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Washing Your Car

When vehicles are washed on hard surfaces (such as streets, parking lots or driveways) the wash-water picks up soap, dirt, grease and other pollutants as it travels across the hard surface to the storm drain system. From there, the polluted water is carried directly into our local waterways.

In a special partnership, askHRgreen.org and our Bay Star Business program have teamed up with local commercial car washes to show appreciation to customers who are washing their cars responsibly. Our “Thank You for Washing Wisely” initiative has launched at car wash businesses throughout Hampton Roads.

When you choose to wash your car at a commercial car wash facility, you’re helping to protect water quality in Hampton Roads. Here’s why: When vehicles are washed on a hard surface (such as a driveway, parking lot, or street), the soapy wash water picks up dirt, grease, oil and other pollutants as it travels across the pavement to the storm drain system. From there, the polluted water is carried directly into local waterways. 
 
It’s like washing your car in the Chesapeake Bay! 
 
Commercial car washes, on the other hand, recycle some of the wash water and send dirty water into the sanitary sewer system, where it is treated to remove harmful pollutants before being returned to the environment.
 
If you own or operate a local car wash business, please join askHRgreen.org as a Bay Star Business partner and help spread the word that washing the commercial way is good for our waterways! Contact us at hrgreen@hrpdcva.gov.
 
Whether you frequent a self-serve station or a full-service wash-and-wax business, pat yourself on the back for helping to keep our waterways clean. And if you are a do-it-yourselfer at home, you can also do your part to protect water quality by washing on a grassy area, which can safely absorb the wash water.

 

GOOD TO DO

Best Strategy

  • Use a commercial car wash to wash your vehicles, when possible.

Cleaners

  • Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners only.

Reduce Runoff

  • Minimize water usage and runoff by using a hose nozzle with flow restrictions.
  • Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel or grass. These surfaces can filter water before it enters local waterways. Avoid washing cars on concrete or asphalt pavement unless it drains into a vegetated area.
  • Place plastic sheeting and then a heavy rubber mat over the storm drain area to prevent wash water from entering the stormwater system. Rolled up towels can be placed around the edge of the mat to increase its watertightness.
  • Use sandbags, rolled towels, hoses or other materials to divert the water runoff to an area that absorbs water, such as gravel or grass.
  • Wring sponges and rags into a bucket instead of onto the ground.
  • Always empty wash buckets into a sink, toilet or vegetated area — never onto driveways, roads or into storm drains.

IS YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS A BAY STAR?

We live in a beautiful region surrounded by water. It impacts everything from the food we eat to the fun we have as well as our economic livelihood. Our daily actions have a lasting impact and it's up to us to protect and restore our waterways. It takes a community of individuals making small changes to make a difference. Getting involved in the Bay Star programs is one way you can be part of the effort to protect our region's most defining natural resource, water.

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