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Laundry products for greywater systems

 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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So I am thinking of having a diverter installed so my laundry waste water runs into a mulch basin outside the house.

Naturally, the next question is:  What kind of products can I use that is safe for the soil, the plants and the aquifer?

You're not supposed to use bleach, or detergents with whiteners or enzymes or surfactants (whatever they are) or boron and some other ingredients.

Just recently (somewhere), I read that if a product doesn't specifically say it's okay for greywater, it probably isn't.  So what IS safe to use?  And the answer is..... (drum roll)

Bio Pac and Oasis Cleaning Products:  http://www.bio-pac.com/cleaners/history/

Environmentally friendly, not animal tested, safe for the chemically sensitive.

"Our Oasis line of products is fully biocompatible. This means you can use the resulting greywater to water your plants. The product actually breaks down into valuable plant nutrients. Oasis cleaners are suitable for both greywater, septic and municipal sewerage systems. "

So there's at least ONE product out there...

Sue
 
Brenda Groth
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i have to buy HE laundry products for my front loader..the 3 x kind..and it only uses about 1 T of liquid soap..per load..

i had thought about having the greywater put onto the soil as well..but right now we will have to leave it the way it is..maybe later we will recycle it but don't have the time to do the plumbing for it.
 
jeremiah bailey
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Surfactant is basically a fancy word for soap. It is any chemical that acts to stabilize the polar relationship between oil and water by reducing the surface tension between the two. Thus allowing the two to mix. It doesn't matter if you use a 100% naturally grown organic soap, if it stabilizes oil and water then it is a surfactant.
 
Leah Sattler
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jeremiah is right. some of that stuff might just be a marketing gimick.
 
                    
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Soapnuts - 100% natural safe product straight from the tree.

Try betterlifegoods.com in the US or Amazon in the UK (they were the best prices that I found).
 
jeremiah bailey
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I should have also added: some surfactants are safe while most are not.
 
Neal McSpadden
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I ordered a small batch of soap nuts.  Very interesting info!
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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I've been fascinated by the Greywater Guerillas who recommend:

  • [li]Oasis Laundry Detergent[/li]
    [li]ECOS liquid detergent[/li]
    [li]Dr. Bronner's liquid soap[/li]
  • .
    On their main greywater page, they specifically recommend avoiding salt/sodium in soap that might end up on plants. And they said greywater is more alkaline, and acid-loving plants might not tolerate it well.

    Though knowing you, Sue, you've probably already researched these pieces of it!
     
    Alison Thomas
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    Ive been making my own for about 3 years now.  We'd like to put in a greywater collection system and I wondered if my recipe is compatible  Washing soda, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), pure castille soap, a few drops of essential oils (whatever takes my fancy when I'm 'brewing' and some water.  Thoughts?
     
                    
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    We just moved to the pacific NW a few months ago.  We are small family farmers and bought 20 acres to start where we produce raw dairy and grassfed meats.  Anyway, I started my first larger garden this year.  We have a huge family by todays standards and we do a lot of laundry.  It disturbed me that all that laundry water would end up the in the septic system, even with an HE washer.  So, we bought an old wringer washer (actually 3 but thats another story) from Craig's List.  I fill the washer in the morning with water and a handful of grated soap that I make (I have a goats milk soap business) and let the laundry soak for a few hours.  Then we agitate it, wring it and drain it into a big tub.  This water gets baled and we water the garden and fruit trees with it.  I am hoping the soap helps keep pests away and so far that seems to be the case.  Then we fill the tub again, rinse the clothes in that, wring them and hang them outside to dry.  We then put soap in the rinse water and put the next load into soak.  We do this whole cycle 3-4 times a day.  Also, doing laundry outside is very enjoyable, I will miss doing it this way in the dead of winter.
     
    Alison Thomas
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    Gosh, that's real dedication!  It sounds like a full-time job but lovely homely images come to mind.  Real homesteading  .  I must admit that I did think about hand-washing our stuff and then putting it through a mangle (also to reduce electricity consumption as it's our long-term plan to go off-grid) but finding an old mangle here in France is not proving easy.  I'll keep looking.
     
    Joel Hollingsworth
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    I hadn't heard of soapnuts.

    I did know of shampoo ginger (use the flower stalk juice), soaproot, soapwort, and that the seeds of quinoa, lamb's quarter, and related grains are coated in useful saponins.
    *  *  *  *
    There's some chance that washing soda will eventually be an issue, unless there's a way for Na to drain away. 
    *  *  *  *
    There are many kinds of bleach.  Traditional chlorine bleach is probably the only problematic ones; peroxide (sometimes blended with washing soda, trade name OxyClean...again, OK if your land can discharge sodium) and ozone are found in nature.  Aerobic life handles them just fine.  In fact, most life makes peroxidase enzymes: your own enzymes cause peroxide to bubble in a wound, even though it will sit in the bottle for years, and doesn't bubble much on the q-tip until some blood mixes in.  It also bubbles when it hits bacteria in the cracks of your sink drain, due to different enzymes they make for the same purpose...unless you keep things cleaner than I do.
     
