View Full Version : Cleaning w/o gray water

03-28-2009, 05:27 PM
Being Native I am very concerned about what I do to our Mother and thinking of the next 7 generations, I am trying to think of a way to clean dishes and clothes without the resultant poisonous gray water.

After washing dishes, w/o soap, I make sure that the water is boiling hot for rinsing and sterilizing and use vinegar to cut grease. I use tongs to dunk the dishes so I do not get burned. For laundry I put my clothes in a rocky stream with a good flow of water and weight down the clothes with rocks so I don't have to chase my laundry to the next town. The water passing thru the fibers and beating on the rocks do the cleaning, again w/o gray water.

Can anyone else make some suggestions?


03-28-2009, 07:38 PM
Don't you think that is a little emotional and holier than thou? This is the kind of hippy/dippy earthmother post that belongs on Mother Earth News next to the pyramid power crystals for purifying water.

What about all those people that don't have a flowing stream (with rocks or not) flowing through their property? Should we just stay dirty? What about all the trees you're chopping down or oil sucked out of the ground to get your water boiling hot? Gray water is NOT poisonous, and I channel our cabin's kitchen sink to a grassy area behind the cabin. If you didn't see the water coming out of the pipe, looking at the grass you'd never know gray water was being emmitted!

03-28-2009, 08:59 PM
"For laundry I put my clothes in a rocky stream with a good flow of water and weight down the clothes with rocks "

Why not just wash them in a clothes washer without detergent? It seems it would be about the same, then channel the water out into the garden/yard.
No chasing your dainties into the next county.

03-28-2009, 09:05 PM
Gray water is not poisonous. We always used it to water plants. Roses love old laundry water. Personally, I will use soap. Their are very few clean clear streams in this world and most carry microscopic parasites. I would only wash my clothes in something other than well/rain water in a survival situation. Also, I will use soap on all my dishes except the cast iron. Hot water is not enough assurance for me that all traces of bacteria is removed. Good old soap and grapefruit oil does the trick for me and I don't have to waste resources boiling the water and soaking the dishes in the pot for a minimum of 15 min. (the required time to kill most bacteria and viruses).

03-29-2009, 12:22 AM
... and not all soap is bad....

03-29-2009, 05:05 PM

There is a Native saying about people who do not care for the Earth Mother. 'Some people will kill their grandchildren to save themselves.'

03-29-2009, 09:22 PM
and there's probably a native saying of "get real, already" - if you dig deep enough -

03-30-2009, 12:44 AM
I just feel so lucky that I'm not the poor sap trying to get drinking water downstream of your dirty underwear! I see where my grey water goes. Do you see where yours goes? I'd like to see what your neighbors think of you once they find out how you've been polluting their water!

03-30-2009, 03:03 AM
Lobo , I can understand sort of of what your trying to do. And I won't judge you , but take it a step further and if you hunt , hunt with a bow you made yourself (or spear) Only wear what you made out of the animals you harvest and if you get an indian government check, give it back and tell them you don't want it. Good luck with your washing and gray is a color also ;D

03-30-2009, 11:59 AM
kawalekm, In my cleaning situation there is no gray water running downstream.

I am doing this also because of low income ($9000/yr) and need to make concessions somewhere. Yes Paul I know there are some clean soaps out there but I cannot afford them.

Rivahmom, if gray water is not poisonous, why is there such a big deal about expensive septic systems? I can't afford them either.

With income in mind I was raised not to 'live out of someone elses wallet' ie welfare, etc. thank you flatwater for your comments and yes I would consider giving the check back but I consider that land payment.

Cold hearted people who ridicule others spiritual beliefs are the reason why I want to go live very deep in the woods to live closer to the Spirit.


03-30-2009, 12:02 PM
I forgot....

The reason I started this blog is in hopes that people could offer other options..ie..some plants are used for cleaning.


03-30-2009, 12:37 PM
I am not mocking your beliefs. I am mocking your sanctimonious hypricritical ignorance.

Septic waste systems do NOT deal with grey water. They deal with efluent containing human excretement. Grey water is simply the dirt/soap laiden water that comes from non-toilet water drains like the kitchen sink.

If you are putting your soiled underwear in the creek, then you are fouling the whole creek with your excretement. And you dare to complain about somebodies soap bubbles! That is where your hyprocricy stems from.

Don't try to pretend that only "natives" care for the land. I didn't go to work to earn money to buy my land just to spoil it. I've cared for plants, planted trees, and healed erosion on my land. And I haven't dumped any of my **** into the local creek for people downstream to drink!

03-30-2009, 01:40 PM
Rivahmom, if gray water is not poisonous, why is there such a big deal about expensive septic systems? I can't afford them either.

