Vehicle Maintenance

The Do's & Don'Ts of Car Washing & Vehicle Maintenance


Don't wash your car in your driveway or street!

Why? The dirty water from washing your car may contain things like soap, residue from exhaust, gasoline, heavy metals from rust, motor oil, asphalt and will flow directly from your driveway into the storm sewers. These storm sewers drain directly into local creeks, rivers and Lake Wylie. All of these contaminates will degrade water quality and impact the overall health of the aquatic habitats.

Did you know that local car wash fundraisers can be a significant source of local water pollution because they take place in heavily paved areas where the water drains directly into the local storm system and then into the local stream and lakes.

Did you know that the average homeowners use 116 gallons of water to wash a car, while the average commercial car wash uses 60% less and they are required to have catch basins and the waste water enters the sanitary sewer system not the storm drain system?

Is soap really that bad? Soaps have chemicals in them called "phosphates." The phosphates are great for cleaning your car but not good for lakes and stream. Phosphates are the key ingredient in many fertilizers. High levels of phosphates can lead to algae blooms. Algae looks bad, smells bad and too much algae can remove the oxygen from the water that the plants and animals need. Also, the soaps can remove the slimy protective layer on fish making them prone to disease.

Do Use a commercial car wash

If you must wash your car at home, please use the following storm water friendly tips:
  • Wash your car on a grassy area so the ground can filter the water.
  • Use a bucket
  • Use special "phosphate free" biodegradable soap. Use as little soap as possible.
  • Dump your bucket in a sink not down the drain or in a grassy area.
  • Use a trigger spray nozzle to control water flow to reduce water consumption.

Car Maintenance


  • Don't dump any automotive fluids or parts down the storm drain.
  • Don't clean-up leaks and spills by rinsing with a hose.
Why? These contaminates will enter the storm sewer system and then will drain directly into local creeks, rivers and Lake Wylie. All of these contaminates will degrade water quality and impact the overall health of the aquatic habitats.

Did you know that dumping motor oil, brake dust, sanding waste, filter residue, paints and other automotive fluids can result in severe penalties from your local officials?

What Should I Do?


  • Recycle used oil and other automotive fluids at participating stations or auto parts stores.
  • Check your cars, boats, motorcycles, lawn mowers and other equipment for leaks and spills. Make repairs as soon as possible.
  • Clean any spills with absorbent materials, such as, kitty litter or sand, and properly dispose the absorbent materials.

Check out the Car Care for Cleaner Water factsheet for more information