• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Mike Haasl
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Dave Burton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Ash Jackson
  • Kate Downham

What means "biodegradable"?

 
Posts: 56
Location: Central Chile (zone 8-9?)
6
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Permies
I am planning a house in a mediterranean climate and want to use the grey water for irrigation.
So say I use "biodegradable" dishwasher, shampoo, soap, detergent etc - can I put the grey water directly onto plants?
What means "biodegradable" anyways, what timeframe does it imply? And does it mean it's harmless, or will it be harmless only when degraded?
Cheers in advance!
 
pioneer
Posts: 214
Location: California Coastal range
57
homeschooling goat kids food preservation fiber arts building solar wood heat homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Biodegradable still may not be good for plants,  it may have too much salts.  People do it anyways, if you do be sure to spread out where it goes and irrigate with other water there too.  Can depend on how large your household is if it is too much for your plants.  In a mediteranian climate this will be more of an issue in the summer when there is no rain to dilute it in the soil.  All the homemade laundry soap recipes have borax, for example, which is not good for plants, so it would have to be not too much of it.

There is only one brand that I know if that breaks down into plant FOOD, so it is good for the plants, and that is Oasis .  https://www.amazon.com/Oasis-Biocompatible-Laundry-Detergent/dp/B076ZZPSM9/ref=pd_sbs_121_1/132-7733600-3436508?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B076ZZPSM9&pd_rd_r=d7e4cf6c-7a80-11e9-a69b-37a3210f4837&pd_rd_w=v31sr&pd_rd_wg=xqKA8&pf_rd_p=588939de-d3f8-42f1-a3d8-d556eae5797d&pf_rd_r=QD4CXWB3QC2SAG1YB60D&psc=1&refRID=QD4CXWB3QC2SAG1YB60D

Dr. Bronners liquid soap is better than most other alternatives, and it is good for some washing, not so good for clothes washing ( may leave residue, but maybe that wont bother you )

The brand Ecos if you cant find the others  ( Oasis or Bio_pac) https://www.rootsimple.com/2014/02/what-laundry-detergent-should-i-use-for-greywater-applications/

    According to State of California Department of Water Resource’s Graywater Guide: Using Graywater in Your Landscape [2], specific ingredients to avoid include:

   -chlorine or bleach
   -peroxygen
   -sodium perborate
   -sodium trypochlorite
   -boron
   -borax
   -petroleum distillate
   -alkylbenzene
   -“whiteners”
   -“softeners”
   -“enzymatic” components





 
Posts: 7
Location: Los Angeles
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is what I was similar to what I was thinking (however Debi did some more research than me lol). Biodegradable isn't usually good for plants due to the higher salt concentration. While growing up, I worked in a health food store and a customers would rave about the benefits of Dr. Bronners' products. Interesting question - wish I knew more.

Debi Baker wrote:Biodegradable still may not be good for plants,  it may have too much salts.  People do it anyways, if you do be sure to spread out where it goes and irrigate with other water there too.  Can depend on how large your household is if it is too much for your plants.  In a mediteranian climate this will be more of an issue in the summer when there is no rain to dilute it in the soil.  All the homemade laundry soap recipes have borax, for example, which is not good for plants, so it would have to be not too much of it.

There is only one brand that I know if that breaks down into plant FOOD, so it is good for the plants, and that is Oasis .  https://www.amazon.com/Oasis-Biocompatible-Laundry-Detergent/dp/B076ZZPSM9/ref=pd_sbs_121_1/132-7733600-3436508?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B076ZZPSM9&pd_rd_r=d7e4cf6c-7a80-11e9-a69b-37a3210f4837&pd_rd_w=v31sr&pd_rd_wg=xqKA8&pf_rd_p=588939de-d3f8-42f1-a3d8-d556eae5797d&pf_rd_r=QD4CXWB3QC2SAG1YB60D&psc=1&refRID=QD4CXWB3QC2SAG1YB60D

Dr. Bronners liquid soap is better than most other alternatives, and it is good for some washing, not so good for clothes washing ( may leave residue, but maybe that wont bother you )

The brand Ecos if you cant find the others  ( Oasis or Bio_pac) https://www.rootsimple.com/2014/02/what-laundry-detergent-should-i-use-for-greywater-applications/

    According to State of California Department of Water Resource’s Graywater Guide: Using Graywater in Your Landscape [2], specific ingredients to avoid include:

   -chlorine or bleach
   -peroxygen
   -sodium perborate
   -sodium trypochlorite
   -boron
   -borax
   -petroleum distillate
   -alkylbenzene
   -“whiteners”
   -“softeners”
   -“enzymatic” components





 
Lukas Weissberg
Posts: 56
Location: Central Chile (zone 8-9?)
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow thanks for those answers!

