Soap that won't kill plants?
February 28, 2006 8:48 PM   Subscribe

I have a crazy idea involving my washing machine, its outflow, and my garden, but there's a little problem involving suds...

I'm trying to conserve water, and I realized that the pipe connecting the outflow of my washing machine could be redirected to spill out over a patch of my (currently rather bare and boring) backyard. The problem, of course, is that washing machine wastewater still has the detergent in it, and I don't think that's very good for plants. What I'd like to know is if there's a way for this scheme to work - are there plant-safe detergents out there? Preferably ones that won't break my budget?
posted by wanderingmind to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
 
you are talking Gray water. A good place to start is fin dyour local co-op and look through their soap section. I am very confident you will find something.
posted by edgeways at 8:53 PM on February 28, 2006


For example... I am sure there are many options
posted by edgeways at 8:55 PM on February 28, 2006


Or just use soap powder.
posted by Wolof at 8:59 PM on February 28, 2006


The main problem is excess phosphorus. Low-P detergent is available in my supermarket, it even says somewhere on the box that it's "safe for gardens". Of course, it's not unusual to divert greywater in Australia (well, increasingly less so). Quite a simple process generally, and quite safe.
posted by wilful at 9:04 PM on February 28, 2006


the soap is not the only issue you need to worry about, the chemicals, dyes, and dirt (generic term) on your clothes could also harm your garden.
posted by crewshell at 11:14 PM on February 28, 2006


In general, water from your washing machine is fine for your grass and flowers and maybe even for your veggies. You could, if no one was looking, just run the pipe out to the garden and let 'er rip, and almost certainly nothing bad would happen to you or anyone else or anything else. But that's not the kind of carefree world we live in now, so read on.
posted by pracowity at 12:26 AM on March 1, 2006


In Australia you can get a device that diverts outgoing grey water into a storage tank. You go to the pipe outside your house (if you can access it) and insert this rubber thing that looks like an elongated funnel. Outgoing water diverts to whatever container you provide.

Let me know if this piques your curiosity, and I'll see if I can find out what it is called. We have fairly serious water restrictions here. I salute your conservation efforts!
posted by tomble at 12:40 AM on March 1, 2006


In Australia you can get a device that diverts outgoing grey water into a storage tank.

Personally, I think this is where you start the project. Well, first start using a very clean detergent (Seventh Generation comes to mind). But then you probably want to store up the grey water and possibly treat it before applying it to your garden.

You may also need to add a pump to get the water from the washign machine to the sotrage unit. As it is now your washing machine probably only can push the waste water as far as the utility tub. If yoou are going to redirect it outside, you may need more power to get it there. Even if it is a sump pump sort of thing that takes the water from the utility tub.

Here are a few other guidelines I found:
posted by terrapin at 6:50 AM on March 1, 2006


My family had to divert laundry water to the backyard for a week while our laundry drain was being repaired. The flowers grew so fast out there! We did use less soap (you don't really need that much anyway) so I don't know how that would affect things. The suds also kept aphids away.
posted by idiotfactory at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2006


Many new "green" house building plans call for diverting the shower water. I've always thought this was a smart source of grey water because there is so much water and so little soap. And it's easy to find gentle, non-polluting soap to wash your body and hair.

When I was growing up, my mother had a "suds saver" feature on the washing machine. It came with a drainage pipe that either went into the sink or into the sewage pipe in the wall. Unfortunately it had a tendancy to disconnect itself with the first flood of releasing water. You would hear the "thunk" of the cycle change and you had to run over and hold onto the pipe or else it would disconnect and you flooded the kitchen floor. I was late to the first day of school because we were busy mopping up.

You were supposed to reuse the sudsy water to wash the floor or something, but I don't think we ever did-- it looked too dirty. Oddly enough there was no option to save the cleaner rinse water. I guess back then water was cheap but soap was expensive.

These days I use my floor washing water to water the potted plants. I use only a small amount of mild detergent and the plants like it fine.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:12 AM on March 1, 2006


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