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Laundry products for greywater systems

Susan Monroe

Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
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:

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...

Brenda Groth

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
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.


Bloom where you are planted.
jeremiah bailey

Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
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.

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller
Jeremiah Bailey
Central Indiana
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
jeremiah is right. some of that stuff might just be a marketing gimick.


"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent

Joined: Jun 06, 2009
Posts: 2
Soapnuts - 100% natural safe product straight from the tree.

Try in the US or Amazon in the UK (they were the best prices that I found).
jeremiah bailey

Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I should have also added: some surfactants are safe while most are not.
Neal McSpadden

Joined: May 04, 2009
Posts: 269
I ordered a small batch of soap nuts.  Very interesting info!

Check out my Primal Prepper blog where I talk about permaculture, prepping, and the primal lifestyle... all the time!
Jocelyn Campbell

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 3118
Location: Missoula, MT
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!

    Hands-on workshops in all shades of green - Cascadia & Seattle Eco Events Calendar | QuickBooks Consulting and Accounting Services -
    Alison Thomas

    Joined: Jul 22, 2009
    Posts: 933
    Location: France
    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?

    Joined: Aug 01, 2009
    Posts: 6
    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

    Joined: Jul 22, 2009
    Posts: 933
    Location: France
    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

    Joined: Jul 01, 2009
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
    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.

    "the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
    Ashley Ross

    Joined: Mar 01, 2012
    Posts: 95
    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

    Please check out my blog:
    John Polk

    Joined: Feb 20, 2011
    Posts: 6895
    Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
    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

    Joined: Feb 13, 2012
    Posts: 236
    Location: SW Michigan
    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.

    I have never met a stranger, I have met some strange ones.
    lil hodgins

    Joined: Feb 06, 2012
    Posts: 39
    Location: s w france
    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

    Joined: Jul 16, 2012
    Posts: 1
    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?


    Joined: May 12, 2011
    Posts: 5
    Location: Great Falls
    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.

    ~~Twisted Critters Farm~~
                                       ~~ No one here is sane.....~~
    Matthew Nistico

    Joined: Nov 20, 2010
    Posts: 226
    Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
    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?


    @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

    Blazing trails in disabled homesteading
    Izzy Vale

    Joined: Oct 15, 2012
    Posts: 13
    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.
    I agree. Here's the link:
    subject: Laundry products for greywater systems