So since it all is a chemical issue (salts etc), there must be a way to treat the water, eg by floculation and precipitation or so. Any ideas on that?
 
pollinator
Posts: 845
Location: Southern Oregon
228
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have successfully used grey water only for irrigating fruit trees and shrubs through the dry season, May-October, in a mediterranean climate. My preferred laundry detergent was Oasis, then Ecos, then Dr. Bronners. I used a hose to move the greywater around to the different plants, but none of them were heavily irrigated. Each plant would get one 20 gallon watering every month or so.
 
master steward
Posts: 14290
Location: Pacific Northwest
6471
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Debi Baker wrote: All the homemade laundry soap recipes have borax, for example, which is not good for plants, so it would have to be not too much of it.



Not all recipes! I used two different ones for my laundry that required no borax. I am, however, not certain to the safety of washing soda and oxygen bleach. I'm not seeing their scientific names on the list of chemicals not safe for grey water. Here were the recipes I used (now I buy Country Save detergent, which comes in cardboard boxes is "eco friendly" and dye and scent free, and has the ingredients of "Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Sulfate, Sodium Percarbonate, Sodium Alkyl Aryl Sulfonate, Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate." or, in other words, "washing soda+hydrogen peroxide, sodium sulphate (dangerous to inhale), washing soda, sodium lauryl sulfate, fatty alchols potential derived from fossil fuels." I switched to using it because my home made detergent wasn't cleaning my son's diapers...but that might have been simply because I wasn't washing them right. Looking at the ingredients in my detergent, it's a WHOLE lot better than other store bought detergents, but it still has me wanting to make my own again, especially since I no long have little ones in diapers!)

Diaper Detergent:
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup oxygen bleach



  • I seem to have lost my recipe for the general laundry soap, though these look a lot similar

    A borax-free recipe from https://www.notsomodern.com/borax-free-powdered-laundry-detergent.html

    1 1/2 c Baking Soda
    1 1/2 c Washing Soda
    1/2 c Epsom Salt
    2 Tbsp Salt



    And another one from https://livesimply.me/no-borax-homemade-powder-laundry-soap-with-natural-fabric-softener/

    1 5-ounce castile soap bar unscented, or your favorite scented variety
    1 cup washing soda
    1 cup baking soda
    1 cup kosher salt
    30-40 drops essential oil optional*, example: 15 drops eucalyptus and 15 drops lavender



    And from https://measuringflower.com/laundry-soap/

    1 5- oz. bar Dr. Bronner's pure castile soap (or other pure castile bar soap, including homemade)
    1 c. washing soda
    1/4 c. baking soda
    1/4 c. Celtic sea salt, epsom salt, or kosher Real Salt



    I'm pretty sure mine was something like this, as I based it off of recipes like those above:
  • 1 bar of fels naptha soap (should have just used a lye-based bar of soap)
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 scoop of oxygen bleach

  •  
    master steward
    Posts: 3941
    Location: USDA Zone 8a
    1155
    dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Lukas Rohrbach wrote: So since it all is a chemical issue (salts etc), there must be a way to treat the water, eg by floculation and precipitation or so. Any ideas on that?



    There are ways to filter out the chemicals using sand filter and reed beds.  Here are some threads that might help:

    https://permies.com/t/1832/Greywater-Laundry-Landscape

    https://permies.com/t/89452/simplest-cheapest-greywater-setup

    https://permies.com/t/87484/Grey-Water-Resource

    https://permies.com/t/57064/Grey-water-sand-filters-detergents
     
    Sue Reeves
    pioneer
    Posts: 214
    Location: California Coastal range
    57
    homeschooling goat kids food preservation fiber arts building solar wood heat homestead
    • Likes 3
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Borax is not the only issue, ph is a big issue, for example.  We often get away with the non-ideal detergents if it is not to much.  

    I had a "lesson" taught to me on this just this year.  A very casual grey water set up here for my laundry got overwhelmed by adding my renters grey water.  He just used biodegradable.  Ended up over time killing the mint.  So for the time being I am giving him the "good stuff ",  Oasis.  Seems not fair to make someone buy something special.  Between that and this winters torrential rains Washing the soilhave my mint coming back.
     
    Sue Reeves
    pioneer
    Posts: 214
    Location: California Coastal range
    57
    homeschooling goat kids food preservation fiber arts building solar wood heat homestead
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    The borax free recipes you posted would still be bad for the soil.  Salt is real bad for the soil.  All fabric bleach, etc... And the ph is high

    We do often get away with it if it is not much at once or diluted.  Maybe a biological treatment could get rid of it.  

