When you wash your car in the driveway, remember - you're not just washing your car in the driveway.

All the soap, scum, and oily grit runs along the curb. Then into a storm drain and directly into our lakes, rivers, and streams. And that causes pollution which is unhealthy for everyone. So how do you avoid this whole mess? Easy! Wash your car on the grass or gravel instead of the street. Or better yet, take it to a car wash where the water gets treated or recycled.

Clean water is important to all of us.

It's up to all of us to make it happen. In recent years, sources of water pollution like industrial wastes from factories have been greatly reduced. Now, more than 60 percent of water pollution comes from things like cars leaking oil, fertilizers from farms and gardens, and failing septic tanks. All these sources add up to a big pollution problem. But each of us can do small things to help clean up our water too-and that adds up to a pollution solution!

Why do we need clean water?

Having clean water is of primary importance for our health and economy. Clean water provides recreation, commercial opportunities, fish habitat, drinking water, and adds beauty to our landscape. All of us benefit from clean water-and all of us have a role in getting and keeping our lakes, rivers, streams, marine, and ground waters clean.

What's the problem with car washing?

There's no problem with washing your car. It's just how and where you do it. The average driveway car wash uses a total of 116 gallons of water! Most commercial car washes use 60 percent less water in the entire washing process than a simple home wash uses just to rinse off a car. Most soap contains phosphates and other chemicals that harm fish and water quality. The soap, together with the dirt and oil washed from your car, flows into nearby storm drains which run directly into lakes, rivers, or marine waters. The phosphates from the soap can cause excess algae to grow. Algae look bad, smell bad, and harm water quality. As algae decays, it uses up oxygen in the water that fish and other wildlife need.

Clean Water Tips: How can you wash your car and help keep our waters clean?

  • Use soap sparingly. Use a hose nozzle with a trigger to save water.
  • Pour your bucket of soapy water down the sink when you're done, not in the street. Or wash your care on a grassy area so the ground can filter the water naturally.
  • Best of all, take your car to a commercial car wash, especially if you plan to clean the engine or the bottom of your car. Most car washes reuse wash water several times before sending it to the sewer system for treatment.

For More Information

Contact MassDEP's Nonpoint Source Coordinator:

Jane Peirce
319 Nonpoint Source Program Coordinator
627 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608

To find out more about the advantages of using commercial car washes, the New England Carwash Association (NECA) website provides a list, with the locations, of all the state's carwashes. Consumers can call the NECA  at 781/245-7400 to get information on the latest technologies carwashes are using to battle nonpoint source pollution in your community and in the state!