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Using Greywater in the Garden

Category Irrigation
Greywater is the domestic wastewater resulting from household water use. Some sources such as water from showers, sinks, or bathtubs is generally safe to use for garden irrigation. This is a guide about using greywater in the garden.
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August 13, 20109 found this helpful

I keep a large empty bucket by the floor near my kitchen sink. As I rinse off my dishes, I collect the water in a container in the sink. (I use an empty large sized yogurt container.) Then I pour the water I collect into the bucket until it is full. I use this to water all of my potted plants in the garden. If there is left over water, I use it to water my flowers and veggies. This not only saves many gallons of water, but the soap residue in the water seems to cut down on bugs that attack my plants. I have almost no insects in my organic garden. It has also cut down on my water bill which used to be considerable.

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By Lois from Cleveland, OH

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June 22, 2010

I try to use every usable drop of water on the grounds of both cost to the environment and plain old cost to my pocket! Now that I have started eating my homegrown salad again I did a little experiment last weekend. Every time I washed fruit and vegetables or used the salad spinner I put the 'dirty' water into a bucket. I was really shocked when by the end of the day the 2 gallon bucket was almost full! As I don't use any pesticides or artificial fertilizer I was perfectly happy to reuse the water to irrigate the garden. Its a win-win situation!

By Mrs. Christmas from Slovenia, EU

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By 2 found this helpful
August 3, 2009

This one comes from my dad. When I was young, he maintained a very large garden and my mom canned most of the fruits and veggies that we ate. One year because of a water main break, all outdoor watering was banned. So he took a garden hose and attached it to the drain of the washer machine and placed out a window in such a way that the water would drain downhill once it left the house.

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Every time my mom would do a load of laundry, she would move the hose end so that a new area of the garden could get watered. Because there were 6 in the family, we did a lot of laundry and our garden was able to stay watered all year.

Now I live in TX and we are having a drought. So next year when I start my garden, I am going to figure out exactly how to do this. I asked a plumber and he said buy the largest diameter garden hose you can fit in to your washer's drain hose. Take a rope of plumbers putty and slide the garden hose at lease 1 foot in to the drain hose and then wrap the plumbers putty around the garden hose to seal the drain hose.

To make sure that the putty stays in place, run some overlapping layers of duct tap from about 3 inches above the end of the drain hose, continuing down to the about 3 inches down the garden hose. This should form a water tight seal. Make sure that neither hose is kinked and test it.

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Source: My Dad, Dennis and my local plumber

By Cleo1978 from Lubbock, TX

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January 28, 20120 found this helpful

Greywater is domestic waste water from activities such as laundry, dishwashing, and bathing. Unlike sewage water (which is referred to as blackwater), greywater can be safely recycled for use in the landscape without the use of any special treatment systems. Because we use large amounts of this type of water for daily household activities the average bathtub uses 26 gallons, in extreme drought conditions greywater can be a great way to conserve water.
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Greywater to Use and Greywater to Avoid:

The organic contaminants in some greywater, such as food particles, can supply plants with valuable nutrients for growth. However, greywater that is heavily contaminated with salt, soap residues, fats, or grease can be toxic (to both microbial and plant life) and should be avoided. Some types of domestic greywater are better than others for use in the garden. In order of preference they are: shower, bathtub, bathroom sink, and utility sink, provided bleaches or strong detergents have not been used. Water from dishwashers and washing machines is not safe to use as it contains too much detergent. Depending on your home's air quality, the water you collect from your dehumidifier may also be used. In fact, water from this source can actually be better for your plants than the water from your tap. Unlike tap water, a dehumidifier condenses water vapor out of the air so it contains none of the dissolved minerals that are sometimes present in tap water. It's unsafe for human consumption as there may be bacteria growing in it, but it should be fine to use on your plants.
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Do NOT use greywater on the following:

Tips for Using Greywater:

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

April 16, 20060 found this helpful

The concern that I would have now days with gray water from the laundry is that the soap has various chemicals in it that they didn't have maybe 20 or 30 yrs ago when it was more prevalent in using gray water for the garden. What are the effects that the new grey water will have on the plant growth and eventually on your body when you eat the food from the garden?

Nancy

Answers

By guest (Guest Post)
April 18, 20060 found this helpful

It's been my experience that most people who care enough for the environment to use gray water also use biodegradable laundry soaps, or at the very least a home made laundry soap that has far less chemicals in it than most did 20 years ago.

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 18, 20060 found this helpful

You may find your garden to be more lush and green. Jerry Baker recommends using dish liquid as a surfactant so fertilizers work better.. YOur garden might have fewer harmful insects... I wouldnt use wash water with chorine bleach on my garden. It might kill the plants..
Best of luck

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 20, 20060 found this helpful

The percentage of soap in the water is so miniscule it really doesn't make a difference, especially if you're economic with the amount you use-you don't need much soap to do the dishes if you use it properly.

