Using Greywater in the Garden

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January 28, 2012

Feet near shower drainGreywater 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.


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.

Do NOT use greywater on the following:

Tips for Using Greywater:

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August 13, 2010

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.

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June 22, 2010

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!

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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.

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6 Questions

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April 16, 2006

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?



By susan (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 Carol in PA (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 Joy (Guest Post)
April 20, 20061 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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March 7, 20180 found this helpful

There's a guy in our area who diverts all of his washing machine grey water to his garden, and he has the most lush, green and tropical garden probably in all of Arizona. He uses cheap laundry detergent, and I don't know if they use Clorox or not.

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August 3, 2009

Is it possible to water the garden with the water from your washer? Maybe just the rinse water?

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