    But oasis can be used with no treatment and actually Feeds the plants.  Dr Bronners and Ecos are reported to be next best safest
     
    Nicole Alderman
    master steward
    Posts: 14290
    Location: Pacific Northwest
    6471
    hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Debi Baker wrote:The borax free recipes you posted would still be bad for the soil.  Salt is real bad for the soil.  All fabric bleach, etc... And the ph is high

    We do often get away with it if it is not much at once or diluted.  Maybe a biological treatment could get rid of it.  

    But oasis can be used with no treatment and actually Feeds the plants.  Dr Bronners and Ecos are reported to be next best safest



    I went and looked up the ingredients in Oasis's laundry detergent.

    Concentrated Laundry Liquid
    Water
    Linear Alkyl Sulfonate (a biodegradable detergent)
    Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate (a biodegradable detergent)
    Triethanolamine (aka T.E.A.  biodegradable enhancer of oil solubility and Ph)
    d-Limonene (naturally derived citrus oil –  a fragrance from citrus peels)
    Glutaraldehyde (biodegradable preservative)



    The same company also sells other biodegradble products, such as a powder detergent http://www.bio-pac.com/products/

    Concentrated (Ultra) Laundry Powder
    Sodium Carbonate (occurs naturally – used for water softening)
    Sodium Metasilicate Pentahydrate (biodegradable detergent)
    Zeolite (naturally occurring mineral)
    Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate (a biodegradable detergent)
    Carboxy Methyl Cellulose (anti-redeposition agent)
    Sodium Chloride (common salt)
    Linear Alkyl Sulfonate (a biodegradable detergent)
    d-Limonene (naturally derived citrus oil –  a fragrance from citrus peels)



    There's washing soda and salt in that, and they also sell oxygen bleach.

    Are the only concerns about washing soda, baking soda, and oxygen bleach (which is made by mixing baking soda with hydrogen peroxide), that they are too alkaline? I went and looked up some of the ingredients in the detergents in the Environmental Working Group to see their safety for humans (which may be different than for green water systems, but is important to me as they will be against my skin).

    Ingredients in Oasis Liquid Detergent:

  • linear alkylbenzene sulfonate-- given a grade of C. toxic to anerobic digestion.  and is considered toxic to aquatic life
  • Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate given a grade of D for causing cancer and gentic defects and reproductive toxicity, amoung other things
  • Triethanolamine  gets a grade of D  for reproductive and developmental toxicity and cancer and more
  • d-Limonene gets a grade of C for toxicity to aquatic animals and skin irritant. This surprised me, because it's jusr an extract from citruc peals, and I make my limonene cleaner by soaking them in vinegar
  • Glutaraldehyde gets a grade of F! For skin burns and being very toxic to aquatic life


  • Ingredients in Borax-free recipes (I also listed the ratings from The Environmental Working Group's cosmetics site, which rates things on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most dangerous. I'd found them before I found the other EWG site. So, I listed both here)
  • washing soda comes at the lowest score of 1, being very safe.  Given a grade of A
  • Oxygen Bleach has score of 2. It's not related to chlorine bleach at all, and can be made by mixing hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Gets a grade of B
  • Baking soda has a score of 1, and a grade of A

  • My soil is acidic. I'm going to assume that adding some alkaline cleaners isn't that bad if they are non-toxic and not dangerous to aquatic life. I'm not sure of their affects on plants, but I'd rather have safe chemicals on my clothes than more dangerous ones... I've learned a lot through looking all that up--it was surprising to see things listed in an eco-friendly soap be listed as dangerous to humans and aquatic life. I wasn't expecting that at all!
     
    Sue Reeves
    pioneer
    Posts: 214
    Location: California Coastal range
    57
    homeschooling goat kids food preservation fiber arts building solar wood heat homestead
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Only the Oasis is marketed as being good for plants, not the bio-pac

    Oasis was privately owned for many years by a California greywstervexpert who developed it.  He eventually sold it to bio-pac company.  They are 2 very different recipes

    There is a very big difference in toxic for you to eat vs toxic in the soil for plant life.  If someone wants to be sure it is Good and not do further deep thought or treatment, they should read the article I linked to above and just stick to that.

    Oasis is formulated to disperse into the soil not overland or into waterways. I broke my computer last night so car figure out on this how to wore or link, but you can look it up, Oasis when in the soil breaks down very quickly into plant nutrients like nitrogen and ( I forget  , Lyme brain).  Any ways it does not sit there in that same chemical configuration.

    Yes, many people do get away with other washing recipes, or at least for a while , or may mitigate with biological treatments or ph balancing.  It is more critical if you are in a drought and it is the only water, etc...

