Gray Water-Safe Household Practices

If you are irrigating with gray water, you will need to be careful about what you send down the sink, bathtub and laundry drain as some substances can damage your gray water irrigation system and your landscaping.

  • Avoid putting solids or fat or oils into drains that feed into your gray water system. These substances can clog filters and drip tubing.
  • Install fine drain guards to filter hair which can damage the pump.
  • Never dispose of food or human waste in gray water drains.
  • Gray water should not sit in the tank for long periods of time. If you will be gone for an extended period of time, you will need turn off the irrigation system and empty the gray water tank via irrigation.

Irrigation Compatibility
In general, use plant- and soil-biocompatible cleaners that do not adversely affect soil pH or structure:

  • Most hand and dish soaps and shampoos don’t damage plants at low residential levels.
  • Do not use liquid drain cleaners or other harsh chemical cleaners in gray water sinks.
  • Avoid homemade cleaners that contain baking soda.
  • Avoid cleaners or detergents that contain boron (borax), a potent plant toxin.
  • Use cleaners that contain little or no sodium. Liquids contain less sodium than powders. (A buildup of sodium is toxic to plants and destroys the structure of clay soils.)
  • Avoid bath salts.
  • Avoid using chlorine bleach or non-chlorine bleach containing sodium perborate, a potent plant toxin. Do not use detergents “with bleach” or that advertise whitening, softening and enzymatic powers. Liquid hydrogen peroxide is a less powerful, more expensive, but nontoxic alternative to bleach.
  • Avoid washing more often or using more cleaner than needed.

Safe Laundry Detergents:

  • Alfa Kleen
  • Bold Liquid
  • ECOS (including pods)
  • Oasis (Bio-Pac)
  • Shaklee
  • Vaska
  • Yes

ECOS laundry detergent is readily available in Austin —at HEB, Treehouse, Eco-Wise, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Central Market—and can be ordered online here:

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