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graywater with dish soap

 
James Franze
Posts: 4
Location: Southern Ontario, Canada
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Hi all,

A couple months ago I sheet mulched a couple sections of my yard to make new garden beds which will eventually be planted with natives shrubs and herbs, possible berry bushes. Since then we haven't had much precipitation here and I can tell that it is getting pretty dry. So I want to water my beds without running the sprinkler unnecessarily. In addition to peeing on it, I'd like to start a basic gray water system which consists of keeping a dish pan in the sink and dumping it on the beds when it's full. The only thing that is making me hesitate is the dish soap we use. It looks harmless but I really don't trust the word 'green' on products like I used to.

I'm using Green Works Dishwashing Liquid from the makers of Clorox:
http://www.greenworkscleaners.com/products/dishwashing-liquid/

And here are the possibly suspicious ingredients:
sodium lauryl sulfate
alkyl polyglucoside
lauramine oxide
glycerin
magnesium sulfate
methyliothiazolinone
milliken liquitint blue hp, bright yellow

I know I could type all of these into google and find tons of information but I'm not really sure what to look for. What terms would I want to see, and which should I beware of? Biodegradable? Toxic? Non-toxic? Organic? Inorganic? I guess what it boils down to is: how can I be sure that these ingredients are safe for the plants and soil organisms, and for me if I eat the plants/fruits? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
James
 
John Polk
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I understand your concern. "Green" probably means something different to somebody like Clorox than it does to 'us'.

When I do dishes, I create 3 types of grey water.
First, I use plain water and a scrub brush to remove food particles from the dishes. This creates water with a bit of organic waste in it.
This can be used anywhere.

Then I do a washing with very little detergent (since the plates are already essentially clean) to get whatever oils may remain.
This is the 'questionable' water.

Then comes the rinse. This also has some detergent residual in it, but much more diluted.

If in doubt about the detergent, you could use this soapy water on ornamentals, on the compost pile, or in your humanure pile if you have one.
This grey water could also be used for growing green manures.

 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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If I buy commercial detergents, I look for 'plant based' on the label. If it's not clearly advertised as such, it is more than likely petroleum based.
I'd be looking for another product as I think many of the ingredients you list are pretty dodgy and there's many less harmful products out there.
Be prepared though, sodium lauryl sulfate's main role is to create lather. Many people think lather=clean and often struggle with the low-lathering of eco-detergents, using huge amounts trying to get the bubbles!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Even "plant based" "green" dish soaps such as those by Seventh Generation contain methyliothiazolinone which is an artificial biocide/preservative. It's hard to escape it. Probably won't kill much in diluted form. But still, it is a biocide, meant to kill stuff.....
 
John Polk
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"Biocide" is a rather ugly word.

Bio = life; cide = kills.

Biocide "kills life".

 
Tyler Ludens
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What I'm not sure about is why these products which contain plant-based preserving agents such as mint oil, "need" to have an artificial preservative......
 
Hanley Kale-Grinder
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
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There are plenty of soaps out there that don't use any of that stuff. You are going to spend more for a far superior product.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Tyler Ludens wrote:What I'm not sure about is why these products which contain plant-based preserving agents such as mint oil, "need" to have an artificial preservative......


Because if they used enough essential oil to do the job, it would be too expensive. So they put some good stuff in so they can advertise and then put the cheap artificial stuff in to do the job.

We use baking soda, borax, vinegar, and lye soap for dishes and clothes. The borax can be problematic, but hasn't been an issue yet.

 
James Franze
Posts: 4
Location: Southern Ontario, Canada
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Thanks for your replies, everybody.

It says on the bottle "98% naturally derived" which really could mean anything, and that last 2% could be extremely harmful. As I understand it there is no legal definition for 'natural' so 'naturally derived' could be argued to mean petroleum products. I mean, petroleum formed naturally so everything derived from it is natural, right?

I think for now I'll just use the water with bits of food in it for my garden beds until I find a better product or make my own.

Thanks again folks.
 
darius Van d'Rhys
Posts: 56
Location: SW Virginia Mountains, USA
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Grey Water Compatible Soaps and Laundry Detergents

Ingredients to Avoid:
* boron/borax (toxic to plants)
* sodium and ingredients with the word "sodium" in them*
* chlorine bleach (acceptable alternative: hydrogen peroxide)
* sodium perborate
* sodium trypochlorite
* peroxygen
* petroleum distillate
* alkylbenzene
* water softeners (contain sodium chloride or potassium chloride)
* anti-bacterial soaps & cleaners
* "whiteners", "softeners"
* enzymes (enzymes in biological washing powders break down protein or fat stains on clothes)
* titanium oxide
* chromium oxide
* artificial colors; FD&C colors
* synthetic fragrance
* artificial preservatives
* no toxic waste down the drain!!

