Greywater, green plants (Day 103)…


The term “greywater” has always intimidated me a bit. It’s one of those terms environmentalists like to drop into conversation every now and then all casual-like, sometimes even turning it into a verb, as in:

“So. Do you greywater?”

“Pff, yeah — who doesn‘t greywater?”

Well, whenever I heard people talking about it, I’d get visions of some complicated, multi-faceted, go-go-gadget filtering contraption, a bit like the one above — a “wind-powered greywater evaporator” — built by the dude standing next to it, whose screws may just be as loose as his collar.

But when I sucked up my ignorance and crept over to Wikipedia, it gently patted me on the head and proceeded to explain what exactly greywater was in the most basic diction, ie. dishes, laundry, bathing and cloudy.

Neither drinking-quality fresh, nor hazardously polluted, greywater is — as its name suggests — in a bit of a grey zone when it comes to how safe it is for reusing on plants or as toilet water. Some people who live off the grid (Greenpa, perhaps you can speak to this) swear by it and set up proper filtering units to make sure it’s done right. But I’m really not much of a handywoman, and I’m not sure it’s entirely legal to rig up my sink pipes to my toilet tank, so for now, I’m keeping it simple.

The plan is to only water my plants with greywater. Chances are, this will be coming from what’s left over from a pot of boiled pasta, or the rain that collects in my watering can outside, or the stuff that’s been sitting in the bottom of my water bottle all day (hopefully the basil and peppermint don’t mind a little backwash).

Photo courtesy of Spiritualmonkey at, where else, Flickr

25 Responses to Greywater, green plants (Day 103)…

  1. Bill F says:

    This is pretty much my graywater plan too. When soda bottle or cans get rinsed out before recycling, the rinse water goes in all the plants around the kitchen. They don”t seem to mind the small quantity of Diet Coke (or the backwash). I hadn’t thought about pasta water, but I suppose it would be good for that too, after it cools down a bit 😀

  2. hateration says:

    Hmm….does the water you boil veggies in count too? I guess all those vitamins I’m missing would likely do my plants a lot of good.

  3. Christy says:

    I collect my shower water too and use it to water plants. Pasta water is great for plants.

  4. Icandigit says:

    Water used to boil or steam veggies is great for plants. I would avoid using pasta water because something in it (possibly the starches) make the dirt get moldy (done it). And anyone who wants to do this should be sure to not use salted water.

  5. Alina says:

    Normally, I just pour the pasta water over dirty dishes to soak them. Then I don’t need to soak them in clean hot water when I wash them.

  6. ClareCat says:

    I’ve been re-using clothes washing water on the garden my whole life. My mum has done it for as long as I remember and obviously when I was a kid I wasn’t doing the washing, but sometimes I emptied buckets as they filled onto the garden. When I grew up enough to start doing my own washing (or my mum just got sick of washing for five ppl) I continued the trend. I wrote about it in my blog on the weekend. I live in a house and it would be more difficult to do if you lived in an apartment, but it might be possible.

    Ordinary washing detergent is fine for most plants, including vegies and lemon trees (which is mainly where I put it). Most detergents have phosphorous in them and Australian native plants can’t handle phosphorous, so I just keep the water away from them.

    And my supervisor re-uses her shower water on the garden.

    Cheers, Clare.

  7. so if we’re getting into all this water reusing how about if I throw a few things in the wash with yours every so often… will save my drive up to my parents house and I’m small so my clothes don’t take up much space. takes communal to a whole new level no?

  8. Lori V. says:

    I just used my mop water yesterday to water all my hostas out front! 🙂 That was my first foray into the greywater thing, too… of course, I haven’t looked to see if the hostas are dead this morning, either! 😉

  9. Lori V. says:

    Oh, BTW, I do use safe Method products for my floors, not Lysol or Pine-Sol… I’m not so sure those WOULDN’T kill the hostas.

  10. N. says:

    OK, I’m going to up the icky gross factor considerably here for some of you, but when you think about it, it makes some sense. When I was in college and learned to make my own cloth menstrual pads, the instructions said to soak the pads in cold water until you’re ready to wash them. It then suggests using the now iron-rich water on houseplants (presumably not on plants you’re going to eat).
    So the water isn’t exactly grey, but….

