August 2, 2016

ISO Locally Available Greywater Safe Products

My goal for the last phase of my research was to look around and see what greywater safe products my local stores carry. All in all, I'm not totally dissatisfied with the most of the products I already use, but I wanted to see what else was available. Maybe I could do better.

Why did I want products I could buy locally? Why not simply order off the internet? For several reasons. One is because shipping has become exorbitant. It often nearly doubles the cost of a heavy item (which I don't understand since fuel prices are currently down). In addition, my state charges either a sales or use tax on shipping. Even with free shipping, however, I don't like juggling the time factor between when to order more and will I get it in time, I don't want to deal with all that packaging, and I don't want to deal with "out of stock."

Unfortunately many of these products are more expensive than conventional products, so affordability is important too. To me, part of being self-sufficient means being less dependent on money and the consumer system. Most of us agree there is no such thing as total self-sufficiency, so as Dan and I approach retirement age (but not necessarily retirement) we are looking at living with lower income and less money. Low price then becomes important.

What about the old "it's worth paying more to save the environment" argument? I don't buy it. It's a manipulative statement because it implies 1) that I can really afford the product but am too stingy to pay for it, and 2) since I'm not willing to pay more to save the environment, then I'm a crumb. I say, if manufacturers are really concerned about the environment, then they should make the products affordable enough so everyone can use them; not just the affluent.

I listed a lot of categories in my last post, but for this exercise I focused mostly on laundry, dishwashing, and shampoo. While the selection of so-called natural products has increased, I've also learned how the term "natural" has different meanings. Plant-based surfactants, for example. Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate is avoided by many health purists and a no-no on greywater product lists. But what is it? It's an anionic plant-based surfactant, derived from coconut or palm, so some manufacturers include it in their "natural" products. The process of making it, however, is anything but natural and there are numerous health concerns regarding its use. (See Dr. Mercola's article here.) Unfortunately it's a ubiquitous product found in almost all liquid soaps and detergents, toothpaste, shaving creams, mouth washes, and in a number of cosmetics. So if a label used descriptive terms instead of actual ingredients, I dug a little deeper.


Locally sourced alternatives: I found Ecos Liquid Laundry Detergent on at Walmart, far cheaper than on Amazon or other online sources. Ecos makes the cut on almost every greywater recommendation list I've seen, and the only one who puts "greywater and septic tank safe" on the label. What does it contain? "Thoughtfully sourced ingredients."
  • water
  • cocamidoproply betaine (coconut-derived surfactant)
  • sodium coco sulfate (coconut-derived surfactant)
  • cocamidoproplylamine ixide (coconut-derived surfactant)
  • phenoxyethanol (preservative)
  • methlisothiazolinone (preservative)
  • equisetum hiemale (horsetail plant)
Cost per load:
  • From Walmart (rollback price), $0.07 per load. 
  • From Amazon (assuming free shipping) $0.18 per load.


I mentioned in my last post that I don't use bleach, but I've learned that hydrogen peroxide based bleaches (oxy types) are considered fairly safe. The homemade version is easy and inexpensive:
  • 2 parts water
  • 1 part hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 part baking soda
It can be poured or sprayed on stains before laundering.


Most greywater sites agree that liquid castile soap is greywater safe, with Dr. Bronner's as the most recommended (probably because it's the most well known). I'm still looking for a store around here that sells it.


It was interesting to learn that shampoo has only been around since the 1930s. Also that at their most basic ingredient level, shampoo and dishwashing liquid are about identical. Finding a greywater safe shampoo is a tough one, because there must be a zillion choices in almost every store, many of them claiming to be "natural." I haven't seen many brands recommended as greywater safe. This site recommends Aubrey Organics and Avalon, also some Burt's Bees products. Other sites recommend Dr. Bronner's as shampoo as well as body soap. I've found none of them at local stores and online they are expensive.

Some of you have had good success with No Poo. Others claim it ruined their hair. This site lists a dozen different No Poo methods plus has links to DIY shampoos. You'll also find a link there which discusses different types of hair and why there is not a universal No Poo method. My hair is so dry that it never gets oily (seriously!), so I'm finding that the "Scritch and Preen" and "Water Only" methods work well for me. Can't get more greywater friendly and economical than that!


