Washing Cars and Outdoor Surfaces

Protecting Vaughan’s ponds, rivers and water systems is very important to help reduce stormwater pollution. Washing a vehicle and other outdoor surfaces, like driveways and sidewalks, can send dirt, motor oil, grease, metals, rust, salts, anti-freeze, detergents, soaps and other hazardous chemicals into the City of Vaughan’s storm sewer system.

The City is committed to protecting the environment and fostering a sustainable future. The City’s Sewer Use By-Law (PDF) helps enforce rules on what can and can’t go down storm drains and sanitary sewers. Rainwater and melted snow are the only water that can go down a catch basin to preserve the natural environment and protect the source of drinking water. Water entering catch basins into the storm sewers does not get treated before entering back into the environment. If citizens do not follow these measures, it can cause significant issues for the City’s infrastructure and water quality.


Rain only down the drain

No substances other than rain and melted snow can be poured or allowed to flow into an outdoor catch basin (square grates on the street). This includes:

  • oils and grease
  • soaps and other cleaning products
  • water leaking from a waste/oil bin
  • any water used for cleaning (e.g., mop water)
  • solid materials (e.g., disposable masks, cigarette butts, tissues, wrappers, etc.)


Anything other than rain or melted snow that enters a catch basin is considered a spill and can cause damage to the sewer system, pollute the environment and harm aquatic habitat. If you suspect a spill, please contact Access Vaughan at 905-832-2281 or email service@vaughan.ca.


Help reduce stormwater pollution outdoors

  • Visit your local commercial car wash for a cleaning. Automatic or coin car washes are connected to sanitary sewers that treat water.
  • If you want to wash your car at home, park on the lawn or away from a catch basin to reduce the risk of soaps and chemicals entering into the storm sewer. When washing, other contaminants such as oils, grease and lubricants coming off the vehicle or other outdoor surfaces can pose a risk to the natural environment.
  • Instead of using cleaners, soaps and detergents with harmful chemicals, look for environmentally friendly options that meet third party certification requirements. These products can be discharged onto your lawn or the sanitary sewer, which are connected to drains inside your home. For example, a laundry sink or toilet, which does get treated before entering back into the environment.
  • Instead of hosing down your vehicle, driveway or sidewalk, use a pail and washcloth or mop to clean it and then dispose of the water in a laundry sink or toilet. This method helps prevent soaps and detergents from entering storm sewer grates and catch basins and can also help reduce your water bill.
  • Maintain your vehicle with regular checks for fluid leaks. Motor oil, anti-freeze and gasoline residue on pavement can be collected by rainfall and enter into the stormwater system.
  • If you discover any oils, grease, lubricants or other fluid leaking onto your driveway, apply a disposable cloth or other absorbent material such as sand or gravel, allow the material to soak up the spill, then dispose of it in the garbage.
  • Check the weather forecast. A good rainfall can give your car a natural wash.