    Ashley Handy
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    I have one of those HE washers and I use Dr. Wood's Pure Black soap. I use it to wash my body, my hair, my laundry, my dishes. There may be better stuff out there, but it is def safe for the washing machine and it smells really good
     
    John Polk
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    Soap nuts offer one advantage: if you live in Zone 8 or warmer, you can grow your own.

    As per JL Hudsons:

    SAPINDACEAE. Warm-region trees and shrubs with attractive foliage.
    —Sapindus Mukorossi. (10) SAPN-30. Packet: $3.00
    'CHINESE SOAPBERRY', 'REETHA'. Evergreen tree to 45 feet, with large 16" pinnate leaves and small white flowers in clusters at the branch-tips in summer, followed by yellow to orange-brown 3/4" fruits. India to Japan. Zone 8. The fruits are rich in saponin and have been used for soap, in shampoo, as a food additive, and medicinally. Nick seed and give 3 months cold treatment.


     
    Daniel Morse
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    I hate to be negitive. But here I go.

    I agree with the grey water. Rock on. As a former desert dweller I know water is life. As an educated individual I understand chemistry. Washin with a natural soap is and does work very well. You can make your own soap with natural products from the store easy enough. But lets take that a step further.

    I work for a living. I am often exposed to resins, grease, and unknown chemicals that get on me and my clothing. Even in a natural setting on the farm, our clothing is exposed. That will go into your grey water from any washing you do. Also, I do bleach my undies and such. Because I hate jock itch and foot rot. I know everyone is tearing out their hair about it. In small amounts I bleach. I do not trust what is most personal care products as there are little studies as to what it will break down into. Do you want all that in your food? What are you really putting on the ground? Many products have salt in them. You may be doing more harm than good. What is really in that grey water?

    We hope nothing dangerous.

    I do not want that water on a food crop for me or my animals. Trees and ornamental is ok. Non food products

    I used my grey water on my plants and bamboo in the desert. I had a septic there also. MY roses were right on top of it and did very well. Here in the Midwest I have no issues with using my septic. It is well designed and what water I send down it is filtered back into the ground water or the trees around it. I feel that grey water can and should be used, but if you have proper septic, unless your in a true arid environment you may be giving your water back to the ground in a good way with your septic. Just throwing that out there.

    If you have a water softener that uses salt. That salt is being dumped into the ground. Hmmmmmm, something to think about.
     
    lil hodgins
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    I use soapnuts and vinegar, the vinegar if clothes are very dirty ! A lot of the time I use nothing and clothes comes out pretty clean !
     
    Ted Coakley
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    I'm looking around online, trying to find out if anyone has concluded if laundry water that had OxiClean in it is okay for grey water to be added any or all of lawn, trees or food garden.
    I see Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate as 2 of the ingredients in it.

    Anyone here know about OxiClean?

    Thanks!
    Ted
     
                      
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    We use Ecos plus, we can get it at Sam's club. Says it's grey water safe and is around $13 for 252 HE loads, 126 standard.
     
    Matthew Nistico
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    Ted Coakley wrote:I'm looking around online, trying to find out if anyone has concluded if laundry water that had OxiClean in it is okay for grey water to be added any or all of lawn, trees or food garden.
    I see Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate as 2 of the ingredients in it.

    Anyone here know about OxiClean?

    Thanks!
    Ted


    @Ted - I am very interested in your question and have been wondering the same myself. I am starting a new thread entitled "Oxygen bleach" here in the Grey Water forum to explore this topic in general (though if any permies moderators suggest that it fits better under another forum - "Homestead"? "Toxin-ectomy"? - we could move it). Below is a direct link to the new thread.

    Permies > Grey Water > Oxygen Bleach
     
    Izzy Vale
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    Soap (not detergent) is fine for plants, it does kill pests when put onto plants. You cannot wash diapers and put the greywater in your garden for obvious reasons. Vinegars and Salt based cleaners (Borax, etc..) may be detrimental eventually to your ground. But grated soap (REAL soap not detergent) or liquid plant soap (Castile) should be absolutely safe for your ground. If you work in a toxic environment and wash your clothing with toxic chemicals, you should use septic or a mini wetland. It seems that you could make lye soap and use that without any sort of detriment to the ground (as it is simply processed ash water and animal fat). Buying gimicky expensive stuff seems less of a permie kind of idea, than buying REAL soap. You could just fill the washing machine with hot water and soap, put your clothes in to soak, and stop the washer for a couple of hours and then resume it, to agitate and spin dry your clothing. I suppose liquid soap would work fine in cold water, too.
     
