One of the most common questions we are asked is: Does soap hurt the landscape (trees, plants and turf)?
The short answer is no, soap actually helps the irrigation process (and increases irrigation efficiency) by making it easier for water to move through the soil. This is because soap decreases water surface tension, and soapy water is able to 'slip' over and into soil particles more readily.
Keep in mind that whatever goes down a drain connected to the graywater system will end up in the landscape. With a distributed irrigation system such as IrriGRAY, a cup of bleach down the drain will not hurt anything, nor will shower cleaning products. For this reason we do not recommend connecting hand basins / lavatories to the IrriGRAY system. Hand basin water often has high concentrations of makeup, toothpaste and exfoliating agents that are better kept away from your landscape. Hand basin water is also more useful as a flushing source for the household waste drainage system (black water).
THIS IS NOT THE CASE WITH CONCENTRATED GRAYWATER DISPOSAL METHODS SUCH AS LAUNDRY TO LANDSCAPE OR BRANCHED DRAIN. Those methods usually have less than 10 mulch basins and concentrate all the graywater in those basins. Toxicity can be an issue with these methods and water quality care does need to be applied at all times.
The following are easy to follow steps applicable to an IrriGRAY system:
In general, liquid detergents should be used in preference to powders, as powders have much higher sodium chloride content.
Boron based cleaners (rare but still available) must not be used, as boron could be toxic to the landscape.
Avoid liquid fabric softeners. Use dryer sheets instead if fabric softening is desired. This is because fabric softening chemicals can pass through filters and over time have the potential to make it difficult for air to move through the soil.
Citrus based cleaners are preferable to bleach / chlorine products.
If your washing machine is connected to the IrriGRAY system, virtually all worldwide codes prohibit the use of diaper wash waste as this contains fecal matter, which could present a contamination risk. Diaper wash water must be disposed of in a black water connected tub or basin.
General Health Care & Cleaning Chemicals:
As you might imagine, we are well aware and protective of the environment. We see the health impact of strong cleaning agents, particularly cleaning shower tiles within a confined space and length of time required to clean can result in significant personal chemical exposure, as a significantly higher risk than that posed to the landscape.
It is for these personal health reasons that we recommend clients consider alternative cleaning products such as citrus based cleaners rather than strong bleach / chlorine agents.