Realistically, there are no perfect products. Which ones to choose will depend primarily on one's goals, so the choices will be different for everyone. Dan and I want to use our greywater in combination with rainwater for food growing. In looking at products I would like to decrease the amount of sodium we put down the drain, because much of our soil is already too high in sodium. It seems I can't avoid sodium altogether, but if I can choose lower sodium products, they will be further diluted before they reach any plants.

Here are a few more things to think about:

1) Many of us practice what we consider to be organic gardening. Unfortunately there are different definitions of "organic" and these are changing all the time. The legal definition of organic food was designed for commercial growers, and there is quite some rigmarole to obtain certification to sell one's food products with an organic label. Small sellers will often say "grown with organic methods" to be safe from raising governmental ire. In regards to utilizing greywater for organic food growing, I doubt any cleaning products would pass muster under any definition of organic gardening. Those of us who want to use greywater to grow food for home consumption, may want to consider how our cleaning products fall under our personal organic growing guidelines.

2) If you have a septic system, then no matter what products are used, they are still being leached into the soil.

3) I used cloth diapers when my kids were babies. This presents a different challenge to laundry greywater because diaper wash water usually contains feces, which would make it blackwater. The possible presence of feces in greywater is why it's forbidden in some places. For a situation like this a diverter valve on the washing machine is necessary, so that dirty diaper water can go where the rest of one's blackwater goes.

This concludes my rather lengthy and overly-analytical series on greywater. In the end, what goes into our greywater and what we choose to do with it will be a matter of what we're personally comfortable with.

Some links I want to hang on to:


Theresa said...

Leigh, I have all those products available to me in our local markets and more. If there is something you want to try and can't find it, give me a holler and we'll work something out. A note on some products. Cost is higher as many products are sourced and made in the USA, and packaging is often of some recycled materials at least. At our growers markets here we are lucky to have some amazing products. All my soap is made right here on the mountain, made from goats I know. I'm wondering if there are markets like that in your area. There is a fair amount of bartering that goes on too! As always I run far afield from the actual subject of grey water. sigh...

Unknown said...

I wanted to share that we make our own laundry detergent from borax, baking soda and shredded soap. We have used it for over 10 years now and love it. There are several different ways to make it. You can just shred the soap and mix it with the dry ingredients and keep it all as a powder or premix with water to make a liquid. I have been going an extra step and whip it into a "butter". Works great a a pre-treater and I can then use it as a cleaner too. Think "Soft-Scrub" cleaner.
I follow a soaping group on FB and got a recipe for making soap at home and make our own shampoo bars by cooking the soap in an old crockpot. Takes about 45 minutes all together and makes us enough shampoo to last a good 6 months. Love your Blog!

Leigh said...

Thank you for that, Theresa. I think a lot of the good products are made near the west coast and so more easily available there.

So far I've only looked at nearby shopping in town. We do have a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, but they require a special trip (plus I have to be in the mood to fight the traffic congestion, LOL).

It's funny, but our Walmart used to have zero organic products until Aldi moved in across the street. Aldi doesn't have much to offer in the way of greywater friendly cleaners, but their organic foods are very reasonable and folks snap them up. I've noticed Walmart now carrying more and more organic choices. Maybe something similar will happen with cleaners (I can hope!).

Leigh said...

Thank you!

I discussed my laundry detergents in part 2 of this series, including my homemade detergent. The Fels-Naptha and Zote were a real disappointment in terms of ingrients, but I've thought that if I substituted my homemade bar soap that would help. My other concerns are the boron in the borax and the sodium in the washing soda.

I seem to remember something about cooking down bits of old soap bars; that's a good idea. It would especially be good with homemade soap!

Unknown said...

You may be interested in this video.\
I have made the soap myself and it came out great. I used all olive oil though. I'm going to try all coconut oil next time. I got the glycerin at Wal-Mart in the pharmacy dept.

Unknown said...

If the video link doesn't work it's Soap Making 101 How to Make Liquid Glycerin Castile Soap from scratch on You Tube.

Leigh said...

Thank you Kelly. It seems making my own castile would be the most viable option. I've made bar soaps but never tried liquid castile. For dish soap it could be simple olive and coconut oils with potassium hydroxide. The coconut oil is what adds the suds, so it's a nice addition!

