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You Asked: What's the Most Environmentally Friendly Way to Wash My Car?

Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Patch
On this Earth Day, April 22, we received a user question about the best way to wash a car and take care of the environment. Here's the answer from the EPA.

For many, car washing is a springtime ritual. Often, citizens don’t know that by washing all that winter grime off their vehicles they might actually be causing harm to our local waterways.

Water entering storm drains, unlike water that enters sanitary sewers, does not undergo treatment before it is discharged into our waterways. When cars are washed on streets and driveways, that dirty water eventually winds up in rivers, streams, creeks, and lakes.

Washing one car may not seem to be a problem, but collectively car washing activity adds up to big problems for our local lakes, creeks and streams. Pollution associated with car washing degrades water quality while also finding its way into sediments, impacting aquatic habitats.

The best way to minimize the effect washing your car has on the environment is to use a commercial car wash. Most locations reuse wash water several times before sending it to a treatment plant.

However, if you choose to wash your car at home or on the street, these are some things that you can do to minimize the water quality impact:

  • Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners only. Minimize water usage. Use a spray gun with flow restriction to minimize water volume and runoff.
  • Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel, or grass. This can filter water before it enters groundwater, storm drains, or creeks.
  • Avoid washing cars on concrete or asphalt pavement unless it drains into a vegetated area.
  • Only let wash water soak into the ground as long as you are using biodegradable, phosphate-free cleaners.
  • When planning a car wash fundraiser, try developing a partnership with a commercial car wash facility, or use a safe location.
  • Always empty wash buckets into sinks or toilets.

If you choose to use a commercial car wash today, local Brown Bear car wash locations in Shoreline and Kirkland are donating $1 from every car wash on Earth Day to the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

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