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Am I allowed to wash my car on the street outside my house in France?

A little-known French environmental law prohibits residents from cleaning their car while it is parked on a street, and those who ignore it could theoretically be fined

An image of a car wingmirror being washed

Under French law, it is illegal to wash your car if it is parked on the street, even if just in front of your property. Pic: Oleksandr Berezko

Reader question: I need to clean my car. Am I allowed to do so while it is parked outside of my property - a friend suggested I have to use a carwash?

If you are planning to wash your car this week, you should be aware that it is illegal to do so if it is not parked in your garden or driveway, even if it is on the pavement right in front of your house. 

In France, it is against the law to clean any motor vehicle or caravan “on public roads, private roads open to public traffic, riverbanks, ports and quays, as well as in parks and public gardens,” under article 99.3 of the French health regulation, Règlement sanitaire départemental.

This legislation aims to prevent wastewater from being disposed of on the street, where it could soak into the ground and pollute the surrounding environment with oils and hydrocarbons. 

With this objective in mind, it is also prohibited to drain and change your car’s oil while it is on any of the thoroughfares mentioned above.

Those caught cleaning their car outside their own property could, in theory, be at risk of a fine of up to €450. 

The French environmental code states that if an individual’s wastewater is found to have contaminated the local area, they could also face a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of €75,000. 

However, these penalties are rarely enforced. 

It is, though, perfectly legal to wash your car while it is in your garden or driveway, and also possible to do so on the street, as long as you do not use water. 

So, if you are using a ‘savewater’ product which allows for a dry car wash, you need not worry. 

Read the Règlement sanitaire départemental in more detail here

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