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?

We don't have a "car washing law," so the act of washing your car in your driveway is not illegal. But it is illegal to let the vehicle wash water run into a storm drain. Vehicle wash water contains harmful pollutants that degrade our streams and marine life.  

How can I safely wash my car?Car washing in street

If the method you currently use to wash your car allows the soapy water and runoff to drain into the street and storm drains, consider trying a safer method like using a commercial car wash. If that's not an option, try washing 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. You could also try a waterless car wash product, wash in a self-serve bay at a commercial car wash, or divert your water away from the street and storm drains.

Can't I just use biodegradable soap?

Even biodegradable car washing soap pollutes the water. These products are meant to biodegrade in soil where microorganisms are present to break them down. Even if there was a soap that biodegraded properly 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.

Visit our car washing webpage to learn more about car washing and environmentally-friendly fundraising options.