A septic system is used to dispose of human waste. I am choosing a solar composting system similar to one discussed in the outhouse thread when we start building to avoid the cost a traditional septic system. Your question was about gray water, which as another poster explained, is nothing more than soap, dirt and water. If the cost of soap is too expensive than you have bigger problems than what to do with gray water. I can buy a pack of several bars for 2$ that can be used on laundry, dishes, and myself. It can also be made very easily with fat and lye. If you canít afford lye, it is easy to make with water and wood ashes. Most people believe that you have to use detergents (different from soap) to do laundry and that is false. Although I would recommend a stronger soap mixed with washing soda, which is still very affordable. Soapwort and yucca can be used, however there is the potential of those plants poisoning or upsetting the PH balance of the creek you use them in. I would use them in a pot which would still leave you with gray water.


03-30-2009, 01:51 PM
Thank you rivahmom, this is finally going in the direction I was hoping for. I have made lye soap before and that is all natural. Soapwort and yucca I believe are western and southern natural plants. I do not know if they will grow in the northeast. Does anyone have any northeasterner wild plants that will work?


03-30-2009, 02:24 PM
Soapwort can be grown in the north east. http://www.wikidoc.org/index.php/Soapwort
However here is a list of plants that contain saponin as well.

03-30-2009, 02:39 PM
Thank you. The other names listed for soapwort are sweet william and bouncing bet and I do know those. the other list is very helpful.


03-30-2009, 08:00 PM
I am not mocking your beliefs. *I am mocking your sanctimonious hypricritical ignorance.

Perhaps you are not familiar with the rules in this Forum, but this kind of behavior is not welcome.

I found nothing hypocritical or ignorant about Lobo's post. All he did was outline his situation and ask for help. Instead of help he gets attitude from you. Talk about sanctimonious.

If you are not able to offer help to those who ask for it, perhaps you should display some wisdom and say nothing.

If a member misspeaks, or speaks in error, a civil correction may be in order, but your kind of mocking self-righteousness is not.

You owe Lobo an apology.


03-31-2009, 01:23 AM
Cannot I be offended? In his posts I feel that Lobo is expressing racial overtones that suggest that because he is a native American he somehow has greater environmental sensibilities that others (perhaps whites) do not.

Considering that this is a homesteading board I think it is easy to say that everyone here has a deep commitment to caring for the land and I feel that his statements are a little patronizing and more than a little insulting.

I'm willing to have adult discussion with anyone who wants to have a serious discussion on how anything should be accomplished, but I think this is just plain old moral superiority!

03-31-2009, 12:23 PM
I will try to apologize.

I in no way intended to sound superior, in fact I have always had an inferiority complex. I feel misunderstandings like this come from not knowing what is in a person's heart. I do feel that homesteaders have a love of the land and try to treat it respectfully. In the Native belief we feel that the earth is our mother and so we worship her and try to treat her with the honor we treat our physical mothers.

I will not explain any further here as I do not want to sound like I am on a pulpit. that is not the point of this post. Internet reasearch on the part of anyone interested will anser more questions.

Again, I am sorry if I came off with a superior attitude, sincerely it was not intended that way, in fact we are admonished not to do that.


03-31-2009, 01:41 PM
I don't see a need for you to apologize. You did not come off as sounding superior to me but genuinely concerned.

03-31-2009, 02:31 PM
Well, I am also sorry to have overreacted to something that I took as a personal attack. I should just stick to discussing facts of an issue.

03-31-2009, 03:25 PM
Thank you Michael, apology wholeheartedly accepted. Understanding goes a long way.


03-31-2009, 08:16 PM
i think one reason God created skin is to act as an opaque covering to hide all the yuk underneath -
seems like some folks are developing skin so thin that God's original intent might be thwarted cause the next step is total transparency -

04-04-2009, 07:20 PM
Gray water has lots of phosphorus in it. A precious resource of which there is only a 50 year supply left using current farming methods. Recycle it in your garden. There are microbes that break down the chemical components.

Where gray water is damaging to ecology is when the the phosphorus gets into a lake or stream it promotes algae blooms.

04-06-2009, 12:25 PM
I know that manufacturers of detergents and such have been removing phosphorous since the 1970's, and today's detergent is essentially phosphorus free. Where is excess phosphorus coming from today?

By the way, my gray water doesn't get dumped into a stream, but on grass off the side of the cabin. I've never noticed any growth promotion of any kind.

04-07-2009, 03:01 PM
[quote author=kawalekm link=board=sel-other;num=1238264859;start=20#24 date=04/06/09 at 06:25:59]I know that manufacturers of detergents and such have been removing phosphorous since the 1970's, and today's detergent is essentially phosphorus free. *Where is excess phosphorus coming from today?quote]

I think that phosphorus is from large scale farming runoff. I have read they are aware of it and trying to control it. Chesapeake Bay is an example.

