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Car Care
Car Wash
Photo Courtesy of Washington State
Water Quality Consortium
Practicing good car care means you are helping protect our lakes and streams. How does caring for your car affect our lakes and streams? Storm drains found in our streets and roadside ditches lead to our lakes and streams. So, if dirty water from washing our cars washes into the storm drain, it pollutes our local waterways. Likewise, if your vehicle leaks motor fluids on the street or driveway, that too can wash into the storm drain and pollute our local waterways.

Here are some simple steps you can take to care for your car and help keep our water clean:

  • Make a date. Car-wash facilities treat their dirty water before discharging it to our lakes and streams. So, make a date to take your car to a car wash.
  • Wash it — on the grass. If you wash your car at home, consider washing it on the lawn. Or, if you can't use the lawn, try to direct the dirty water towards the lawn and away from the storm drain.
  • Minimize it. Reduce the amount of soap you use or wash your car with plain water.
  • Maintain it. Keep your vehicle properly tuned and use the owner's manual to guide decisions about how often it is necessary to change fluids such as oil and antifreeze.
  • Take advantage of business expertise. Consider taking your vehicle to the shop to have the oil and other fluids changed. These businesses have the ability to recycle the used materials and clean up accidental spills.
  • Recycle. If you choose to change your oil and other fluids yourself, label the waste containers. Then, take them to your community's household hazardous waste collection day or to a business that accepts used oil. Never dump used oil, antifreeze, or other fluids on the ground or down the storm drain.
  • Soak it up. Use kitty litter promptly to absorb small amounts of spilled vehicle fluids. Then sweep it into a bag and throw it in the trash.
  • Do it under cover. Whenever possible, perform vehicle maintenance in a well-ventilated, but covered location (e.g., garage). This minimizes the potential for rainfall to wash those inevitable spills and drips into our lakes and streams.


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