Hi, everyone! We've been putting off really figuring out our laundry situation at the homestead because every time I've tried something the clothes ended up more dirty than when I started (mostly because there wasn't a clean environment to do it all in). But now, with the coronavirus pandemic, it doesn't seem worth the risk to go to the public laundromat, so we have extra motivation. We don't have a washer or dryer or well. We have a rainwater catchment system, an extra bathtub and buckets outside, and a scavenged mop-wringer that we put on top of a bucket to help both with washing and wringing dry. We have a greywater drip irrigation system that just connects the bathroom tub and sink to one of the gardens, with a long sock filter. Sometimes we'll pour water from other sources down the greywater standpipe that's just past the filter (we put a basic drain screen on top of the standpipe mouth), and that's what we'd do with the wash and rinse water.
I have Biokleen and Ecos laundry detergents, and my first instinct is to use the latter based on research I've done and posts here. But my partner is still leery of putting anything we don't know all the ins and outs of into the garden we get most of our food from, even very diluted, and that's understandable. Instead he proposes we use either a weak and diluted hardwood ash lye we've made with our collected rainwater or a more Pompeii fuller-inspired product created by dripping urine rather than water through the hardwood ash. The latter would both add the cleaning and whitening powers of urine and also turn the greywater into a good fertilizer, right? But at the moment, I feel more comfortable with the former than the latter because he did a load of his laundry using the latter a few weeks ago and reeked of piss afterwards. He says that's because he got a little over-excited and added extra piss during the soaking... Still, I'd like him to do another test of that system using his own clothes or rags or something before I wash my clothes (selfish, I know) or our sheets and towels in it. If I use the former, I'd put a little vinegar in the rinse water (just like I usually do at the laundromat) to help get all the lye out and re-neutralize everything before putting it in the garden. (Our soil here is quite alkaline. Our rainwater is slightly acidic.)
What do folks think? Which washing product -- a) Ecos laundry detergent, b) weak and diluted hardwood ash lye, or c) urine and hardwood ash lye -- would 1) get the clothes clean, 2) leave them smelling least/best, and 3) be best to irrigate (and fertilize?) the food garden? Thank you!
"Do the best you can in the place where you are, and be kind." - Scott Nearing