Laundry Detergents — Liquid:
Recommended:
* Oasis laundry liquid
* Bio Pac Laundry Liquid
* Biokleen Laundry Liquid
* LifeTree Laundry Liquid
* Ecover Laundry Wash (some salt)
* Mountain Green Laundry Detergent
* Vaska Herbatergent

Limit:
* Lullwater Soap Nuts Seventh Generation (enzymes)
* Citra Suds (sodium chloride)
* Planet (salt, sodium carbonate/washing soda)

Avoid:
* Tide (enzymes +)**;
* All (perfume, brightening agent, colorant, +?);
* Arm & Hammer (baking soda, water softener, optical brightener, +?);
* Woolite (?);
* Ivory Snow (enzymes +?)

**Note: Question marks indicate that these products do not list all of their ingredients on their labels. This is a common practice with most of the major conventional brands. It may be safe to assume that many of them contain artificial colors and scents, among other things. Avoid products that do not list ingredients!

Other Laundry Products:
Avoid:
* Clorox (chlorine bleach)
* Borax

Limit:
* Biokleen Bac Out (sodium percarbonate, enzymes)
* Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus (sodium sulfate)

Art Ludwig is a pioneer in the field of grey water, and his site is a wonderful resource. http://www.oasisdesign.net/index.htm
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi James,

I can vouch for the magnesium sulfate. That is epsom salt. An old time been around forever substance. Some folks use it as a laxitive, though some labels say external use only. Some times it is used as a soil amendment. Magnesium and Sulfur are both essential to plants, part of healthy soil. And people have been soaking injuries and sore parts in it since before the advent of anti biotics. While none of these is enough to make it something to seek out, I don't think it will matter in the amounts you'll be putting on your pile.

But while writing I thought of something worth mentioning: the potential for salts to build up in your pile. You say you've been peeing on it, that the pile is drying out. Everything dissolved in the fluids are still there, left behind when the water evaporates. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It depends on your climate and soil type and the amount of rainfall/snow melt/ moisture that will be along next week or next month or whenever. If you usually have rain in the summer, say to the extent that people don't water their lawns irrigate their crops, then when the waqter comes it will dilute all the salts that have collected in your pile. If you live in the desert, as I do, then I try to remember that everything that is in the water I run onto and into my soil is going to stay there- unless the plants suck it up in their roots and it gets carried off my property as tomatoes, eggs, chicken, etc.

The only other thing I know anything about is glycerine. It won't hurt your soil. It draws moisture to it, and holds it. It is used in food, is a natural byproduct of the saponification process.

Another thought. Where would your dishwater be going if you didn't pour it on your pile? If you are not on a sewer system, but on a septic system, then it is going into your soil anyway.

A good resource: the book called Solviva talks about wastewater/greywater there might be simething in there that could help you. If you can get it from the library do it. The book is overpriced in my opinion.

best luck

Thekla

sodium lauryl sulfate
alkyl polyglucoside
lauramine oxide
glycerin
magnesium sulfate
methyliothiazolinone
milliken liquitint blue hp, bright yellow
 
Issac Travols
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As far as biodegradable soap goes, look no further: use Dr. Bronners Sal suds. Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Coco-Betaine, Lauryl Glucoside, Fir Needle Oil, and Spruce Oil .

I use this to mop the floors, clean the dishes, do my laundry, and pretty much any around-the-house cleaning. This seems kind of expensive, but it isn't at all when you factor in the dilution rate. This stuff is *super* concentrated. 1.5 tsp dissolves to 1 gallon of water (!) for a general all-house cleaner (I use a little more for dish soap, and the laundry sucks it down pretty fast). Except local health-food sales, the cheapest place I've found to get this soap is VitaGlo.com.

For skin: Dr. Bronner's Organic Peppermint Soap
For house/dishes/laundry: Dr Bronner's Sal Suds

There's really on 4 things I'll ever use to clean around the house:
1. Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds
2. Vinegar
3. Baking Soda
4. Citrus-based degreaser

Everything I can confidently dump in my own backyard, without mindlessly pumping chemicals into our water.
 
Daniel Morse
Posts: 249
Location: SW Michigan
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Grey water? I never use grey water on crops. I just do not. I can not trust the soap and chemical companies. I will use it on trees and shrubs. Now lets get real. I lived in the desert once. I understand water and water shortage. But sanitation and health is first. I have a septic tank. I use it freely and willingly. It is well done and works very well. My trees thank me with an amazing amount of leaves and or flowers that will end up in the compost/field anyway. In the desert my roses were right over the septic tank. They thrived.

I think the use of grey water, while a worthy one, like most issues need to be managed very carefully. Just cause you pour it on the ground does not make it right. I do not want to eat food that water from my work clothing was watered with. Think about it. But my roses love it.
 
