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Using water from washing clothes to water the garden

Using water from household laundry clothes washing, known as recycled or grey water, can be used on the garden.

Wash cycle & rinse cycle water

Man loading washing machine

It is important to recognise the difference between laundry water from the wash cycle, which will contain detergent, and water from the rinse cycles which contains much lower levels of detergent.

Water from the wash cycle

Water from the wash cycle is generally quite alkaline (~pH 9 to 10) and should not be used for watering the garden. All water from the wash cycle should be discharged to the sewer unless the home has a specially designed grey water treatment unit. Consult a qualified plumber for details.

Key concerns over the use of laundry wash water on the garden relate to the alkalinity and chemical load placed on the plants and soil. Additionally, detergent materials and microbiological contaminants could be released into the soil and waterways without appropriate treatment.

Water from the rinse cycles

Water from the rinse cycles is much more suitable for watering the garden but there are some key considerations:

  • To avoid potential health concerns it is inadvisable to use laundry rinse water or other used (grey) water on vegetables or edible plants
  • Avoid using rinse water from washes that have had heavily soiled loads, e.g. from nappies
  • Always check with your nursery for plant/lawn advice
  • Start on a small area and check that the plants/lawn find it acceptable
  • Rinse water will contain low levels of the detergent used. It will be slightly alkaline and contain low levels of phosphate and other salts. The final rinse will contain the lowest levels of these materials
  • Phosphate is a fertiliser so can be beneficial but it also can be detrimental to some plants/lawns
  • Avoid using fabric softener if the final rinse water is to be used for watering.

Other considerations

The use of recycled/grey water in your area may be subject to water company, council, or state and federal environmental protection and health agency restrictions or regulations. For further information contact a plumber specialising in recycled/grey water use and the relevant authorities. Useful websites can be found in the related links section:

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