How to Recycle Car-Wash Water


Place the safety cones from the kit around the storm drain, especially while you're placing the kit, to warn motorists to give you room.


Carefully pull up the grate to the drain and place the tub from the kit in the opening.


Use sandbags as necessary to divert the car-wash runoff into the storm drain where you placed the basin, to avoid the water going to another drain down the street.


Attach the hose from the kit to the pump and place that inside the tub.


Divert the exit end of the hose to a lawn, shrubs or trees. It can also be diverted to a sanitary sewer system through a toilet or sink. Fundraisers may be able to divert the water to grass and trees in a community park.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wash cars on gravel or grass when possible.
  • Use biodegradable soap.
  • Conserve water by using a spray nozzle that shuts off when not actually in use.
  • Hold charity fund-raiser car washes at a commercial establishment with water recycling in place.
  • Check with your local government to see if they offer free car-wash kits.
  • Waste water from washing a car on pavement typically flows into a municipal storm-drain system that is not subject to the same treatment as water in the "sanitary" sewer system. Commercial car washes are generally required to recycle or treat their waste water, so charities should use them for fundraisers whenever possible. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Most storm water impacts from car washing are from residents, businesses, and charity car wash fundraisers that discharge polluted wash water to the storm drain system." To minimize storm drain pollution, wash cars on a lawn. Car-wash kits designed to keep dirty water out of storm drains are offered to fundraiser groups at no charge by some counties. They can also be purchased for individual use. Kits can also benefit "residential groups such as townhome complexes, condominiums, homeowners associations or others who may have a high volume of car washing in their community" according to one of those counties, Kings County in Washington.