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Natalie Swan

May 3, 2023

How to choose greywater friendly products

If you’re looking for ways to save water, one initiative gaining increasing interest is the use of greywater. Greywater can be broadly defined as non-potable water, i.e. water you can't drink. The most common forms of greywater that can be collected in our households include wastewater saved from baths, showers, washing machines and bathroom sinks.

Especially if you're using greywater on plants and gardens, it's a good idea to think about the types of products you're using in the home whose residue will end up in your greywater system. Here's what to look out for.

A bit of the right residue is a good thing

Soaps and detergents often contain small amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, which through your greywater act as a nutrient source for plants. More good news is that the soapy nature of greywater can also act as a natural pest deterrent.

Biodegradable is best

Since your greywater will be both feeding your plants and entering the groundwater system, you don't want to be using products that’ll leave harmful chemicals in the ground. So check packaging to make sure that the products you’re buying are biodegradable.

PH Neutral

Plants, and especially vegetables, are very sensitive to PH, ideally enjoying a PH range from 5.5-6.5. The problem is that many soaps and detergents are slightly alkaline, with their residue in greywater affecting plants' ability to take up nutrients from the soil. It’s a good idea to change your detergents and soaps to products that have no or low sodium, sodium laureth sulphate (a foaming agent), chloride or boron in order to keep your grey water as PH neutral as possible.

Shopping for the right products

See below for our list of greywater-friendly products to use in the home

Soaps: Unfortunately for those of us also trying to cut down on plastic usage, liquid soaps are more likely to be acid-free than bars of soap. However, check out Faithful to Nature’s online store to find bars of soap that cut out toxins, including this African Bliss Olive Oil Soap that’s both full of essential oils and synthetic free. Lush is also a great place to source beauty products, body washes and soaps made with environmentally friendly ingredients as well as recycled packaging.

Shampoo & Conditioners: Look out for Aubrey cosmetics, especially this PH neutraliser shampoo. Africa Organics create sodium laureth sulphate free shampoos and conditioners, including this Marula Shampoo that also aims to wash toxins out of the hair. Look out for this Herbal Essences Shampoo & Conditioner Sulphate Free Kit and here’s Harper Bazaar’s 2019 list of top sulphate free shampoos if you’d like to do a bit more research for products at various price points.

Washing machine powder: The Naturally Good website is a great place to find eco-friendly cleaning products, including a good selection of washing machine powders and softeners. Try this Aquazyme Laundry Liquid that is biodegradable and non-corrosive.

Cleaning Products: If you need to use bleach, look for products that contain hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine as it is far less harmful to your greywater system. Even better, this Natural Oxygen Bleach is a great alternative to regular bleach and completely chlorine-free. There’s also a good selection of eco-friendly general cleaning products out there, including this Ecofresh Sanitizing Cleanser that can be used on surfaces, floors and to clean toilets.

And finally: Adding compost to your soil (whether homegrown or brought) is a great way to reduce any stray toxic materials that may have found their way into your greywater. Healthy soil is full of microorganisms that do the work of combatting any pathogens from greywater and compost containing animal manure or coffee grounds can reduce any excess alkalinity.

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