Daniel Morse
Posts: 249
Location: SW Michigan
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I also wanted to add I love DR. Bronners soap. Good and safe to use.
 
Shelly Randall
Posts: 73
Location: Central Valley California
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Hi,

I'm new here, but I saw this post and thought I could add some information to the discussion. I have used sodium lauryl sulfate in bath and beauty products, and I do know that it is a coconut derivative, so in a sense it is natural and certainly not petroleum based. The only part of the manufacture process that I wonder about is the addition of the alkali, sodium hydroxide. That is a caustic substance on its own but loses some of its harshness with the addition of acids or oils. Still, if you are adding alkali to your soil, how much is too much alkali to your soil is a variable and not clearly accountable. I have an answer to the question about the addition of the preservative. Even if a product contains no water that could cause mold, if the product is subjected to water either directly or through a possible spill, manufacturers sometimes take no chances and add it anyway. I wouldn't worry about it because the amount is closer to 1 or 2 percent of the product. At least in lotions it is.
 
Daniel Morse
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Location: SW Michigan
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Yes I agree. But many of these products in the smallest amounts have been directly related to many birth and developmental defects. Then there is the mold it kills that we need in the ground. What is the half life of these products. Lots to think about. I feel safer than sorry. Too much land is destroyed for many reasons. To not be usable for generations if ever.

Our world is getting smaller and more polluted all the time. Why take a chance.
 
Daniel Morse
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Location: SW Michigan
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Why should I avoid Borax?
 
Shelly Randall
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Location: Central Valley California
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Yes, I agree about adding junk to our environment, even small amounts can do things. I'm not familiar with birth defects, but I'm sure they are caused by build up of toxic chemicals. I wouldn't worry too much about the mold inhibiting factor of preservatives though because it doesn't take much more dilution for mold to out power the preservative, at least the ones I'm familiar with (ask me how I know). Many preservatives don't actually kill mold but inhibit it just enough to not populate a substrate. Add anything extra to the formula, and all bets are off on growth.
 
Tony Gurnoe
Posts: 21
Location: Encinitas, California
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Daniel Morse wrote:Why should I avoid Borax?


Personally I try to avoid using too much of anything that is mined from the earth. Borax is a plant nutrient so it is not bad in all situations. However it is needed in very small amounts and if used regularly in cleaning it can easily lead to a buildup in the soil and eventual plant toxicity.

Edit: It's more correct to say boron is a plant nutrient and that Borax contains boron. Btw it's not very hard to make your own soap which eliminates the "what is this strange chemical and is it dangerous?" dilemma.
 
Daniel Morse
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Location: SW Michigan
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You guys are wealth of info. Thank you.
 
Peter Ellis
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Daniel Morse wrote:Grey water? I never use grey water on crops. I just do not. I can not trust the soap and chemical companies. I will use it on trees and shrubs. Now lets get real. I lived in the desert once. I understand water and water shortage. But sanitation and health is first. I have a septic tank. I use it freely and willingly. It is well done and works very well. My trees thank me with an amazing amount of leaves and or flowers that will end up in the compost/field anyway. In the desert my roses were right over the septic tank. They thrived.

I think the use of grey water, while a worthy one, like most issues need to be managed very carefully. Just cause you pour it on the ground does not make it right. I do not want to eat food that water from my work clothing was watered with. Think about it. But my roses love it.


This seems a bit odd to me. We advocate the use of manure for fertilizing our gardens. If we have animals on our property - and we all do, whether or not they are our livestock, then we've got water washing through feces and into our gardens. But the water that washed our laundry is untrustworthy?

In the natural order of things, everything that hits the ground gets into the water and carried further into the ground and then pulled back out - to some degree or another - by the plants and animals that live and grow on the ground. Not everything that hits the ground is good for us, not even everything totally natural and with no human contamination. Yet we get plants and animals that are quite safe for us to eat, despite the presence of pathogenic bacteria and toxic organic compounds in the stuff that hits the ground.

I think perhaps sometimes we get overly concerned with the idea that if we are the source it must be bad.

 
Lindsey Foster
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Just to add a potential option into the mix... there is a product from Nutrimetics Australia/New Zealand that is greywater safe called OLC (original lotion cleanser). It's a coconut/yucca plant base that was designed to wash pesticides off your fruit and vegetables and is also a good body wash/multi purpose cleaner etc and can be diluted heavily for spray cleaning. Safe enough that you can brush your teeth with it (tastes kinda gross though, I wouldn't recommend it as a first option!). It makes a great dishwashing detergent, too, so once we're fully on greywater that will become the only cleaner I have in the house.

Unfortunately I JUST found out as I went to get a link or business information for Nutrimetics in the US/Canada that the company that had distribution rights in the US has closed down. Still might be helpful for others, though, as Nutrimetics is wide spread in Australia/New Zealand and Europe.
 
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