Answers To Consumer Questions About Car Washing

Tools & Resources

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MA DEP) recommends environmentally responsible car washing at a professional car wash. Click on the following link and scroll to learn why: Nonpoint Source Pollution Education: Car Washing

To provide consumers with a better understanding of how professional car washes use and dispose of waste water, we are posting a variety of material from sources such as the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (MA DEP), and water use and disposal studies.

Besides reducing water usage, limiting driveway (hard surface) washing has another important benefit. The run-off will not go untreated into the storm drains, polluting your sensitive water supply and potentially harming the environment. Commercial car washes are required to dispose of water and solid waste from car washing in an environmentally safe manner. For example, the water may not flow into storm drains, and solid waste must be trapped and hauled away. Many car washes recycle water, all use high pressure systems that use water efficiently, and all must use EPA approved cleaning agents.

To locate a NECA member car wash near you, search zip code based listing of members ( or contact the NECA office directly.

Some Facts About Charity Car Washes
Excerpts from a presentation by Randy Cressall, 2006 President, Western Carwash Association

Charity parking lot car washes have always been a popular fundraising tool for school groups and non-profit organizations. But, most charity car washes are held in parking lots that are not designed to collect or treat run-off.

Do you know how much pollution a typical non-professional charity caScroll abut halfway down the page to learn about ther wash dumps down the drain?

  1. “Charity car washing is no trivial matter. During a typical event between 2,000 – 7,000 gallons of water are combined when soap, detergents, oil and grease, heavy metals and other pollutants, are washed down the storm drain. Water from these events typically runs into a storm drain that discharges directly into receiving waters.” Natural Resources Defense Council, November 2002.
  2. Paint and vehicle exhaust contain heavy metals such as lead, zinc, and rust. Soap contains phosphates, chlorine, and other non-biodegradable ingredients that are toxic to fish and other marine life.
  3. “Remember that the discharge from a single charity wash introduces the same amount of solids in a storm drain system as a sewage spill of more than 6,000 gallons.”
    Arthur Coe, Executive Officer, San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Californian (Southwest Riverside County, CA); January 2003
  4. “It may seem like a small amount of oil and grease generated from a charity car wash that is deposited into a storm drain, but collectively, these little sources add up to the equivalent of 23 Exxon Valdez oil spills in the continental U.S. each year.”
    Steve Palmisano , City Environmental Manager, Santa Cruz CA. Santa Cruz Sentinel. “Professional Car Wash and Detailing Online” , 12/3/2002

Specialized technology, allows professional car washes to clean cars thoroughly while conserving water.

  1. Most professional car washes save water by using high pressure nozzles and pumps. This equipment lets the professional car wash clean cars thoroughly with a fraction of the water a home car wash uses.
  2. Professional car wash operators collect environmentally harmful substances from washing cars and dispose of them effectively in a safe manner that protects our environment, once again by complying with EPA and NPDES rules.
  3. One professional car wash operator saves nearly 1 million gallons of water each year from washing down the local storm drains and polluting the precious environment.

Professional car wash operators work effectively with communities across the United States to develop charity car wash fund-raisers that are environmentally safe.

  1. Raises money for charity
  2. Offers free advertising and assistance for fund -raisers
  3. Establishes community/business partnerships
  4. Reinforces environmental responsibility for fund-raising groups
  5. Reduces storm water pollution and its growing impact on your community’s most important and treasured resources.

There are over 75,000 professional car wash operators across the United States, many of whom are willing to work collaboratively with municipalities formulating tailor made charity carwash programs for their respective communities. Partner with your local car wash and their Association to develop your community’s home driveway and charity car wash best management practices.

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