Laundry water?

badinJanuary 24, 2008

The current drought is expected to continue through this year in our area, and we need to find ways to sustain the lawn and plants at our new house. I'm hoping to find a local company to install a cistern for rainwater collection, but may have to settle for a bunch of rain barrels. In addition, how safe or advisable is it to use the water from the washing machine? Could I divert the greywater for use on shrubs? Are there HE detergents for front load washers that would be okay for the plants? During a previous drought, we kept 5 gal. buckets in each tub/shower and poured that water over the shrubs and flowers; it made a huge difference and we didn't notice any harm from the soap & shampoo. Any advice on how best to do this? Thanks.

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I live in an area where water gets short in the summer and so I think about these things as well. I've collected washing machine water and used it on ornamental plants and never noticed that they suffered from it, though I used it on different plants each time. I don't use chlorine bleach, but the detergent wasn't specially designed. Perhaps it was polluting, I don't know, but the plants didn't seem to mind it. Bathtub water we saved in buckets and used to flush the toilet: I would have willingly used it outside as well, but the bathroom is on our second floor. I took outdoor showers close to plants (usually with a bathing suit on in the cause of decency) so they would catch the runoff: you just get a standup portable shower and hook it to the hose. I think most kitchen gray water would work fine as well, but never got in the habit of using it.

The other part of water conservation is creating a low water use garden. Keep a thick organic mulch under the shrubs--we use hay, which sprouts grass but otherwise works fine--scatter your grass clippings back on the lawn; don't HAVE a lot of lawn, or else be willing to let it turn brown during a drought. Remember that plants don't need to be watered every day, possibly not every week, either. (During last year's drought, which lasted several months, we watered needy established plants about once a month; drought tolerant established plants mostly weren't watered at all.) Check before watering to see whether the ground is dry. Occasional deep watering is more effective than frequent light watering.

We've never established systems to use gray water, and would be better off if we had: I just haul a lot of buckets around, not the easiest way to go.

It sounds like you already have your garden/landscaping in place. When I began planting my large garden here, I already knew that summers would be regularly droughty, so I looked for drought tolerant plants and plants that would need little summer water (i.e. spring-blooming bulbs, that grow when it's rainy and then go dormant in summer). I know a lot of people in the southeast were taken by surprise by last summer's drought in an area that usually gets plenty of rain in the summer, and are having to make awkward adjustments. Good luck.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2008 at 10:41AM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

We moved our washer and dryer into a new shed last year. Installed the washer out-flow hose (underground) to run down the house pad, into the Bamboo/Banana beds. It works GREAT! The plants are lush and the soap acts as a wetting agent for the soil.

Of course, if we ever sell our place, we will have to move the laundry back in the house. Even though we are is a severe drought, using grey water is not allowed. So stupid to waste it!

We don't water the lawns at all. We are allowed only a few hours, 1 day a week to water. Try watering an orchard by hand! Not easy! We use dish-water collected daily to water all the fruit trees on the patio. And a bucket in each shower to catch what would simply go into the septic sytem.

Bleach water does not hurt my plants at all. maybe because we rarely use it?


    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 12:39PM
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This article could be of interest to you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Propagating Perennials

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 7:10PM
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roseyp8255(z8 - SC AL)

I am hoping to divert my laundry water to a flower bed (future) along the front of the house, in the "dogs" yard - and am planning to look into diverting the shower as well. All of the soaps and shampoos i use are natural, so that should not be a problem at all - thanks for the tips!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 8:12AM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

I ambled over here to look around for ideas since we are having a drought in central Texas and just wanted to say I have been running the washing machine water on plants for several years, six or eight at least, and they are thriving.

This includes a Centennial crape myrtle tree, a Texas smoke tree, a hedge of Star jasmine growing on the chain link fence, blue plumbago, elephant ears and a few others. I use a regular Tide type laundry detergent purchased from Costco and have the machine set to run two rinse cycles.

We recently bought some more hose to run the water to other parts of the garden. Wish I could run the shower water to the garden, but that would require a major plumbing overhaul. But just not wasting the laundrey water helps.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 7:02PM
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to roselee:
We purchased an $80 small sump with two short hoses attached to pump our shower water. We plug up the bathtub and collect the water, then we pump it out the bathroom window into buckets. In our Med. climate (absolutely no rain from spring to fall), we have watered with "clean" water only three or four times this year. We don't have any grass, but still it's impressive how far it goes. It takes some time, but it's worth it to me (they recently put a fines in place for people who do not reduce their water use here). I'm hoping to put a rain barrel outside the bathroom window soon so we don't have to keep going with the buckets. We could also attach a long hose to the pump and directly water if we wished. Anyway, I just thought I'd share since you mentioned shower water.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 11:50PM
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eagleandi(SoCal Z9 (SWG19))

Laundry water does work great! Some detergents even contain magnesium sulfates, which are help plants like grapes and citrus produce fruit. We used ABS pipe to direct waste water underground and laterally into a 9"D X 9"w trench we dug along the length of a 30 ft planter containing several grape, pepper, and citrus cultivars. We wash all of our laundry with cold water (does not evaporate and is energy efficient) and we do 1 to 2 loads each day. If you would like, you can run a load with a cup of Epsom salts to add magnesium sulfate to the soil.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 9:16PM
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homegrown54(z6 SE Ohio)

Greywater rocks. Call me crazy, but the only factor I use is that I believe that soap is alkaline and may have some salt in it but I don't know that for sure. My soil is so healthy it doesn't mind.. but acid loving plants, watered all the time maybe-could suffer. Hey I don't know that for sure, but also, I put some vinegar in the wash water to freshen, so maybe what I put out there is neutral.

Kindof a crapshoot, but hey, I used to dump my 'nightjar' on my garden and boy did the soil love it. Great story I read was that in China, where this is common practice, it was considered good form for dinner guests to 'use the potty' before they left... thus giving back nutrients for their host. Don't want to offend anybody's delicate sensibilities here... but disease free, you can't beat it ///

Heathen Homegrown54 in SE Ohio. I'll shut up now.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 4:28PM
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If you're concerned about the laundry detergent, you could make your own (google homemade laundry detergent). It is fels naptha soap, borax and washing soda. I've found all ingredients locally and it costs about 3 cents a load. I also use vinegar in place of fabric softener.

I really need to find a way to use my grey water. My septic has a wierd set up. Previous owners enlarged the patio and now there is a 1 inch pvc pipe coming up from the concrete and goes back into the ground a ways down. I'm not sure what it is for (seems too small for draining and I thought the clean out was farther away from the house and a bigger opening.)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 8:14AM
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hamey(Z9 FLA Pasco County)

OH YES LAUNDRY WATER! Our washing machine is in the shed and the out water goes thru a little hole in the metal and down to a pvc. The pvc is about 6 feet 4 inch round but we made slits in it so the water could come out the slits. My Rose of Sharon is so beautiful and I've got a little side garden there with galds and sage, rosemary. I also carry water from the sink to the containers on the porch, i hate seeing that water go down the drain. I'm gonna put a bucket in my shower to catch what i can, thats a great idea
I'll ask David to put one in his and he might surprise me! He's as worried about the plants as I am but his shower is smaller. I'd hate for him to "KICK THE BUCKET" :0) Seriously we've used the laundry water for years weather the load has bleach in it or not the plants love it.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 10:46AM
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