Washing cars in your driveway or street

Vehicle wash water contains pollutants like oil, grease, heavy metals, solvents and soaps. When these harmful pollutants run off our driveways and roads, they go down the storm drain and travel to our local streams, lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound. 

What the law says

Here's what Bothell Municipal Code 18.04.260 says about allowing car wash water to run off your driveway into the street and storm drains:

"It shall be prohibited and in violation of this chapter for any person or entity to:
A. Throw, drain, or otherwise discharge, cause or allow others under its control to throw, drain or otherwise discharge into the municipal storm drain system and/or surface and ground waters any materials other than storm water. Examples of prohibited contaminants include but are not limited to the following:

3. Petroleum products including but not limited to oil, gasoline, grease, fuel oil and heating oil.

4. Antifreeze and other automotive products.

5. Metals in either particulate or dissolved form.

15. Soaps, detergents, or ammonia."

So what does that mean?

It means that it is legal for you to wash your car at home, but it is illegal to let the vehicle wash water run into the street or storm drains. Vehicle wash water contains harmful pollutants that degrade our streams and marine life.

Where am I supposed to wash my car?


Whenever possible, use a commercial car wash. If that's not an option, wash your vehicle over a permeable surface like grass or gravel that will allow the wash water to soak in and filter out pollutants. If you wash over grass or gravel, please use a chlorine and phosphate-free, biodegradable soap to help protect your soil.

Can't I just use biodegradable soap?


No. “Biodegradable” soap still pollutes water. These products are meant to biodegrade in soil where microorganisms are present to break them down. Even if there was a soap that actually did biodegrade in water, there would still be all the dirt, oil, grease, and metals from the car washing that would end up in the nearest waterway.
Car washing in street
Visit our Car Washing webpage to learn more about car washing, alternatives to driveway washing, and environmentally-friendly fundraising options.