    (By the way, I’ve never actually tried this, but if anybody has, let us know if it’s good for the plants!)

  11. Chile says:

    As a lifelong desert dweller, I practice a lot of water conservation techniques (and just wrote about this on my blog a few days ago). We’re in a rental so we can’t get too complicated with our gray water either. Laundry water goes on citrus trees. Water used to rinse dirty vegetables goes on veggie plants (to grow more dirty veggies). Dish rinse water goes wherever needed in the garden, but I usually avoid the smaller veggies plants as I want to minimize the amount of soap they get.

    Last time I mopped, I then used the water to wash the car (only happens 2x/year – washing the car, not the mopping) which was parked close enough to a couple tree seedlings to water their roots.

    As far as veggie cooking water, I save it and reuse it in other food. Don’t waste those vitamins! It’s good for cooking rice, stews and soups, and even bread. If you can’t use it within a day or two, freeze it. In fact, save up a bunch of it in one container, making sure the seasonings are complimentary and then make a big batch o’ garbage soup. 🙂

  12. Anon. says:

    Using mopping water to wash a car seems to be defeating the point of washing the car, in fact you’re probably making the car even nastier than it ever would have been seeing as there’s so much gross stuff on floors.

  13. Lori V. says:

    Especially on MY floors…lots of animals, lots of nastiness! My dustbunnies are the size of housecats! LOL!

  14. christal says:

    here’s another little greywater tip…..
    I use the water that I collect while I am waiting for the hot water to come–to wash my intimates. all the bras & undies go in the pail to soak, then I pull everything out and clean with my dr. bronner’s & hand wash everything. then i rinse with the grey water and stop up the tub, so that I use the water to clean the tub when I am finished. voila!!

  15. Chile says:

    Um, well, I actually sweep before I mop so it’s just dirty water. Since I don’t cook with oil, it’s really just dirt that is discoloring the water. My car didn’t complain. 🙂

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  17. Julie says:

    I bought a couple of grey water hoses from Bunnings Hardware Store and connected them to my washing machine, and watered my back yard, which had a non-existent lawn, but within one month, the lawn has grown and its fantastically thick, lush and green, grey washing water works great and I feel very grateful & unwasteful.
    I added another hose and also did this to the front yard, it’s coming along great considering, it use to be just dirt. I now swear by grey-water for my lawn, but havent tried on plants or trees though.

  18. Elisabeth says:

    I am not calling you a liar, Julie, but I am expressing amazement that watering your yard with greywater produced a “fantastically thick, lush and green” lawn within a month. You don’t mention putting down grass seed. I’ve seeded and sodded and watered for years and still my lawn looked awful.

    No, I’m not a lawn nut. I’ve never used pesticides, and I’ve beheaded and uprooted hundreds of dandelions and other weeds by hand. (I also grow veggies most years.) But this summer I finally got so tired of the lawn that I dug it all up and planted native plants and filled in around them with mulch.

    I appreciate all these comments on greywater and although I haven’t used greywater much, it sounds like a good idea no matter what kind of lawn or garden I have.

  19. Annie D. says:

    I have been working on greywater reuse projects for about eight years now. I have eaten from gardens watered solely on greywater and rainwater collected from the roof. I have hooked up bathroom sinks to drain into the toilet tank. I have had a lot of experience finding soaps that biodegrade easily and don’t have a lot of sulfites, so they don’t build up in the soil and eventually destroy it.

    My friends have a website with instructions for both simple and more complicated projects at:

    Guerrillas is a joke but not–a lot of cities haven’t gotten the idea yet, so there’s no code written for these things. This doesn’t mean they’re a bad idea or that you’ll get caught, simply that they’re not withing the bounds of plumbing law. Check it out!

  20. Chastity says:

    I share in your journey to a greener lifestyle. I started my journey a few months ago. It is sometimes hard to break old habits but worth the results. Its great to hear of others making small but significant changes that lead to greater ones. Keeps me on the right track.;-)

  21. sarah says:

    i was just wondering what kinds of plants would be most likely to handle grey water. i ask because im doin a project on it and im a little stumped on wut kinds of plants to use

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