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Water Containment Mats: DIY Options & Recommendations for Detailers

If you are new to detailing or have been in the game for very long at all, water containment mats are one of those products that are nice to have as a professional detailer. In this post, I’ll explain why you may want to think about investing in one, and provide a few recommendations.

Why Use a Water Containment Mat?

If you are new to detailing or have been in the game for very long at all, you may have heard something about water runoff regulations. That’s one of the main reasons to purchase a water containment mat, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Avoiding storm drains

Perhaps the biggest reason to consider buying a water containment mat is the fact that there can be strict penalties if contaminated water ends up in storms drains, which can end up in lakes and rivers. I wrote a post you can read here covering runoff and EPA fines and is definitely something to look in to if you are washing vehicles in cities.

Benefits of Using Water Containment Mats

  • Securing contracts with property managers
  • Leave your client’s driveway or parking lot free of chemicals and water
  • No water runoff into storm drains
  • Ability to save water using reclamation vacs

If you don’t have a water recovery vac , you can pick one of these up to suck up the water and suds if you plan to recycle the water sucked up from your mat. These have filters in them and can be quite expensive. If you’d like to dispose of the water from these mats, you can always use a separate water tank specifically for waste.

Keep in mind that while you can technically use a wet/dry vac, the pumps in these are not really built for constantly sucking up large volumes of water like dedicated reclamation vacs are.

My Recommendations

If you are a serious detailer having a containment mat is a device you really need to have just in case you find yourself detailing office parks or areas that have drains or runoff regulations. These come in a variety of sizes, so I wanted to provide some information on what to look for.

Honestly, there really aren’t many of these on the market based on my research. One model that is $600+ I can’t recommend based on the reviews I’ve seen, but there is a more affordable option on Amazon that I found below.

Keep in mind, some water containment mats are made to be placed in a garage, to simply catch water, snow, or mud NOT meant to contain the water used when washing a vehicle. You want to make sure your mat has inflatable sides, or the ability to insert pool noodles.

1. 12′ x 23′ All American Water Containment Mat

water containment mat

If you are looking for a professional water containment mat, this is one is an affordable option that you don’t have to inflate. Just use pool noodles for the berms, and you’re good to go. Some have said this model is made out of much higher quality material than the others.

Click here to check price on Amazon

Creating a DIY Water Containment Mat

Another option that may save you some money if you are willing to be creative is to create your own water containment may using a tarp. Before you get started, here’s what you’ll need:

  • (1) 12′ x 20′ tarp – 10ml thickness
  • (12)  pool noodles (63 inches long)
  • (1) Spool of heavy duty thread
  • (1) Sewing machine (handheld preferred)
  • (4) 24 lb Sandbags


Below is a video I found helpful for creating your own containment mat, in addition to the steps to take.

Step 1: Lay the tarp out.

Step 2: Fold in one foot of the tarp on all sides

Step 3: Use duct tape to tape down the these edges, leaving a foot on each side of the corners

Step 4: Use heavy duty nylon thread to stitch 5 inches from the outside fold.

Step 5: Insert the pool noodles at the corners, fitting them into the 5 inch pockets you created

Step 6: Place sandbags on the corners, and test it out.

One Final Thought

You may want to call a local specialty detailing store (if you have one) just to ask about the availability or pricing on water containment mats. Some of these can be quite expensive, but necessary depending on where you live. You also may want to consider going eco-friendly if these regulations are preventing you from growing your business.

Check out the post I wrote: 15 Eco-Friendly Auto Detailing Products to Consider if you are considering switching to eco-friendly or waterless products.

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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