written by: AngelaC•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 12/22/2010
As the earth’s supply of freshwater continues to decrease, the importance of conserving water becomes more urgent every year. Learning how to recycle laundry water is one easy way you can make an impact on the environment and provide a nutrient rich fertilizer for your landscaping at the same.
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Doing laundry, brushing your teeth or taking a shower produces wastewater called greywater. Greywater is simply the wastewater that is leftover from household usage such as laundry, bathing and washing dishes. Greywater is not the same as blackwater, which contains harmful contaminants such as human waste. Blackwater cannot be recycled because it needs to be cleaned at a wastewater treatment facility.
It has been estimated that the average person produces at least 30 gallons of greywater each day that can be reused. One way to reuse the greywater your household generates is to learn how to recycle laundry water, and redirect the water to your yard and garden for an extremely cost effective organic lawn care program. Greywater contains very small amounts of organic and pathogenic pollutants, and the very same protein, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous "pollutants" generated from the use of soaps, detergents and skin particles are actually valuable sources of nutrients for the irrigation of landscaping, fruit trees and gardens.
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Recycling Laundry Water
Laundry water recycling systems are readily available for purchase and simple to install because many do not require any significant changes to your home’s drainage plumbing. It uses the washing machine's own pump to move the greywater to several outlets in your yard.
If you feel comfortable doing so, and are able to easily access your washing machine’s drainage hose, you can also hook up a valve to the drainage hose and divert the water yourself. Reroute the water to drain into a large collection container or purchase a longer hose, run it out a window, and aim it at different parts of your yard and garden when doing the laundry.
When setting up your system, always use drip irrigation or a hose, do not spray the greywater. Make sure that the water never touches the edible parts of any plants. Keep in mind that some states and governments have different regulations regarding recycling greywater and you will need to check ensure that your system complies with all local ordinances and codes.
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Detergent Guidelines When Reusing Laundry Water
When reusing laundry water to irrigate landscaping, it is important that you keep the phosphate and salt levels in your greywater relatively low to keep the pH balance neutral. This may involve making some changes as to what types of detergent and cleaning agents you use, and what types of soiled items you put into your washing machine. Start by always using an all-natural, biodegradable laundry detergent that is free of colors, dyes and fragrances, or make your own. Do not use any detergents or additives that contain boron. Do not use fabric softener because it has a large proportion of sodium-based compounds. Eliminate or reduce the amount of bleach you use. Other materials that are not safe include: artificial water softeners, bath salts, diapers, drain openers, grease/oil, swimming pool water, and thinners/solvents.
By learning how to recycle laundry water and utilizing your household’s greywater, you are benefiting the environment in numerous ways. Increasing your water conservation efforts reduces the fresh water extracted from rivers and aquifers, and lowers your impact on septic tanks and wastewater treatment plants. In addition, you will be increasing plant growth, maintaining soil fertility, and providing for a greater quality of surface and ground water by preserving the natural purification in the top layers of soil.