Leigh said...

I copied and pasted and it worked, thanks!

Janice in GA said...

I don't know how it is in your neck of the woods, but we can find Dr. Bronner's at Kroger in mine. We usually get ours from Trader Joe's because my husband works there though. :) And FWIW, I've been using Dr. Bronner's as shampoo for about a year now. My hair is ok, but it's also thin and fine, and it doesn't take much to clean it. I sometimes use a tiny dab of conditioner on my hair after I get out of the shower.

Sue in MA said...

You don't mention filters, such as adding a filter to the outgoing grey water. We have one on the in-take (house) side of our well to filter out larger contaminants (iron, manganese, etc.). I'm not sure how it would work as a practical matter, i.e., flow could be severely restricted, but it might be worth a look. You slightly touched on in this post of another thought I had. How many parts-per-x will you be putting in the greywater, and how would that dilution affect your soil?

Leigh said...

Oh gosh, I haven't seen a Kroger in ages. There is a Trader Joe's about two towns over, and I know they carry quite a few good products. They and Whole Foods are across the highway from one another, but it's a very congested area. :(

I think the suggestion to make my own liquid castile might be my best bet in the longrun.

Leigh said...

Sue, did you see my diagram in part one? The beds are the filters. Making a gadget type filter is pretty low on the list at present. I wanted to start with what we put into the water and work from there. I have no idea how much we'd be putting in versus dilution. That's over my head at present!

deb harvey said...

daughter and i use baking soda for hair washing and a bit of apple cider vinegar in water as a conditioner if needed.

deb harvey said...

interested in shampoo bar recipe and reviews. thanks.

Goatldi said...

We did greywater or graywater :-) for many years in Fresno on our first farm. We don't here as of yet. Have you looked into 7th Generation products? I need to read the long list on my new detergent bottle. We don't have a Whole Foods in the Shasta county area. Life gets complicated enough just going down the hill to Redding for the usual suspects. I understand your sentiment in regards to working on frame of mind to deal with traffic.

Leigh said...

I've had several comments over this series from people happy with that method. Did you check out the No Poo link in the post? That one seems to be the most popular.

Leigh said...

I can't even muster a once-a-month trip to Whole Foods and Trader Joes, LOL. They put them at the intersection of a mega-shopping center and somehow I can't seem to work it up to sit through the same stoplight two or three times while waiting to go.

7th Generation does not make the greywater friendly lists, which is too bad because it's one of the most common ones around here. I looked at their dishwashing detergent the other day and noticed sodium lauryl sulfate listed in the ingredients. That's as far as I got.

Goatldi said...

I agree that the Eco products seem to be a good buy. I do a good deal of shopping with Azure Standard. That may be changing since the bigger they get the less user friendly they become. Seems to be a sign of the times no?

Leigh said...

Do you mean their website ordering? Awhile back they were recommended for certain hard to find goat supplements and feed items. I looked into it but the shipping knocked it out of the box for me.

Goatldi said...

They have greatly expanded their physical deliveries. Go to and see if there are any trucks in your general area. If so you may want to email or call them to see if there are any drops in your area. They drop once a month on the west coast.

Leigh said...

Thanks. I think they had just expanded last time I checked, but the shipping offset any savings. Happily I found some good things locally.

Kat said...

Erica on NW Edible Life has a great Castile soap tutorial. It's cheap and easy, but does take some time. I also use her conditioner from the book, which is essentially rosemary water, citric acid, and a few oils. You spritz it on after the shower, so the product isn't going down the drain. I have very long hair and it works wonderfully for me.

Link to Castile tutorial:

Leigh said...

I found that exact same tutorial, LOL. So glad to know it's a good one. I checked out her book from the library but didn't look at the hair products. I'll have to look again; anything with oils for the hair appeals to me since mine is so dry.

Elisa said...

When I worked at Walgreens, we stocked Dr. Bronner's in the cosmetics department (near the Burt's Bees). I don't know if you have Walgreens near you, but it'd be worth a shot.

Leigh said...

There is a Walgreens in town although it's not on a route I usually take. I'll have to check. Also found a liquid castile at Walmart the other day, although $12 a quart is still kinda high. In the comments below, Kat gave a link to recipe to make it homemade. That may be the best option for me.