Are you planning a Car Wash Fundraiser? It is admirable to help your school, and/or club, raise money for worthy causes. We only ask that you please remember to protect our creeks and wildlife while you wash cars to raise money for your club or school.

Fundraising Ideas

Ask a local commercial car wash to donate a part of the day’s proceeds or see if they will allow you to market a special wash ticket.

Did you know that: Professional car washes use water safely and efficiently? Protect the environment. Automatic and self-serve car washes also use water efficient equipment that conserves water resources!

Ask neighbors to donate items for a flea market.

Ask local merchants if they would pay to have their business flyers distributed.

See if you can get sponsors to pledge money for a park or creek clean-up.

Hold a fundraising bowling or golfing event.

Sell environmentally-friendly products (reusable shopping bags, Klean Kanteens, etc.)

What's the Problem?

When you wash a car in the driveway, parking lot or street, the following are carried through city gutters and into storm drains, and then into the nearest creek, or river, and eventually into the ocean.

Used oil


Dirty water


Unlike the water that goes down a sink or toilet in your home, stormwater is untreated and flows to waterways and groundwater.

Important Facts

Used oil from a single oil change can pollute up to one million gallons of freshwater.

One ounce of household bleach requires 312,000 ounces of water to be safe for fish

One ounce of biodegradable detergent requires 20,000 ounces of water to be safe for fish.

All by itself, your car wash may not seem to be contributing that much. But collectively, each of these car washes, done on a regular basis as they are in our communities, contributes some very serious pollution.

Before the Car Wash

Contact the City of Chico’s Storm Water Management program to learn how you can protect our waterways while holding your car wash event. Call 879-6950.

Hold a meeting with all the car wash volunteers to explain how to protect our creeks while working at the car wash fundraiser.

Remove all trash and debris from the car washing area.

Choose one of these options:

    1. Select a site where the wash water can soak into grass, gravel, or be diverted to nearby landscaping. This will allow the wash water to filter through the vegetation and/or soil instead of flowing directly into the storm drain.
    2. If you select a site that drains into a street, block off the storm drain with sandbags and either divert the wash water to an area where the water can pool and evaporate throughout the day or arrange to dispose of the wash water down a sanitary sewer drain (with permission from the sanitation district).
    3. Check out a car wash fundraiser kit from the City of Chico. The car wash kit contains equipment that you can use to block off the storm drain and divert wastewater to areas where the soapy/dirty water can soak into the ground instead of flowing into the gutters, and into our creeks. 
    4. Find a sponsor for your carwash that uses a closed loop washing system -- one that recycles its water. Do not hold your carwash at a facility that is not properly equipped. Popular host sites, such as service stations and parking lots, usually do not have the necessary connections to the sanitary sewer.

During the Car Wash

Use only soaps, cleaners or detergents labeled “non-toxic,” “phosphate free,” or “biodegradable.”

Dilute biodegradable soaps according to the directions.

Do not use acid based wheel cleaners or engine degreasers.

Conserve water by using a spray nozzle with an automatic shut off or kinking the hose when not in use.

After the Car Wash

Always empty buckets into pervious areas where the water will evaporate or soak into the ground.

If you use sandbags, you can either save them for the next car wash, or you can use the sand in planters or gardens.


Before you allow anything to go into the gutter or storm drain, stop and think. Storm drains do not go to the sewer; they flow directly into channels and creeks, through wetlands and to the ocean.

Soap is for dishes, not fishes! If it isn’t rainwater, it doesn’t belong in the gutter!

For more information, you can download this PowerPoint presentation..