Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Somewhere in the grey area

When you google gray water you’ll not only learn the preferred spelling is g-r-e-y, and that it’s any “used” water that doesn’t have fecal matter in it, you’ll also get a mountain of articles about repurposing it. Watering gardens, flushing toilets, doing laundry, and so on. With enough filtering and treating, you could even drink it and cook with it.

Many van dwellers have grey water tanks of some sort. Not because they’re ever going to garden or flush toilets or cook their pasta in grey water, but because RVs have grey water tanks and they view their self-built van homes as small RVs. And/or because they think it’s wrong to just toss grey water on the ground. Well, let’s talk about the latter. (There won’t be any actual talking. I’ll write and you can read. Or not.)

What’s in your grey water? Food particles? Skin cells? Hair? Body oils? Sweat? Dirt? Soap? All but the last one are natural and biodegradable and do no harm when poured back onto Mother Earth, who gave them to us in the first place.

So soap is the problem. Unless you use biodegradable ones. Or none. (Google can also provide a mountain of articles about washing without soaps or detergents.)

If you’re happy dealing with your grey water tank then continue on. But if you’re tired of monitoring grey water level and then finding a “proper” place to dispose of it (where it will get mixed with sewage and sent through a treatment plant, or into a septic system where it gets mixed with sewage and slowly dribbles into the ground anyway, or gets pumped out and hauled to a treatment plant) consider switching to biodegradable soap and adopting the toss-as-you-go method. It eliminates the middlemen. Just look before you fling. You don’t want to be splashing anyone. Well, except maybe your enemies.


  1. It is nice that some places openly encourage the use of Gray water on plants and trees.
    As with most things there will always be an argument about what constitutes good stewardship of the earth and it's resources.
    I'm with you on this one.

  2. Some soaps are good for some plants. It kills some unwanted creatures. Figuring our which, where, and what is another Google challenge. But, I wash me without soap; just a good scrubbing with a wet wash cloth every day. I do use shampoo once a week but I'm not sure why.

  3. At around my age 68 a physician I used suggested I quit using body soap unless I actually got dirty and needed it on all my body except crotch and underarms. The reason is I was drying out my skin enough to cause skin trouble. So I went to a simple plain water wash down with lite soap at the critical area for three days then a lite overall soap wash on day four. My skin troubles went away in short order. That fit into my full timing perfectly. I have dumped grey water many times out in the wild where it is highly dispersed. On a full wash day it is normally about three quarts of fluid for the whole day.

  4. I've always wondered about teeth/toothpaste brushing residue without a graywater catch. Does that go on the ground or in the garbage?