04-09-2009, 04:20 PM
I'll echo others in saying that gray water should be treated as a resource wherever possible. Put it to work in your garden.

Here's one tid bit concerning cooking utensils: Scrape dishes as clean as possible before food has a chance to dry. Then, leave them be until the next time you cook. When you boil water for cooking, dip your eating utensils and dishes into it for about 10 seconds to kill bacteria, bring the water back to a boil then use it to cook the meal.

Your dishes may not be aesthetically "clean" but they will be clinically clean.

Of course, this concept won't work for every menu and some folks won't get past the gross out factor but every time you do it, you're saving the amount of water you would have used for washing dishes.

I will also echo those who don't like the idea of washing clothes in a stream. Use buckets with minimal soap - one to wash, one to rinse, then water a tree or your garden.

If I were king of the world, no one would have permission to put pollutants into the water stream nor would they be able to homestead within 100 yards of a stream or river.

06-23-2009, 08:50 AM
It's not the soap that makes graywater, graywater. It's the soil in the clothes that you are washing. If you put your dirty clothes in the creek or river then you are turning the whole downstream into graywater. Graywater is purified when it perculates through sand and humus, there are bacteria and enzymes in the ground that eat the dirt and soil and convert it back into healthy water. If you google slow sand filters it will show you how this works. A layer of bacteria and enzymes developes on the surface of the sand in an anearobic environment. This layer is called the "schmutzdeck". The slow sand filter is used in large city water treatment plants as well as 3rd world small towns and you can make one easily for your own use. These slow sand filters are not only used for Graywater but Blackwater as well. Personnally I would prefer to use a vermiculture toilet instead of putting my fecal waste into the water system.
here are a couple of links I just looked up for slow sand filters:

06-23-2009, 05:26 PM
I think that you should do some fact checking on grey water. From what I have read: if you are using bio-degradeable soaps and not rinsing non organic materials down your grey water system it is not only safe, but the "dirt" human oil from clothes, remains from dishes is really just compost that you are feeding the environment that your grey water drains into. Gosh when you excrete or when animals excrete it is compost and nurishments for plants and micro organisms. From my prospective this is how nature recycles: all things that grow produce natural wastes that break down to feed new growth. We exhale CO2, plants absorb the CO2 and release O2, we absorb the O2 and around the beautiful system works, kind of like it was planned that way. I feel that we need to stop looking at what we excrete or discard as waste, but as materials for the growth and building of others in nature and we should be very careful of not buying and putting things into this "waste stream that isn't good for the environment.

06-24-2009, 01:32 AM
'Graywater' is technically all of the wastewater produced by your home/living activities except for what comes out of the toilet, which is 'blackwater'. It was very common in years past to send the toilet to the septic tank, and the graywater to a separate drywell.

However graywater is still contaminated with bacteria and viruses, and is considered sewage, and by the law in most areas, must be treated as such. While it may just be from the kitchen sink, or the laundry, it is contaminated and will damage the environment if not handled with care.

If you choose to separate your graywater for recycling, it is best used as irrigation for non-edible plants or lawns. Golf courses often use graywater systems for irrigation.

I certainly do not think it a good idea to use a stream to wash clothes, as even without soap, you will be introducing viruses and bacteria to the water, to the detriment of the health of the stream, and your downstream neighbors.

Sometimes, I know, need overcomes right. I currently have my washer discharge hooked into my sump crock, in violation of local code. Fortunately the discharge line feeds into a field tile, so it is not discharged to a water way or the ground surface, but as soon as I can afford to buy the necessary pump, I will connect it to the septic. So I'm not trying to say I'm better than anyone else, just wanted to make y'all aware that 'graywater' is not the safe resource some might think, but it can be a good resource if handeled sensibly.

06-25-2009, 12:31 PM
I feel that we need to stop looking at what we excrete or discard as waste, but as materials for the growth and building of others in nature and we should be very careful of not buying and putting things into this "waste stream that isn't good for the environment.
Ecological theory and such is very nice, but you have to be very careful with your analogies because this resource you are talking about is considered INFECTIOUS. I'm not saying that human or animal excretement should to avoided, it should be used, but it should be handled properly. Our excretement is the source of typhoid fever, E. coli, Hepatitis, and a long list of other diseases that easily pass from one person to another. The proper handling of human waste had been one of the greatest achevements in controlling disease that man has ever done.

You can SAFELY compost human waste as long as you follow the proper guidelines, such as getting a hot fermentation pile, and sticking to dedicated tools not used in the garden. But, don't pretend that this "black gold" is some innocous treasure that we should be wallowing in.