    Rue Barbie
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    In our drought (California) I've been using grey water in the garden. I mainly use ammonia for laundry, plus time (soaking). Ammonia used to be more commonly used as a laundry booster which allows one to reduce other cleaning agents, but it's fallen into disuse because too many people do not like the smell. But it leaves the laundry smelling sweet.. and ammonia is actually used as a plant fertilizer. (Do not use ammonia with bleach. Ever. A toxic gas is produced). I do not have toxic chemicals on my clothes that need washing, nor do I wash diapers.
     
    Rebecca Norman
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    The Solviva worm box system, that runs the toilet water through a tank of woodchips and compost worms, worked great. Anna Edey said that she intentionally used the most common popular cleaning products so that she could show that her system works even without much or any lifestyle change. It worked for her. You could try running your greywater through a compost worm and wood chip tank, and try all the products you want to. Most likely they'd all be fine, and in the odd case where they aren't, you'd have to replace the worms and eliminate that product. But it might never happen.

    Compounds tend to break down and become harmless nutrients, but excess of certain elements like sodium can be a problem.
     
    Destiny Hagest
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    Thanks for bumping this thread up with comments, I've been wondering the same thing myself. We cloth diaper and my husband's a mechanic though, so that definitely complicates things - there are pretty strict washing standards for both.

    I don't think I can use soap nuts with cloth diapers unfortunately, i think we may be stuck with the system we have, and maybe just use the nuts for regular laundry, which is maybe half of what I wash.
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    Baking soda. straight up. That's what they use in oil and gas country up in the North East of this province. I use it on my railway labor clothes to good effect.
     
    Matthew Nistico
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    Izzy Vale wrote:You cannot wash diapers and put the greywater in your garden for obvious reasons.


    I note that several people here have mentioned washing cloth diapers. If one is washing diapers, then by definition you are no longer talking about greywater. You are talking about sewage, or blackwater if you prefer. There are threads here dedicated to composting humanure safely that one should explore, not to mention multiple conventional techniques for dealing with sewage that need no explanation. And for the love of all the gods, I sure hope you are washing them in separate loads from the rest of your laundry; not to sound squeamish, but the alternative is just unnecessarily gross! Not to mention that it would unnecessarily complicate one's attempts at recovering laundry water for greywater usage.


    Izzy Vale wrote:Vinegars and Salt based cleaners (Borax, etc..) may be detrimental eventually to your ground...


    Okay, we all know that too much sodium isn't compatible with healthy garden soil. But I thought that salt build up - "saltification"? is that a word? - was mainly a problem in very arid soils. Am I wrong? A little baking soda in the wash water represents precious little Na per acre when used to irrigate. Since salts are water soluble, and therefore wash through, I hadn't been under the impression that those of us who live in anything other than desert climates needed to worry about accumulation...?

    And please explain in what way vinegar would harm garden soil. I was curious about that. What does it contain that might build up? Just acetic acid and water, right? Obviously we don't want to dump undiluted vinegar directly onto plants, but I hardly think we need to worry about wash water in a mulch basin or filtration pond burning anything.


    Izzy Vale wrote:Soap (not detergent) is fine for plants... But grated soap (REAL soap not detergent) or liquid plant soap (Castile) should be absolutely safe for your ground... Buying gimicky expensive stuff seems less of a permie kind of idea, than buying REAL soap.


    Amen to that! Not to disparage any of the brands of greywater-safe laundry products mentioned here - I'm sure they are fine products, and have no experiences with any to say otherwise - but frankly I wouldn't buy any of that expensive stuff if my life depended on it. Give me a gallon refill jug of Dr. Bronner's real soap, some baking soda, maybe some vinegar, and I'm sure I will figure out a routine that serves all of my washing and gardening needs for a lot less $.

    BTW, I would also be very interested in hearing anyone's proven recipes for greywater-safe, preferably DIY, dishwashing detergent alternatives for use in automatic dishwashers. Is there already a thread for that?
     
    Ted Coakley
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    Matthew Nistico wrote:
    Ted Coakley wrote:I'm looking around online, trying to find out if anyone has concluded if laundry water that had OxiClean in it is okay for grey water to be added any or all of lawn, trees or food garden.
    I see Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate as 2 of the ingredients in it.

    Anyone here know about OxiClean?

    Thanks!
    Ted


    @Ted - I am very interested in your question and have been wondering the same myself. I am starting a new thread entitled "Oxygen bleach" here in the Grey Water forum to explore this topic in general (though if any permies moderators suggest that it fits better under another forum - "Homestead"? "Toxin-ectomy"? - we could move it). Below is a direct link to the new thread.

    Permies > Grey Water > Oxygen Bleach


    Thanks, Matthew - great thread you started over there. I'll stay tuned to it!
     
    Matthew Nistico
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    I appreciate you refreshing the link, Ted : )
     
    Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ...   2016 PDC and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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