Goleta’s Green Room: Wash Your Car the Right Way

The City’s new Environmental Services Coordinator, Melissa Nelson, brings you her next helpful tip of the month. Washing your vehicle yourself can be a fun outdoor activity, but you should know that improper cleaning can harm our local creeks and beaches. There are many pollutants associated with washing your car, including soap, oil, grease, buildup from exhaust emissions, heavy metals, rust, and much more. All these forms of discharge can have devastating effects on our water quality, fish, wildlife, and plant life.

What about commercial car washes? Commercial car washes are heavily preferred to the DIY alternative. These businesses are regulated to have all their water run into the sanitary system where the water can be treated, and they are monitored by the City. Some car washes will collect, treat, and reuse their water on-site as well. Using a commercial car wash is a great option!

There are smart, environmentally friendly ways to wash your car at home, too:

  • If available, try washing your car somewhere that water will not flow into the street and the storm drains. Your lawn has one of nature’s greatest water filters in the form of plants and soil and will prevent harmful heavy chemicals from reaching the groundwater.
  • Try to use as little water as possible. If you use a bucket instead of a hose, that may help prevent water from flowing to the storm drain.
  • If you use a hose, you should use a shut-off valve, too, to prevent excess water from flowing to the storm drain.
  • Create barriers using rolled up towels or straw wattles: Use them as a barrier to the storm drain. You can also use these to divert the water to a landscaped area, such as a lawn.

The next time your car needs a clean, please keep these tips in mind, and help protect our creeks and oceans!

Pictured: Storm drain barrier