Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grey Water Friendly Cleaning Products

I have immersed myself in the world of grey water and black water and have found that there is a ton of information out there that conflicts. Ugh! It is clear to me from all that I have read that grey water systems are, for Americans, in their infancy. While grey water is common in third world countries, we also understand that those systems are not always by choice and the folks using them are, more often than not, not aware of how damaging the products they are flushing out in their water are to the earth around them. Survival is their focus, not being Earth-friendly. However, here in the US and in most developed countries, the choice of grey water is a smart and Earth-friendly choice providing we understand just what constitutes grey water friendly and what will make waste water black water and not Earth-friendly. So, with the goal of understanding what can and cannot be used in your grey water system, I will break down the areas we use products in and what you can safely use and flush out in your grey water system vs what products will need to be considered contaminants and must be flushed out in black water containment systems. We will begin with basic cleaning products in this post.

One specific area to pay special attention to is laundry. This area is of particular concern for me because, other than draining a bathtub, it is going to be the largest contributor of water to my grey water system. I used to like to make my own laundry detergent, but I have discovered that Borax is NOT grey water friendly. My recipe calls for Borax. The reason it is damaging to the environment is due to the raising of the salt level of soil. Basically it causes the soil to become non-plant friendly and that is definitely counter-productive to the purpose of the grey water system. As a result of learning this, I will have to revisit how to make a home-made laundry soap that can be used in a grey water system.

On a positive note, my research has led to discovering a plethora of products I can start using now, forming good habits for when I am ready to move onto the homestead. Here are the product lines I have found most compelling based on availability, costs, and reviews:

Ecos:  Ecos makes a liquid laundry detergent that has a built in fabric softener. The price is fair (I found it here on Amazon in a six-pack that will wash 384 loads. Divided into the cost, it comes out to a little over 10 cents a load. A very fair price for an eco-friendly product.) and they have several scents that are popular in addition to a free-and-clear version. Add in free Prime shipping and it is an even better deal.

Seventh Generation: Seventh Generation is a well known brand of cleaning products sold in most larger health food stores and markets. I find that their product is good, works well, and is both grey water and septic system friendly. However, it is quite expensive (about double the Ecos cost per load). Visit their website to learn more and to sign up for coupons and specials.

Soap Nuts: NaturOli makes a tremendous line of Soap Nut products. Soap nuts are the seeds of a tree and are a 100% natural surfactant. They clean and leave no residue or smell. Highly concentrated, the cleaners are sold in small bottles that take up very little space and can be reused or recycled. You can see their line of products at their website: or directly to their soap nut product line at or look for their products on Amazon. If you have a front loading washing machine, you really need to look into using soap nuts. Soap nut products are safe for grey water systems as well as septic systems. Using their Extreme 18X product for laundry comes out to about 16 cents per load. An 8oz bottle will wash 96 loads in an HE front loading machine. The product can also be used as a chemical-free household cleaner and is safe for body and hair too!

Dr. Bronner's: Dr. Bronner's products are castille based soaps. While there is nothing on their site that specifically states that their soaps are grey water friendly, castille soap is naturally based and all the chat rooms and boards that chatter about grey water all recommend Dr. Bronner's liquid soaps. Dr. Bronner's site has a list of 18 ways to use their liquid. Eco friendly and sold in bulk, Dr. Bronner's is a serious contender.

There are some other products I have found, but they are high-priced or obscure. To make real change I feel that products must be  accessible, and, most importantly, reasonably priced. I chose to double-check if I could easily locate items on Amazon since living in a rural area often limits shopping choices. Being able to be order things to be delivered at a reasonable cost just makes sense. I am also aware that many are proponents of using vinegar. I agree that vinegar is eco-friendly, but it is not cost effective over the long haul and is stored in large containers.

Do you have any eco-friendly products you stand by? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.