August & September 2014
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Washing Your Car and Protecting
Water Quality
By Kari Gerwin, TMACOG Stormwater Planner

During warm summer months, many of us enjoy hand washing our vehicles at home. However, when a car is washed on a paved surface like in a driveway or in a parking lot the soap, detergent, automotive fluids, oil, and roadway dirt that gets rinsed from the vehicle flow straight into nearby storm drains. These storm drains lead to streams, rivers, Maumee Bay, and ultimately Lake Erie. This polluted runoff can cause significant harm to aquatic plant life, fish, and other animals. Since commercial car wash water is treated through the sanitary sewer system, using a commercial car wash is the best way to avoid pollution while keeping your car clean.

Photo Courtesy of City of Roseville, CA

Most car washes offer low-cost basic car wash options for those on a budget. If you still prefer to wash your car at home, following a few simple rules will help to minimize harm to our valuable water resources.

• Never wash your car on a driveway or parking lot. Instead, wash your car on grass or   gravel to allow the soapy, dirty water to infiltrate into the soil rather than run it directly   to storm drains.
• Minimize soap usage. Large amounts of soap are not necessary for a clean car and   using too much soap requires more water to rinse it clean. Mix a mild solution of   biodegradable soap and water in a bucket to sponge scrub your vehicle.
• Minimize water usage. Rinse your car clean with a hose fitted with a nozzle that will   shut off when not in use.
• Don’t wash often. Let the summer rains do most of the washing. Save the car washing   for winter months when cars accumulate salts and road debris.

Photo Courtesy of Sacramento Stormwater Quality Partnership

For more tips and information on steps individuals can take to protect rivers and lakes, see the TMACOG Stormwater Coalition webpages here. The coalition has more than two dozen members in northwest Ohio who partner to meet stormwater permit requirements and to share information on strategies and science of water management.


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