Charitable Car Washes

Best Management Practices For:

Nonprofit Groups, Charity Fund Raisers, School Groups, Church Groups

When operating a charitable car wash, allowing wastewater to flow into storm drains (via streets and gutters) should be avoided and minimized to the extent practical. Wastewater runoff contains soap and oil residue, which should not be allowed to enter the storm drains. The following practices should be followed:

Car Washing

  • If soap is used use biodegradable soap and as little as possible. Shut off the hose while washing your car and then rinse.
  • Use a hose nozzle with a trigger to save water.
  • Pour your bucket of soapy water down the sink when you're done, not in the street, or wash your car on a grassy area so the ground can filter the water naturally.
  • Best of all, take your car to a commercial car wash. Most car washes reuse wash water several times before sending it to the sewer system for treatment.

Washing Vehicles and Equipment

Remove all trash and debris from the car washing area before the event. Use only nontoxic, phosphate free or biodegradable soap. No acid-based wheel cleaners should be used. Consider contracting with a professional mobile car washing service or using rented pressure-washing equipment. High pressure/low volume equipment uses less than a 10th of the water conventional techniques do. If using conventional "hose and bucket" methods minimize runoff by:

  • Shutting off or kinking hoses when not in use. Put a shutoff or spray nozzle on the hose.
  • Select washing area where cars can be driven onto grass or gravel for washing, or where runoff will drain to a landscaped area.
  • Use buckets for soapy water to re-soap rags and sponges rather than adding soap directly to rags or sponges (this helps avoid contaminating runoff, and saves soap as well). Wring sponges and rags into buckets, not onto ground.
  • Buckets of soapy water should be drained into the sanitary sewer. Do not empty buckets onto the parking lot, street gutter or into storm drains.

Remember to clean up the site after the event otherwise they might hose the site down. This helps prevent stormwater contamination and will make the property owner more willing to allow future fund raising events.

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