Fish-Friendly Car Washing

Many people enjoy a nice, clean car. While keeping your car clean is admirable, try following some of these fish-friendly car washing guidelines, to help keep harmful pollutants out of our waterways, and Puget Sound!

Looking for ideas to raise money for your charity that will also protect our natural waterways and fish? Promote Fish-Friendly Car Washing by selling car wash coupons from the Puget Sound Car Wash Association's program. 

The High Environmental Cost of "Fund-raising" Car Washes 


The water that runs off your driveway and into the stormwater drains from car washing is harmful to fish and other aquatic life. When you wash your car, the oil, road grime and soapy water flow down the roadway gutters, and into the stormwater drains. These drains are designed to carry away stormwater runoff, but not pollution! The water that goes into stormwater drains flows directly into our streams, the Puyallup River, and eventually Puget Sound. Even small amounts of these pollutants can kill our native salmon and their eggs, as well as inhibit their ability to reproduce.

Fund-raiser car washes are a thing of the past now; they may raise a few dollars, but at the cost of harming our local water ways and fish that live there. In addition, letting car wash water flow into storm drains and the stormwater system is against City Municipal Code. Only rainwater is allowed to enter into the stormwater system - anything else is considered an Illicit Discharge and may be reported to the Department of Ecology - but education and outreach is the primary avenue for preventing these polluting events.

Education is the best way to help others understand how our stormwater systems work and help them find ways to improve their daily tasks while reducing the impact to the storm system.

Here are some fish-friendly car wash tips to prevent runoff pollution from flowing into the stormwater drains, streams and river:
  • Wash you car on your lawn - Instead of washing the pollutants down the gutters and stormwater drains, allow your lawn and landscaping to filter out the chemicals! The dirt and rocks naturally filter the wash water. Read more about this concept in the Rain Garden pages.
  • Use a local car wash facility - These facilities rinse off the grime, and the polluted water is piped to a treatment facility - not the river! Find a participating Puyallup charity car wash facility.