Car Wash Outreach

Keep Your Car and Your Waterways Clean…

Car Washing Impacts Water Quality

When a car is washed in a driveway or street, this water flows untreated directly into the stormdrain, and then into the local waterways. Essentially, it’s like washing the car in the Stanislaus River.

A study of the wastewater generated from fundraising car wash events identified pollutants in the wastewater, including:

  • Petroleum hydrocarbons (i.e. gasoline, diesel fuel, motor oil, fluids, and lubricants) from automobile engines, leaks, and fuel combustion processes
  • Heavy metals from normal wear of auto brake linings (copper), tires, exhaust, and fluid leaks
  • Phosphorous‐ and nitrogen‐containing detergents from cleaning vehicles, which cause nutrient loading
  • Surfactants from detergents and cleaning formulas (synthetic and organic), which are used to help loosen dirt or grease
  • Solids from vehicle exteriors and surfaces

Wash Your Car on the Grass or at a Carwash

While it isn’t illegal to wash your car in your driveway, as a resident, it isn’t good.

  • Washing the car on the lawn allows the water to be absorbed by grass.
  • Commercial carwashes direct used carwash water to treatment systems, and in many cases, they recycle it.

Biodegradable Soap

Unfortunately, using biodegradable soap doesn’t solve the problem:

  • Most pollutants found in the study did not come from the soap.
  • Biodegradable helps the treatment of wastewater, but it requires oxygen to break down in a river ‐ restricting availability to aquatic life.

You Can Make a Difference

  • Encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to wash their cars on the lawn or at a commercial carwash.
  • Find alternatives to fundraising carwashes.  Some options on how to conduct an environmentally-friendly car wash are listed below. In all cases use a flow-control device such as a hand spray with an on/off hose trigger to conserve water.
    • OPTION #1 HOLD YOUR CAR WASH IN A GRASSY FIELD INSTEAD OF A PAVED PARKING LOT - Wash all vehicles on a permeable surface such as a grassy or gravel lot, using biodegradable, phosphate- free soap. Soil and plants help to filter out toxins before they seep into groundwater. Never allow wash water to enter the storm drain system.
    • FIND A SPONSOR FOR YOUR CAR WASH THAT USES A CLOSED LOOP WASHING SYSTEM - Preferably you want one that recycles its water. These are generally industrial and commercial sites designated with an equipment/vehicle wash area. Wash pads must be directly connected to the sanitary sewer system. The property owner is responsible for all necessary discharge permits. Do not hold your car wash at a facility that is not properly equipped. Popular sites such as service stations and parking lots usually do not have the necessary connections to the sanitary sewer.

Remember! – Discharges on to the ground or into the City of Ripon’s storm drain system from organized carwashes (i.e. fundraising carwashes) is prohibited. 

16.156.110 Water Pollution. - No person or use shall discharge liquids of any kind into a public or private sewage system, water course body of water, storm drain, or ground, except in compliance with applicable regulations of the City of Ripon and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. (Ord. 606, 1999; Ord. 774, §1, 2009)

Tips on Environmentally Friendly Car Washes -


Mobile Cleaning – Transportation Related (CASQA)

Vehicle and Equipment Cleaning (CASQA) 

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