    I have used and gotten away with regular biodegradable or homemade at times, and I have also gotten burned by it. I am really glad I have been testing out the cob studios grey water in a non ritual spot before I plumb it over to the raspberries.

    Likely people in other areas can get away with other options or people who build some kind of biological filtering but the easiest way to fed the plants in our dry climate is this one  
    Staff note (Nicole Alderman) :

    Link to the article for easy reference: What laundry detergent should I use for greywater applications?

     
    pollinator
    Posts: 1981
    Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
    purity forest garden tiny house wofati bike solar
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    It is not only about pH.
    It is about sodium content, that only some plants will accept in the long run.

    Nobody suggested amonia.... High pH but no salt I think. Very good against mold or even the best.
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 374
    62
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I wonder, if soap nuts would be a good option, considering they are plants themselves?
     
    Sue Reeves
    pioneer
    Posts: 214
    Location: California Coastal range
    57
    homeschooling goat kids food preservation fiber arts building solar wood heat homestead
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    No ammonia straight to plants

    I don't even put that in my septic, but I am very careful with my septic

    Pour it on some invasive you're trying to kill
     
    Xisca Nicolas
    pollinator
    Posts: 1981
    Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
    purity forest garden tiny house wofati bike solar
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    A septic tank has bacterias and for sure you do not want to put there any bactericide.

    Debi Baker wrote:No ammonia straight to plants

    I don't even put that in my septic, but I am very careful with my septic

    Pour it on some invasive you're trying to kill



    And after evaporating from the water?

    I used it in a bucket for clothes smelling fungi, and then took the clothes off, and let the water sit there, before pouring the water away near a banana tree.  The amonia smell had disapeared.  

    I have washed the wet with amonia + water clothes in my washing machine, that has a direct flow near a papaya. Even the weeds are still there!

     
    gardener
    Posts: 3038
    274
    forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Try to think about the ph of the soil you have in your yard. Some people have alkaline soils-often in dry areas. Adding alkaline soap to that can be quite problematic.

    Nicole and I live in a very wet area with acidic soils.  Some alkaline wash won't affect our soils as negatively, and if you do it carefully, it can help. It's crucial to know how much you're adding and how your soil is beforehand.  Just don't put it on your blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, etc.

    Boron isn't just bad. I added boron to my low boron soil, and several fruit trees bloomed and fruited that hadn't before.  You can do a soil test.  Most soils in most areas have a particular profile.  Adding boron all the time or regularly is problematic because plants need it in such small amounts.  

    Same with sodium. We have low sodium soils here. I added it and our yield improved.  I would be careful about adding it regularly though.

    John S
    PDX OR
     
    Posts: 19
    Location: Mohave Desert, AZ Zone 10A
    1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    We use soapnuts and have had no problems using our wash water in the gardens.
     
    gardener
    Posts: 1181
    Location: Longbranch, WA
    201
    goat tiny house rabbit wofati chicken solar
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Juanita Colucci wrote:We use soapnuts and have had no problems using our wash water in the gardens.


    I also have taken soap nuts as my preferred cleaning agent. sorce They are a dried fruit with the seed removed. They are extremely bitter; probably potassium and phosphorus content. They work in both the was and rinse cycle and if a dryer is used they act as a static suppressant. Instead of trying to mask odors they suppress bacteria the produce bad odors while favoring the bacteria on your skin and clothing that inhibit odor causing bacteria.
    I make an extract by simmering them to get as strong a solution as possible and put it in a pump dispenser for hand and body wash. It works to put them under the hot water stream when filling a bath.
    They are not strong at cutting grease but pree treating spots with a strong surfacant they tend to rinse that out in the second cycle.
    What they excel at is removing actual soil. When I wet my hands with the extract and rinse the water runs brown even though my hands did not look the dirty. Regular liquid hand soap may lather up nicely but when I rinse my hands there is still dirt in the crevices.
     
    Stacy Witscher
    pollinator
    Posts: 845
    Location: Southern Oregon
    228
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I have to agree with the idea that what is good for one soil is not necessarily good for another. In my area of Oregon, boron is typically an issue. I was told that it is the primary problem with well water. We had ours tested and we are within acceptable parameters. But it is something that we would never want to increase and we are moving to using primarily rainwater for irrigation. My thought is that you are worried about it, don't rely on grey water as the only water source in the dry season for a particular plant, move it around and just use it as a supplement.
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 433
    Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
    55
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    There is another, very similar thread on permies that I'd like to cross-link with this one.  Go check it out:

    https://permies.com/t/1849/Laundry-products-greywater-systems#931289
    gift
     
    Rocket Mass Heater Plans: Annex 6" L-shaped Bench by Ernie and Erica
    will be released to subscribers in: soon!
    reply
      Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
    • New Topic