Stream Smart Car Washing

car wash

The soap from car washing seems innocent enough, right? After all, it’s just soap! But that greasy, sudsy grime actually pollutes our waterways with detergents, heavy metals, and other chemicals harmful to fish and wildlife. Even biodegradable soap should not be allowed to flow into the stormwater system. Biodegradable soaps are designed to break down in the soil through the actions of soil organisms, but will not readily break down in water. Remember this when soaping up on your next wilderness adventure and rinse your suds at least 200 feet away from any water body.
Fortunately, there are several Stream Smart options for cleaning your vehicle that are described below:

  • Wash over a permeable surface: Park your vehicle over a pervious surface such as a gravel area or lawn, so that water will soak into the ground where pollutants can be filtered and broken down rather flowing into a storm drain. Water from an occasional car wash won’t hurt your yard or lawn, but it will reduce polluted runoff to our streams and will water your lawn at the same time.
  • Limit the amount of water used: Use a bucket and a nozzle on the hose instead of continuously running the hose.
  • New products available: Detailer’s Pro Series Waterless Auto Wash or Griot’s Garage Waterless Spray-On Car Wash, are a couple. To wash your vehicle with less water, use Optimum No Rinse Wash & Shine or Detailer’s Pro Series Rinseless Wash & Gloss. Both products leave your vehicle feeling slick, smooth, and clean.
  • Use a car wash facility: Alternatively, you can take your vehicle to a car wash facility. These facilities are required by law to be connected to sanitary sewer systems so that the dirty water can be treated at a wastewater treatment plant. They are also required to recycle the used water and typically use significantly less water than a continuously running residential hose.

Important Information About Car Wash Benefit Events

Holding a community car wash is a nice way to make money for your organization or club, but if you let the dirty water go into a storm drain, you are polluting your local stream. Consider holding your car wash on a pervious surface, like grass or a gravel parking lot. If that option is not available to you, you can borrow a free car wash kit that will redirect runoff from a storm drain to the sanitary sewer system. More information on how car wash kits work is available at the Rogue Valley Council of Governments site. Several cities have purchased car wash kits that can be checked out from city hall.

Cities that currently have car wash kits available are:
City of Ashland (541) 488-5587 – Required to be used for fundraising car washes.
City of Central Point (541) 664-3321
City of Phoenix (541) 535-1955
There is also a kit available for check out from the Rogue Valley Council of Governments Natural Resources Department at (541) 423-1370.

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