What Exactly Is Grey Water?

How we manage the waste and byproducts of our daily activities impacts our immediate environment and the sustainability of our practices.

large water tank connected to and collecting water from shed roof
large water tank connected to and collecting water from shed roof

Luckily, if you live in a city center, a lot of this waste is managed by sewage systems and various filtration plants that clean and send the water right back through your taps.

If you live off-grid or are nomadic, you generally have to manage your own waste removal, which includes everything from solid waste, black water, and greywater.

Solid waste and black water are pretty self-explanatory, but in the case of greywater, it may require a little more research to find a definitive meaning.

Greywater is runoff from your daily household tasks such as cleaning, laundry, cooking, and personal hygiene. Greywater can be beneficial for irrigation in gardens and lawns.

There are many ways to manage greywater if you’re not living in a city with water filtration plants.

Let’s dive into the specifics of what the limits are on the definition of greywater and some best practices to remember when getting rid of it from your household.

Grey Water Systems: Shower, Bathroom Sink, and Laundry Conversion!

How Can You Collect Greywater?

There are a few ways to collect greywater to put it to further use. It is considered reusable in certain situations as the majority of it is still clean.

If you are environmentally conscious and use natural soaps and other additives, it makes the possibilities of using greywater almost endless.

Collecting grey water is easy to do and you can easily automate the process so that you don’t have to do it yourself.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to dump grey water into existing waterways and there are laws in most places that prohibit that anyways.

Good Old Fashioned Manual Collection

This method requires nothing more than a collection jug attached to a basin that you are using for washing or other applications.

For added filtration, you can use something like a sieve to stop the particulate matter from entering the jug.

small greywater collection container outside
This small tank is hooked to the kitchen sink, and has another fitting at the bottom for the water to flow to the garden using a second hose.

When In Doubt, Pipe It Out

Anyone who owns an RV is familiar with this setup as it’s a way to collect all of the greywater and have it redirected right outside.

The process involves linking the drain of your sink to a pipe that takes the water and disposes of it outside. In the case of a motorhome, it gets piped into a storage tank which is then disposed of at a recycling station.

This option is great for most applications and does require a little knowledge of proper fittings and fasteners to make sure nothing leaks out of the pipe.

Adding a filter to the drain will mitigate any clogging issues; however, you will want to perform regular maintenance by cleaning the pipes to make sure nothing is stuck in there.

hose connected to greywater system watering a plant
The hose leaving the collection tank (seen above) goes all the way to the plants, where it’s moved from one plant to the other. There’s no filtration system in place, so we have to be careful at the type of water we put in. A very basic system but it does the job!

Don’t Store Your Grey Water

It’s important to dispose of your grey water within 24 hours of it being stored in a container.

Bacteria can start to build up within the container which can cause mold and a variety of smelly odors, depending on what’s in it.

This also has a chance to pollute the container it’s in, which is bad in plastic as it tends to absorb foul odors and bacteria.

If you store it in a cool dark place, you might be able to get away with it for more than 24 hours, but as soon as heat and light are introduced it’s going to start producing the bacteria quickly.

Obviously, if you’re piping it out of your dwelling this won’t be an issue but if you are storing it in a container it’s best to dispose of it daily.

Can You Reuse Grey Water?

Innovative minds will find a use for anything, including the water from your dishes and showers.

With this in mind, there are a few ways you can definitely use greywater for other uses, even without filtering or using harsh chemicals to purify it.

Complete Grey Water System Build | DIY Recycling Septic Saver | 3 Stages With Planter Beds

Redirect Your Grey Water Into Your Toilet

This is more for the people who have toilets in their RV or home that utilize fresh water for flushing.

Once you’ve filtered out the debris from your greywater, you can have it piped into your toilet to use as a way to flush it.

This will turn it into what’s considered black water and it will have to be dealt with in a different manner afterward.

This will lower your overall water consumption which means less onboard storage is required. Keep in mind that you should have a good filtering system as you don’t want to open your toilet to see bits of food or hair in there.

Simple Permaculture-Based Grey-Water Treatment System

Water Your Garden

While many boondockers have come up with ways to reuse their grey water for washing or general cleaning, others have turned their attention to watering plants and gardens with it.

You should only use greywater for your gardens if it is free of adverse chemicals or any other contaminants that might harm the planet.

Biodegradable soap is a great choice because it’s meant to break down and doesn’t include any of the sulfates that pollute our waterways.

Another important thing to remember is not to use greywater on plants that like acidic soil.

This is largely due to the alkalizing properties of most soaps on the market and it can raise the PH of the water to the point where it won’t be beneficial to the plants you’re giving it to.

Final Thoughts

Greywater kind of gets a bad image as some people think it’s the same as the water that is expelled from your toilets, when in fact it’s generally harmless.

Of course, it all depends on what kind of chemicals or products you’re using to do laundry, shower, or clean your dishes.

If you want to conserve water, using biodegradable and organic products will give you the ability to use your greywater for more than one thing.

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