Are Your Cleaning Products Grey Water-Safe?

Are all natural cleaning products safe for Grey Water?

How easy it would be if all ‘natural’ cleaning products were ok to be sent into your garden with your grey-water! Unfortunately it is not quite as simple as that, so we are going to try to explain some of the factors you need to think about. There are three main factors to be considered

a. what type of grey water system you have

b. what is left in the water after the product has been used

and c. the way you use that product.

What kind of Grey Water system – treatment or direct diversion?

There are regulations around how grey water may be used on your property; these vary so I won’t go into them here but you can find out lots of information from the EPA in your state, or your local council – suffice to say that these rules are all about making sure your grey water does not end up posing a health threat to you, your neighbors or community – which is a good thing! However, a choice you WILL be able to make is whether you use a grey water treatment system, or whether you divert it directly onto your land. 

Treatment systems are ones where you catch your grey-water and treat it to remove potentially harmful bacteria, oils etc, before you release it onto your land. A simple diversion system sends your grey water ‘as is’ directly onto your land. Treatment systems are more expensive but you get the peace of mind of knowing that some of the contaminants can be caught before they end up on your garden. Diversion systems are generally cheaper and can be as simple as running a hose from your bath onto your orchard. No matter what system you use you need to carefully consider what cleaning products are safe to use in conjunction with grey-water; if you use a simple diversion system this is imperative!

What factors effect the water quality of Grey Water?

People might tell you that any conventional cleaning product is ‘bad’ for grey water and anything ‘natural’ is good – but the opposite could be true. It all comes down to biochemistry!

Lanfax Laboratories are an independent, commercial and research organisation with special interests in soil, water and wastewater analysis. Lanfax regularly run tests on a multitude of ‘off the shelf’ laundry products; they look at the resulting water quality after a test wash, and then present their findings on which result in the best and worst water quality. They have lots of interesting information on their website – we highly recommend you visit it!

So what factors do Lanfax look for?

There are four things they test for, to see what is remaining in the water after a test wash with each product has been completed.

1. pH level (less than 8 for liquids and less than 10 for powders)

2. sodium load (less than 10gms for liquids and less than 20gms for powders)

3. phosphorus load (less than 1 gm per wash)

4. electrical conductivity (less than 1 dS/m per wash)

All four of these factors have to fall into an acceptable range for the waste water from that laundry product to be  considered suitable to be used as Grey Water. If one of them is outside the limits, the water may be damaging to plants and micro-organisms.

Which brings us to the third factor, which is the most frequently forgotten, and yet the most easily controlled:

How to use your cleaning and laundry products so they are grey water suitable

Even if you choose a laundry product that meets all the criteria above such as our TriNature Alpha Plus Laundry Liquid, the way you use it still determines whether or not it creates grey water safe waste water.

Lanfax tests are all done using the Recommended Usage instructions – if you use twice the recommended usage, you can probably well imagine that this will effect the pH level, the sodium and phosphorus content, and the electrical conductivity of the waste water after your wash has been completed.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that a small amount of a concentrated product is sufficient for the job, and it’s tempting to use double – but try ALWAYS use your products as directed; the environment will thank you for it!

Finally, even if you are not using grey water on your garden, remember that whatever ends up in your waste water still ends up in our environment (even if it is not your immediate back yard) – so please choose the most environmentally sensitive products you can!