Protecting our water one car wash at a time


Protecting our ponds, rivers and water systems is very important, and many of us contribute to polluted water runoff without realizing it. Did you know that washing your car in your driveway can send dirt, motor oil, grease, metals, rust, salts, anti-freeze, detergents, soaps and other hazardous chemicals into our stormwater systems?

The grates on the side of the road that collect this polluted water are connected to stormwater systems. They collect rainwater and melted snow from the pavement and other hard surfaces, and release them back untreated into local rivers, streams and Lake Ontario.

Now imagine every other household washing their car in the driveway this summer, and hosing down harmful soaps, detergent and wax. Hundreds of litres of contaminated water will trickle down into the stormwater drains and eventually make its way into our lakes and rivers. We need to protect these natural resources, as well as the fragile biodiversity that inhabit it.


  1. Visit your local car wash for a cleaning. Car-washing facilities are connected to sanitary sewers that treat contaminated water.
  2. Instead of hosing down your car, use a pail and washcloth to clean it and then dispose of the water in a laundry sink or toilet. This method helps prevent soaps and detergents from entering our stormwater grates, and can reduce your water bill. You can also try a waterless car wash product, which involves spraying a cleaning agent and requires virtually no water.
  3. Wash your car on a lawn or landscaped area that can absorb water runoff.
  4. Have regular checkups for fluid leaks. Motor oil, anti-freeze and gasoline residue on pavements can be collected by rainfall and travel to our stormwater systems.
  5. Check the forecast. A good rainfall can give your car a natural wash.
  6. Instead of using cleaners, soaps and detergents with harmful chemicals, look for environmentally friendly options that meet third party certification requirements such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice Standards and Criteria.


If you opt to wash with environmentally friendly soaps or cleaners, don’t forget that outdoor water use restrictions are in effect from May 15 to Sept. 30. Water use is only permitted from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on your designated watering day. Learn more about this by-law.

Do you have any other car-washing tips to share? Let us know in the comment section below.

To learn more about our stormwater systems, visit

Chris Wolnik
Manager, Wastewater and Stormwater Services

Visit the City of Vaughan’s website at

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