Car Washing and Maintenance

Keep our creeks safe for fish, people and pets

Washing your car on the street or in your driveway results in large amounts of dirt, road grime, oils, metals, and soaps flowing down the street and into storm drains. Even biodegradable soaps harm fish and other aquatic life.  The term "biodegradable" is not regulated and does not ensure environmental safety.  In addition, each year our vehicles leak over 16 million gallons of motor oil and other petroleum products into the Puget Sound watershed, more than the Exxon Valdez oil spill. These pollutants wash into storm drains, which flow directly to the nearest creek, lake, or Bellingham Bay, killing fish and harming the people and pets that recreate in these areas.

Use a Commercial Car Wash

Using a commercial car wash will keep harmful chemicals, like oils, metals, and soaps, from entering our streams, lakes and the Bay. Commercial car-washes recycle the waste water and send it to the wastewater plant for treatment.

Wash on Your Lawn

When washing your car at home, wash it on your lawn or a pervious surface, where water will soak into the ground and pollutants will be filtered out. Use phosphorous-free soap to decrease the amount of nutrients entering our waterways. Excess nutrients harm water quality and aquatic life.

Fundraising Car Washes

Make your fundraising car wash watershed friendly!

  • Sell commercial car wash coupons from local car wash companies. This allows you to sell tickets any time of year, expand fundraising beyond one event, and doesn’t leave you dependent on the weather. If you are interested in selling car wash coupons for your fundraiser, contact Terry Todd at Sunset Car Wash, 734-1300 ext. 10.
  • Conduct fundraising car-wash events at The Public Market, which has an outdoor area that drains to the sewer system where the water is treated.
  • Call the Public Works Stormwater group to request an assessment of your own car wash site. You can reserve a car wash kit that will pump dirty wash water to a nearby sewer drain.

Fix Leaks Right Away

Improve the reliability and safety of your car by fixing leaks immediately. In the short term, place drip pans or cardboard under your car to prevent oil from reaching our streams or wetlands. Stormwater runoff containing just one pint of oil can make a slick larger than a football field. Store and dispose of materials safely. Call the Recycling Hotline at 360-676-5723 for more information.

Dispose of Chemicals Safely

Never pour vehicle waste, including oil and antifreeze, into storm or sewer drains, septic systems or onto the ground. If you change your own oil, you can recycle your used oil with your SSC curbside recycling. Get a reusable container, such as a clean milk jug or soda bottle, and drain the oil carefully into the container, avoiding splatter and spills. Seal the container securely and mark it “oil.” Set it out with your curbside recycling or take it to your nearest used oil collection site.

Give Your Car a Break

Reduce the time and money you spend on car maintenance by leaving your car at home more often. Carpool with a friend, take the bus, walk or bike to work at least once a week.

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