greywater and soaps

mike_stubbs(8, Bastrop, TX)June 27, 2002

hi all, i am going to cut my grey water out of the septic system and let it flow to create a wetland (bog area). this will be bath, shower, and washer water. the question is what are some good soaps and shampoos to use for these applications?



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kathy0987654321(z7b NC)

There's a great book with tons of home made non-toxic recipes for cleaning. It's "Clean & Green" by Annie Berthold-Bond. And most of the recipes actually work.

Pure castile soaps, like Dr. Bronners, are good for cleaning humans, floors, and are ok on dishes. Haven't found a laundry soap that I like though. I think any soap that's a soap (and not a detergent)is ok to use. Using the smallest quantities possible is best for the plants and animals in your wetland.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2002 at 9:47AM
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chroma2424(z6 OH)

Dr Bronners has a detergent that can be used on laundry...its called Sal Suds. I think its one of the fastest degrading. I'm sure its ok to boost w/ baking soda or borax and use vinegar as a fabric softener.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2002 at 1:04PM
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chroma2424(z6 OH)

oh yeah, one more thing. For the shower, I find that I don't like Dr Bronners on my hair, it left it a little funny feeling, like a residue or something. I use a shampoo bar called JR Liggets instead, and then do a vinegar rinse of apple cider vinegar. I keep it in a 2 quart bottle and fill up about an inch worth of vinegar and then the rest w/ filtered water. I know there are good herbs to add so I should be makin a sage rosemary tea for the water instead, or conversely (and probably better) a vinegar tincture of the herbs. If you're blonde I think camomile is better.

I like to keep the bottle under the spray of water in the shower because then its not as much of a cold shock. You don't even need to rinse (though you can...I think leaving it on helps me comb out my medium length hair), the vinegar smell disapears when the hair dries. If you hair is lower maintenance, you could also leave this out but it cant hurt, can it?

My hair has never felt softer. I hate it when I'm else where and have to use a regular conditionar, it feels really coated.

I don't have a greywater system (currently in an apt building), but these all seem like very safe things, the shampoo bar is not a detergent like most shampoo, its a soap!

I forgot to mention also the Sal Suds may help w/ the dishes too.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2002 at 2:32PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Be careful with borax. Somewhere back in my faulty memory, I seem to remember that it is a pollutant. I could be wrong, but...


    Bookmark   July 8, 2002 at 1:08AM
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Hi all-
I'm a beginning permaculture student/convert, and live in an area under "extrodinary drought" conditions (the very worst kind). I am using grey water from dishwashing as much as possible on thirsty plants. Is antibacterial soap damaging to beneficial insects? I'm pretty sure it is damaging to friendly soil bacteria. What would you recommend as a dishwashing alternative besides Dr. Bonners?
I've also heard that grey water can be contaminated by food particles. Would this be safe to use at all on edibles?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2002 at 9:34AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

From what I understand, food particles are not as much of a problem as is the bacteria from clothes-laundering water, such as E. coli & some of the other intestinal bacterias.

Wouldn't food particles be considered similar to mulch or organic fertilizer?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2002 at 4:23PM
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smittyct6(Z6 CT)

E Coli and other intestinal Bacteria are ever present in the soil and the human body. It is when they proliferate and take off in mass that we become sick.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2002 at 6:41AM
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jajm4(z5 w. mass, usa)

re: dish soaps, i use 7th generation free and clear liquid (also use on my hair, body, laundry, fwiw. i like to keep it simple). if it's not sold locally, you can mailorder it in bulk. works great on dishes and leaves my hair pretty soft, also doesn't dry my skin. i hated dr b's for those reasons!! used to use sal suds-- intense stuff, good for floors!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2002 at 12:31PM
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I'm not getting anything from Shaklee, honest, but their Basic H is my all-time favorite soap. Cleans everything from me to my car, and I also use it to condition my soil (helps it to absorb water, and is also used with fish emulsion and liquid seaweed in the garden).

The only downside is that you need to buy it like you buy Avon or Tupperware, from someone who sells for Shaklee. Super-long lasting, and thus very economical bought by the gallon (which lasts me at least a year).

