Recycling Washing Machine Water: Conserving Water with Gray Water

Learn About Gray Water Recycling and Where You Can Use It

Pouring detergent in the washing machine

What is gray water? It is all the household water that goes down the drain, except for the water used in the toilet. It does not need to be treated before it can be reused to water the garden or the lawn; however it must be used carefully as it contains grease, hair, detergent, and other foreign matter. During times of drought this is a good alternative way to water the vegetable garden. Twenty-five to forty percent of our consumable water could be saved by recycling gray water. You can also save money on your water bill, there is less water to be treated at the treatment plant, energy is saved as less water is pumped to your house, and of all this makes more fresh water available for cooking and drinking.

This article will teach you how to recycle water from the washing machine and will offer other water conservation ideas. 

Step 1

Be choosy about the gray water you use on your garden. Use shower and bathtub water first, and then water from the bathroom sink, utility sink, and washing machine. The water from the kitchen sink and dishwasher are less desirable.

Step 2

Soaps and detergents are biodegradable; however, extended use can create a buildup of sodium salts. Alternate watering with fresh water and gray water to prevent the buildup.

Step 3

Cut back on the use of bleach and of detergents containing boron - these are toxic to plants. Household cleaners containing ammonia should be used instead of cleaners with chlorine.

Step 4

Gray water from gray water recycling should be used mainly on ornamental plants and shrubs. If you use it in your vegetable garden, do not use it on root crops or leafy vegetables. Disease-causing organisms in the water such as bacteria usually die quickly, and it is unlikely that it could pass through the roots to the edible part to the plant. However, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Step 5

Gray water should be applied directly to the soil, as it has a tendency to clog drip irrigation systems. Do not pour gray water on sloping ground, as the runoff could create problems. Pour the gray water over a large area. Rotating this with fresh water will help leach out any contaminants that may build up in the soil. Use only on well-established plants and do not use on acid loving plants.

Step 6

Carrying the water to the garden in buckets is the most basic way to transport it. You can develop a system to siphon the water from the house to the lawn or garden with a garden hose, or a sump pump can be used to pump the water to containers outside the house. Removing the trap on the bathroom sink and setting a five gallon bucket under the sink to catch the water is another method. There are also custom collection systems with holding bins and filtration systems.

Step 7

Another way to recycle gray water involves placing a bucket under each air conditioning unit to catch the condensation. You can also keep a bucket in the shower to catch the cold water while you are waiting for it to warm up. Attach a hose from the bathroom sink to the toilet; the water used to wash your hands goes to the toilet to be used for flushing. Water from the kitchen should be avoided, as it contains food particles and other materials. As you can see, there are many ways of recycling gray water - using washing machine water is only one possibility.

Step 8

Avoid using gray water that contains, bleach, bath salts, artificial water softeners, thinners or solvents, boron, drain cleaners, swimming pool water or laundry water used to wash diapers.

Water is a precious resource which is well worth conserving. Recycling washing machine water can be a way to do your part in conserving water with gray water.

Presently water is cheap for most of us; we are not paying near the full value of water. Compare the expensive system of using the water until the well goes dry, to the less expensive system which only costs the price of a few buckets, hoses and a little elbow grease.


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