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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Laundry Soap & Grey Water

Last year I shared a post about how I figured out an easy way to gather our laundry water for use on our garden.  If you haven't seen the post, you can read it here.  I can tell you, after a year of using the water for our garden, that it works beautifully.  If you live in a state with any sort of drought going on, I would highly recommend finding a way to save your laundry water.

That being said, let's talk about laundry soap.  When I started my experiment, I didn't really research the whole laundry soap issue.  In my ignorance, I figured non-toxic meant I could use it on my garden.  I got lucky and my ignorance did not ruin my garden.  I was shopping and noticed on a Biokleen liquid soap description that it said "grey water safe," and since the liquid was cheaper than the powder, I bought it.  I used it all year without giving the soap another thought.  

Fast forward to this spring, when I happened upon a clearance rack full of Seventh Generation liquid laundry detergent.  Huge bottles were selling for $4 and so I bought a couple.  I just happened to be reading the bottle and couldn't find anything about grey water.  I figured it would be fine, but called the number just to be safe.  Lo and behold, the customer service rep said, "we don't recommend it, because it does have salts in it."  I thanked her, hung up the phone and thought "what? salts?"  

So, off to Google I went  in search of information about grey water, salts, and laundry soaps.  I wanted to pass along the information, just in case I have convinced you to reuse your laundry water.  I would be sad if you accidentally killed your plants on my account.

Here is the list of safe laundry detergents for grey water use:
Oasis laundry liquid
Bio Pac Laundry Liquid
Biokleen Laundry Liquid
LifeTree Laundry Liquid
Ecover Laundry Wash (some salt)
Mountain Green Laundry Detergent
Vaska Herbatergent

Here is a list of ingredients to avoid in your grey water:
boron/borax (toxic to plants)
sodium and ingredients with the word "sodium" in them 
chlorine bleach (acceptable alternative: hydrogen peroxide)
sodium perborate
sodium trypochlorite
petroleum distillate
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

This list came from the Ecology Center.  I would highly recommend reading the entire article.  They also include lists of detergents that are okay to use occasionally and ones to never use.  

Do you recycle your laundry water?  Do you have a grey water system?  If you do, what is your favorite laundry soap to use?


  1. We make our own laundry soap, and it contains borax, so I guess we wouldn't be able to use it. Love the idea though!

    Also, anything with vinegar wouldn't work, as it is used as a natural weed killer.
    Thanks for the info!

    1. We make our own laundry soap, too, but we use it during the winter when we aren't saving our laundry water. Once it's time to water outside, we stop using it and start using the Biokleen. Vinegar on some loads doesn't seem to be a problem, I think because it is so diluted. Thanks so much for visiting, I hope to see you here again :)

  2. I have, in the past, been forced to save laundry water for the garden. I just used plain ole' laundry soap with no ill effects. But, like you said, maybe I got lucky. Thanks for sharing with the HomeAcre Hop.

    1. What kind did you use? Was it for a long time? I think length of use would make a difference. Over time, the salts build up in the soil, especially if you don't get enough rain to dilute them. Thanks for stopping by :)

  3. shoot.. we use borax in our homemade.. but the more I read about Borax.. the less I am sure about using it. Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday!! Hope you come link up again today!

    1. Hannah, we use borax in our homemade laundry soap, too. I use our homemade laundry soap during the winter months when we are not using our laundry water, then switch over to the Biokleen liquid during the months that we are using our grey water. Maybe that would work for you. I linked up over at your place today. :)


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