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      Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation

Environmentally Safe Habits and Procedures for:

Home Owners and Do-It-Yourselfers, Auto Body Shops, Auto Repair Shops, Car Dealerships, Gas Stations, Mobile Fleet Managers, Mobile Fleet Washing Businesses

Many common car maintenance routines contribute to ocean pollution. Whether your washing the car on the street or pouring used motor oil into a gutter or storm drain, your polluting the ocean. How?

Water runoff from streets, parking lots and driveways picks up oil and grease that can drip from cars, as well as from asbestos worn from brake linings, zinc from tires and organic compounds and metal, and from spilled fuels. The chemicals drain into the storm drain system, which eventually discharges into the ocean—and in turn harms sea life. Oil and grease, for example can clog fish gills and block oxygen from entering the water. If oxygen levels in the water become too low, aquatic animals die.


  • Change fluids carefully. Use a drip pan to avoid spills.
  • Prevent fluid leaks from stored vehicles. Drain fluids such as unused gas, transmission and hydraulic oil, brake and radiator fluid from vehicles or parts kept in storage.
  • Implement simple work practices to reduce the chance of spills. Use a funnel when pouring liquids (like lubricants or motor oil) and place a tray underneath to catch spills. Place drip pans under the spouts of liquid storage containers. Clean up spills immediately.


  • Prepare and use easy to find spill containment and cleanup kits. Include safety equipment and cleanup materials appropriate to the type and quantity of materials that could spill.
  • Poor kitty litter, sawdust or cornmeal on spills.



  • Gas and diesel spills are common when fueling vehicles. To minimize pollution:
  • Design fueling areas so that all spills are contained and runoff cannot carry spills into storm drains. Spills should be directed to a containment area that allows for proper treatment and disposal.
  • Cover the fueling area to keep rain from washing away spilled materials. Extend the cover several feet beyond the containment area.
  • Keep absorbent materials on-site to allow prompt cleanup of all spills.
  • Post signs instructing people not to overfill gas tanks. Overfilling causes spills and vents gas fumes into the air.


  • Prevent oil and grease suspended solids and toxics from washing into storm drains.
  • Designate a washing site where water drains to the sewer system. The area must be paved and well marked as a wash area. Post signs prohibiting oil changes and washing with solvents. Train all employees to use the designated area.
  • Wash vehicles with biodegradable, phosphate-free detergent. Use a bucket (not a running hose) to wash and rinse vehicles. This conserves water and minimizes urban runoff.


  • Do not hose down your shop floor. It is best to sweep regularly.
  • Use non-toxic cleaning products. Baking soda paste works well on battery heads, cable clamps arid chrome; mix the soda with a mild biodegradable dishwashing soap to clean wheels and tires; for windows, mix white vinegar or lemon juice with water.


  • Educate your employees. Include water quality training in new employee orientations and conduct annual review sessions.
  • Educate your customers. Raise employee and customer awareness by displaying pollution prevent materials. Call (800) 974-9794 to be sent posters and brochures, or click here.
Division 20 of the Health and Safety Code requires the recycling of motor oil. Section 66822 of the California Code requires lead acid battery recycling.

Recycle what you can:

  • Metal scraps
  • Used tires, paper and cardboard
  • Container glass, aluminum and tin
  • Water-based paints