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Baking Soda reacting with Pee?

 
Nancy Troutman
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Not sure if this is the right forum for this question, but does anyone know any reason why baking soda water, used to wash hair, cannot be combined with pee water which is then plumbed to water plants?    There is a foam on top of my 55 gallon drum where pee, laundry water (soap is Dr. Bonner's), and rainwater are combined prior to flowing to a gravity fed drip irrigation system.   I assume this foam is because of the baking soda reacting to the pee.  

I have never had this foam before.   The only change I have made in the bathroom is switching from using Borax to wash my hair - to baking soda.   The borax water I allowed to drain into my home's existing plumbing which goes into a septic tank.   I switched to baking soda so I could re-use the water I used in shampooing.  
 
R Ranson
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I'm not sure about baking soda and pee specifically.

If I remember correctly, baking soda is an alkali and pee is an acid.  Borax is an acid.  Acid plus base (alkali) combine to make froth (gas of some sort I don't remember), water and salt.  Like the volcano from school science fair.

I imagine that having a chemical reaction that produces gas in a confined space might put pressure on the system.  Sometimes it's useful for unclogging a drain like the vinegar and baking soda drain clearing method. 

Was there a reason you didn't want borax to water your plants?  A lot of plants really appreciate borax (in low to moderate amounts).
 
Nancy Troutman
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I use borax to prevent creepy crawlers from coming into my house.   I maintain a 5" or so ribbon of it around my foundation.   I update the ribbon in the fall to prevent mice and in the summer to prevent bugs.   Nothing grows where I put the borax, so I think of it as a herbicide.   That is why I used the septic drain instead of the grey water drain.
 
Amanda Bramble
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I don't know why they are reacting but you should try to limit the amount of baking soda that goes into your greywater.  The main 3 things to avoid in greywater are Sodium, Boron, and Chlorine.  Great you are not poisoning your plants with boron, but you may harm your soils with too much sodium as Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.  Flush the soil well with rainwater and that should help.  Saltified soils will stop the plants from being able to uptake nutrients.  Good luck!
Amanda
 
Nancy Troutman
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Amanda Bramble wrote:I don't know why they are reacting but you should try to limit the amount of baking soda that goes into your greywater.  The main 3 things to avoid in greywater are Sodium, Boron, and Chlorine.  Great you are not poisoning your plants with boron, but you may harm your soils with too much sodium as Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.  Flush the soil well with rainwater and that should help.  Saltified soils will stop the plants from being able to uptake nutrients.  Good luck!
Amanda


I didn't think about baking soda being salt.   Good point.   I decided to avoid the foam on top problem by allowing my "shampoo water" to go into the septic.   After reading your post, I see I did the right thing for a totally different reason.

Borax and baking soda appear out for the same reason, not good for plants.   I will start trying to figure out something to use to clean my hair with that is not bad for plants or the soil, but doesn't cost a fortune.
 
Carl Nutter
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Amanda Bramble wrote:I don't know why they are reacting but you should try to limit the amount of baking soda that goes into your greywater.  The main 3 things to avoid in greywater are Sodium, Boron, and Chlorine.  Great you are not poisoning your plants with boron, but you may harm your soils with too much sodium as Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.  Flush the soil well with rainwater and that should help.  Saltified soils will stop the plants from being able to uptake nutrients.  Good luck!
Amanda


Amanda,
I have a question about boron? I use boron for osteoarthritis. It appears to help, by reducing the pain and stiffness. Can you tell the problems that boron can cause? Also, I use baking soda to fight fungus on my tomatoes. It seems to help my tomatoes resist the fungus and stay green.
Just looking for answers and help! Thanks for any answers or suggestions.
Nut501
 
Amanda Bramble
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I've learned about greywater lot from Art Ludwig.  He has a great website http://oasisdesign.net/greywater/
While some plants need trace amounts of boron, it must be applied in correct amounts, not in the greywater, because it can kill your plants. Spraying a diluted baking soda on plants, if that works, seems like not a big deal as long as you are also watering with rainwater or other more pure water. Check out Art's books!
Thanks,
Amanda
 
Nancy Troutman
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Do any of Ludwig's books have a chart on what & what not to allow in grey water?
 
Amanda Bramble
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I can tell you, as I posted before, that the three main things to avoid are Sodium, Boron, and Chlorine.  That's what Art Ludwig says too.  Beyond that there are other chemicals in detergents that you would want to avoid for yourself anyway, like Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and others.  There are so many chemicals used in detergents that are sudsing agents or for color or pourability that may or may not make our clothes and bodies cleaner but make our environment dirtier.  And any solid soaps generally involve some kind of sodium to solidify them.  So it's best to use liquids soaps with as few ingredients as possible, and definitely without the three no no's mentioned previously.  Hope this helps.
Amanda
 
John Elliott
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There is much erroneous chemistry in this thread, so let me try to clear some things up.

1) Foam in the tank indicates some type of surfactant (soap) is present.  Borax is not an acid, it is sodium borate, a salt, and does not react with urine to form soap molecules.

2) Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, and it won't react with urine to form soap molecules either.

3) Dr. Bronner's soaps are often made with potassium hydroxide, not sodium hydroxide (check the label), and would actually be good for plants.  Plants need potassium, but they only tolerate sodium (some better than others).

4) Boron IS necessary for plants, a symptom of boron deficiency is poor fruit set in trees.  Boron deficiency can be remedied by applying either sodium borate or boric acid (not the same thing as sodium borate, it is H3BO3), but in very small quantities.  The boron level in plant tissues runs in the tens of ppm range.  Boron is very abundant in western soils (they mine it in California), and the southeast is where high precipitation levels make for boron poor soils.  When I make up compost teas, I usually add boric acid at the rate of about 1 gram to 5 gallons of water (and I am still noticing symptoms of deficiency).

5) Chlorine is also a necessary micro-nutrient for plants.  Symptoms of deficiency are wilting, mottling, or yellowing of leaves.  Again, it is a micronutrient, meaning that it is easy to overdo, and you don't want to add a handful of sea salt to your greywater, but there is literature that suggests that sea water, diluted up like one part in twenty, is a good mineral tonic for many plants.

I hope this will help you determine if your area is deficient in micronutrients, or levels are high to the point of reaching toxicity.
 
Nancy Troutman
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John Elliott wrote:

Foam in the tank indicates some type of surfactant (soap) is present.  Borax is not an acid, it is sodium borate, a salt, and does not react with urine to form soap molecules.



Based on this... I now know what is causing the problem.   I think I have over-loaded what the 55 gallon drum can handle of Dr. Bronner's because I have been washing walls, etc.   A gallon of Dr. Bronner's usually lasts me 3-6 months in the summer.   I have gone through 2 gallons in the last month due to a cleaning spree where I am washing curtains, walls, etc.    I used to do this in the winter.   However I decided to switch the "spring cleaning" chore to the summer because I need the grey water then.  In the winter the grey water is wasted and goes into the septic tank.

Thank you
 
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