Soaps and Detergents

Why are they bad for water quality?

One of the most threatening and widespread contaminates of storm water is soaps resulting from the washing of cars. When carried to local waterbodies after entering storm drains, soaps cause excessive algae to grow, ultimately starving the water of oxygen when the algae begins to decompose. Additionally, soaps destroy the mucus layer in fish, which protects them from harmful parasites, and alters the aquatic environment.

What can we do to prevent soaps and detergents from polluting waterways?

CarwashWash your car on the grass, not on the driveway or in the street, which will allow the water to percolate into the ground and filter out the grit, grime and metals washed from the car.
When washing your car at home, do not let the hose continuously flow. Use a spray nozzle that controls the water flow only when you need it.
Use bio-degradable or environmentally friendly soaps instead of harsh detergents.
Using a bucket filled with soapy water to help to limit the amount of soap and water that you use
Wash your car at a commercial car wash rather than washing it yourself at home. Commercial car washes reuse wash water and discharge the water to the sanitary sewer system. Not only do they protect storm water by not discharging soaps into the street, they help us conserve water.

Charity Car Washes

Community groups interested in hosting charity carwashes cannot allow wash water to enter the storm drain system. Click here  (18 KB) for Charity Car Wash Guidelines. Instead, community groups should consider either hosting their car washes on a pervious surface, like in a park, or working out a deal with a commercial car wash facility to option a portion of the proceeds. For more information, a program has been established for groups interested in teaming up with an established car washing business.

What do the laws say about soaps and detergents?

It is still permitted to wash your personal vehicle at home, yet voluntarily limiting the amount of soap and water used will prevent the government from banning residential car washing altogether. If we prove that people can wash their cars and still protect water quality, there will be no need to ban car washing at your home. Charity car washes, however, are illegal if the water runs into a storm drain.

Report any water running in the street when it is not raining or someone dumping something in the storm drain or curb and gutter by calling the
Urban Runoff Hotline at 760-435-4500.