    Bookmark   July 19, 2002 at 4:18PM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

FYI - you can easily make your own liquid castile that costs a lot less than Bronners, et al. - simply grate 1 bar of castile soap into a heat-proof bowl,jar or pan (I use Kirks - available in the stores here for approx. 75 cents) & pour 1 quart boiling distilled water over it.Stir until soap dissolves.This can be diluted just like Bronners for all kinds of purposes.You can even infuse herbs in the water first & add essential oils when the mixture cools.It 's better to let the stuff sit for a couple of weeks if you use any additions,so it can 'cure'.I dissolve & store it in a quart-size mason jar & put in a pump bottle for hand & dish soap in the kitchen.

I think castiles are relatively safer for grey water uses than detergents.But for laundry use,have you seen those ceramics contraptions?I think they'd be ideal & if you figure cost per load it's actually cheaper than laundry detergent.....

Here is a link that might be useful: Real Goods

    Bookmark   July 28, 2002 at 1:48PM
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forest_gardener(zone 9 CA)

Don't make the same mistakes I and many others have made! Check out the website of common greywater mistakes. Be very careful what edibles you use greywater on. Don't use it on any crops that are ground level and not cooked (e.g. salad greens). Oasis makes a laundry soap that in not only not bad for the soil it actually fertilizes the plants. It cleans OK. Don't use your greywater on acid loving plants. I killed my Japanese Maples that way.

Here is a link that might be useful: Common Greywater Mistakes

    Bookmark   October 28, 2003 at 12:06PM
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Demeter(z6 NJ)

"I've also heard that grey water can be contaminated by food particles. Would this be safe to use at all on edibles?"

Food particles do not "contaminate" soil. They enrich it. They rot down in place rapidly to form instant compost, just like blender compost.

Generations of English housewives tossed used dishwater out into their kitchen gardens with no ill effects whatsoever, and their plants loved them for it.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2003 at 6:11PM
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I don't think anyone has mentioned the basic first step. Check with your local building codes. If it's not allowed, you can get hit with a whopping fine in some areas, if you get caught at it. Not allowed here...... but my neighors look the other way when a siphon hose drains the bathtub water out the window.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2004 at 12:27AM
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lando(VIC Aust)

question: (perhaps showing my ignorance here)
what is a castile soap? Could it be called something slightly different here in australia?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2004 at 7:52PM
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My advise is to keep it simple. We have a graywater system that has been in operation since 1991. We don't worry about any soaps or chemicals we use, with the exception that we do not use extensive amounts of borax. The plants that receive the water are thriving, and I have seen no signs of any problems. There are no moving parts, or items to maintain; the system is a pipe that empties outside and drains all the water to plants down hill on a slight slope. All of the household water except the toilets and kitchen sink goes into gray water.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 7:44AM
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andyrm(south coast UK)

maryslc said "Check with your local building codes. If it's not allowed, you can get hit with a whopping fine in some areas, if you get caught at it. "

I don't see why it should not be allowed. On what grounds?

Last summer it was hot and dry here. I resent putting fresh drinking water on the garden so I used washing up water in small quantities on the grass but it was prob too little to make any difference. I also used washing machine water. I worried that the first lot from a wash would contain too much detergent, so I discarded that and kept the rinse water in an old dust bin. It looked nasty and grey, but if left for 24 hours it looked better. A lot of the grey stuff settled and I assume this was mostly clothing fibre. I used the water on food crops like peas and beans and nothing seemed to be adversely affected.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2004 at 2:40PM
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I went to that website and got more than a little overwhelmed! Pardon my naivite....

I thought I'd put a bucket in the shower to gather grey water, use sink and tub water...dump on my plants or siphon out the window. I have azaelas and hydrangeas in the front, that I thought as "non food" plant they would be good cantidates for, but they are acid-loving and that's bad?

I only heard about permaculture yesterday but it's the answer I've long hunted for. I'm starting my garden plot this weekend but this new idea has revolutionized my plans and I'm looking for some good practice/less theory information. You know, checklists. Directions.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2004 at 9:29AM
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