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April 30, 20060 found this helpful

It isn't so much the soap, but the borates and chlorines used, I switched to Shaklee Basic L, which has a washing soda base, and my kids' skin looks better, plus it goes a long way!

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February 9, 20100 found this helpful

The soap issue is impostant regarding how you plan to use the greywater. For example if you plan to use the water for the garden you need to be concerned about salts in the detergent. Most detergents contain salt which is bad for plants. Even some of the eco friendly detergents. Safer to use soap nuts which is a nut from a tree that produces saponin, a soap type susbtance.

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August 3, 20090 found this helpful
By Ellen Brown

Q: Is it possible to water the garden with the water from your washer? Maybe just the rinse water? Mine goes into a holding tub before it goes to the drain, as my plumbing is old and the drains will not take the force of water from the washer. I could use a garden hose to drain the tub into the flower beds. Would this work or would the soap kill the plants? I would not use the water with the bleach! Got any ideas?

Hardiness Zone: 4b

Thanks!
PrairieLady from SD

A: PrairieLady,

Yes, you can use your washer water to water the garden, but keep a few things in mind. If you can rig up a way to use only the water from your rinse, that would be ideal. If you use an eco-friendly detergent, that would also be fine. If these two options are not feasible, avoid detergents (and fabric softeners) with high levels of sodium, bleach or borax. They may harm the soil and your plants. A simple system might consist of an elevated plastic garbage can (about 2' off the ground for gravity) fitted with a hose for the water to flow out of. Fit a screen across the center of the can (inside about midway down) to collect lint (using one on the hose from the washer is sure to clog). Good luck!

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

Answers:

Watering the Garden With Water From Your Washer

Your question brought back memories! My mother used her wash water (wash and rinse cycles) to water her garden. She never had problems with aphids and her garden always looked great. As long as you don't use bleach water you should be fine. I would do it too but can't do to area washer is located. (01/22/2006)

By thriftychristy

Watering the Garden With Water From Your Washer

I wouldn't hesitate to use the wash water as well as the rinse water on my flowers or lawn. I think the detergent will make everything lush and green. It contains phosphates. Best of luck (01/23/2006)

By Carol

Watering the Garden With Water From Your Washer

Yes, indeed! I have had great success using the rinse water for my gardens. My washing machine is in the basement and I have to dip the water out manually but it is worth the effort to save on water costs. Otherwise the plants have to fend for themselves! (01/23/2006)

By Charlotte

Watering the Garden With Water From Your Washer

First, the soap does not hurt the plants. But I believe the soaps and bleaches kill the beneficial bacteria which convert organic matter in the soil to the basic nutrients for the plants. If you use fertilizer you should not have any long term problems.
(01/25/2006)

By bulrush

Watering the Garden With Water From Your Washer

Well, I've been using our wash and rinse waters in our backyard now for a lot of years. My Hawaiian Hibiscus is the most beautiful and lush plant anyone could ask for...and I wish everyone could grow papayas like the ones our huge trees bear. My okra, tomatoes and peppers surprised even me. I can remember my mother using all her wash and rinse waters for her flower and vegetable gardens all her life, and if it created a problem of any kind, you sure couldn't tell it by looking. She lived in Florida all her life, and I've been here most of mine. I would think that what is good for Florida soil would be OK for any other. We do have a lot of sand, here and have to do a lot of composting in order to have a soil for planting, and we have to do a lot of shading in the worst of the heat in summer, and we do have to control the many buggies that like our vegetables and fruits, but our grass and lawns look green and healthy enough around here, thanks to my good old wash water.

Wishing you all the best.
Julia in Orlando, FL (01/30/2006)

By Julia

Watering the Garden With Water From Your Washer

Wash water will not hurt your plants. I have also used our bath water on plants when it was really dry one summer and the plants loved it. The soap in the water also helps control aphids.

Happy watering--
(01/30/2006)

By Crystal from Bennettsville, South Carolina

Watering the Garden With Water From Your Washer

I used wash water in my garden for many years, and never had any problems. I even used bleach water with no apparent ill effect. The zoning laws in my area prohibited using "grey water", and I had to stop using the wash water, which seemed silly to me. I ran the laundry water into a 50-gallon drum with a spigot at the bottom. Then ran a garden hose to wherever I wanted to water. It worked great. My setup didn't produce enough pressure to use a sprinkler so I sort of soaked each area. The only problem I ever had was with my ducks and geese. The birds would splash in the water and the soap dispersed the oil in their feathers, which made them non-waterproof. It's probably best not to let ANY pets near the laundry water when you're watering the garden! (01/31/2006)

By manson

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