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What's the problem with car washing?

There's no problem with washing your car. It's just how and where you do it. Most soap contains phosphates and other chemicals that harm fish and water quality. The soap, together with the dirt and oil washed from your car, flows into nearby storm drains which run directly into lakes, rivers or marine waters without being treated first. The phosphates from the soap can cause excess algae to grow. Algae looks bad, smells bad, and harms water quality. As algae decays, the process uses up oxygen in the water that fish need.

Clean Water Tips:

How can you wash your car and help keep our waters clean?


• Use soap sparingly. Use a hose nozzle with a trigger to save water.

• Pour your bucket of soapy water down the sink when you're done, not in the street, or wash your car on a grassy area so the ground can filter the water naturally.

• Best of all, take your car to a commercial car wash, especially if you plan to clean the engine or the bottom of your car. Most carwashes reuse wash water several times before sending it to the sewer system for treatment.

To find out more about the impacts from washing your vehicle and what you can do to prevent water pollution, call the

Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation District at (845) 677-8011 ext. 3, or visit their website at

Special thanks to the Dutchess County Water Quality Strategy Committee and the Hudson Valley Regional Council.

This information is brought to you by the Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation District. Established in 1945, the Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation District has been working with individuals for over 50 years to coordinate state and federal conservation programs at a local level. The District provides technical assistance and education on soil, water, and related natural resources. Municipalities, farmers, and landowners use this information in making proper land use decisions.

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