Car Washing Wisely: Keeping Your Car and The Environment Clean




Car washing wisely – Keeping Your Car and The Environment Clean

“Summer and car washing seem to go together. However, many of us don’t realize where the dirty water from our cars goes. The soap, grease, heavy metals and dirt that we rinse off our cars can end up untreated in the nearest stream, river, creek, or lake. This not only pollutes our waterways, it may also harm aquatic life.

Toronto’s sewer system is generally made up of two types of sewers. The sanitary system takes the used water from homes and businesses to a wastewater treatment plant for cleaning. The storm sewer system – the square grates on the side of the road – takes rainwater and melted snow from the streets and releases it, untreated, into local waterways and ultimately out into Lake Ontario.

The City reminds residents that Municipal Code, Chapter 681, Sewers (Sewers Bylaw) prohibits the discharge of any water other than stormwater or melted snow into the storm sewers.

To avoid contaminating local waterways and contravening the bylaw, use these options for washing your car:

• Use a commercial car wash facility. These facilities capture the used water and discharge it into the sanitary sewer system where it will receive further treatment. They are also regulated by the City of Toronto to follow a Best Management Practice.

• Find a location where the wastewater can absorb into the ground and keep out of the storm sewer. For example, washing cars on a grassy lawn or gravel surface allows the wastewater to be absorbed by the soil. Washing the car on your lawn also provides an opportunity to give the lawn a good watering at the same time.

• Dispose of the wastewater into the sanitary sewer.  Use a pail, washcloth and only a small amount of water to remove dirt, and then wipe the car dry. This way, the waste water can be contained in the bucket and disposed of into the sanitary sewer through a laundry sink or toilet.

When choosing one of the above car-washing options, here are a few tips to stay green:

• Don’t use soap or car-care products that need to be washed off. Many car-care products contain harmful chemicals and should be avoided. Some claim to be environmentally-friendly, but the claims can’t be proven and may still affect water quality.

• Don’t wash your car during drought conditions.”


For more information, visit or call 311.