Getting Started with Graywater Gardening

Water is a precious resource that should be conserved. It should be used wisely in any season, but more so during summer when droughts make water shortage really apparent. But water conservation shouldn’t mean having to abandon your gardens. One efficient way to keep your plants watered is by resorting to graywater gardening.


Graywater gardening means using waste water from your laundry, bathroom sink, and bathtub for watering your gardens and lawns. On the average, a family of four uses up enough water to generate 100 gallons of graywater, coming up to 3,000 gallons per month. This water can go down drains, unused, or they can be repurposed to water lawns and gardens. Doing so does not only add utility to your water, it also helps cut down on clean water that can be saved for other uses.

Not all waste water can be qualified as graywater. Some waste water, like those from kitchen sinks, can contain grease, dirt, food particles, and other organic matter that can harbor pathogens. Sometimes classified as blackwater, this should be allowed to go to to the sewers for possible water treatment.

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What Can be Repurposed as Graywater?

One excellent source of graywater is the bathroom. Although water from the shower, bath, and sink contain soap, shampoo, and conditioner, the amount of fats, sodium, and phosphates in the water is negligible because it gets diluted. Let it run through to a branched drain or collect it manually in pails and basins.

Another good source of graywater is the laundry. Soapy water can work for watering ornamentals and lawns, as long as you use a mild detergent and non-chlorine bleach. Collect the water in a tank or simply attach a longer hose to your washer’s drain. Do remember that If you use a harsh detergent, water softener, or chlorine bleach, you may want to reconsider using it for watering and save it for other uses instead. It’s best to avoid detergents that have a high amount of sodium as filler or as a softener. Biodegradable and earth-friendly detergents are also best for these purposes.

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While the kitchen sink is not an ideal source of gray water, do keep a basin near the sink to catch water running from the faucet that’s not used to wash greasy dishes. Water used to wash your vegetables, or to clean your hands for example, won’t have the grease and animal fats that can attract vermin and become a breeding ground for pathogens.

A lot of water heaters need to run for a bit before it starts releasing hot water. Be sure to catch the cold water that comes out before the hot water starts running instead of letting it go down the drain. This clean water is especially good for watering vegetables and other edibles. If you’re lucky enough to experience rain, use a rain barrel to collect rainwater for irrigating your vegetables.

Other Tips to Remember

While graywater is still usable, it is not without impurities. Don’t store it for longer than 24 hours. When watering your gardens, do it evenly to ensure all plants get equal attention. Be sure to not overwater to avoid creating puddles and flooded areas which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other bugs. Read labels when choosing cleaners and detergents. Avoid those that contain boron because it is highly toxic to plants.

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Improper graywater management can lead to odor, pest, or contamination issues, but when done properly and with care, it is a resourceful and efficient way to keep your gardens and lawns green.