foot (or appropriate length) extension cord.
  • Safety Vests and Traffic Cones: orange safety vests and orange traffic cones are necessary when working in or near traffic.

Most of these items can be purchased at local hardware stores. Safety items, such as road cones and vests, can be purchased from a local safety equipment supplier; check yellow pages in local phone directory.

How to Use Your Car Wash Kit (For Option #2)

  1. Locate the nearest lawn, landscape area or stormwater swale, storm drain, electrical plug in. (Locate the storm drain where the water will accumulate.)
  2. Put on traffic vests.
  3. Set up orange cones next to storm drain to alert traffic.
  4. Cover the storm drain grate with the heavy mat. Caution: be sure that the grate is completely covered.
  5. Plug in the wet/dry shop vacuum using the ground fault adapter plug and extension cord.
  6. Use the wet/dry shop vacuum to remove pooled water around the storm drain. Make sure that one to two people are designated strictly for this task.
  7. Dispose of the rinse water on a lawn area, landscaped area or stormwater swale.
  8. Read and follow safety instructions with all equipment.



Check out these other great ways you can help keep monsters out of our storm drains