Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Earth-Friendly Gray Water Cleaning Products

As California  experiences the worst drought in 1, 200 years, a drought of biblical proportions, we need to recycle our precious water and not pollute it with harmful chemicals. One way we as individuals can do  this is to install a gray water system, as we have done in our home. See http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2014/06/becoming-water-wise-in-midst-of-drought.html
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Arizona and Australia have laws that reimburse homeowners who install gray water systems (see http://www.tucsonaz.gov/water/gray-water.)  We need such laws here in California. 

To help you to be more earth-friendly,  I'm including information about cleaning products you can  use with gray water systems. The pictures sum it up: Castille soap, lemon, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

Because they are earth-friendly, you should consider using them to clean even if you don't have a gray water but want to avoid harmful chemicals that can be dangerous not only to the environment but to our health. (After all, you are part of the environment: what hurts plants probably will hurt you!)

“Gray water” means that water from sinks and drains (but not the toilet) go directly outside to water trees and plants. To avoid harming plants, you need to avoid using products containing salt, bleach, boron, and various other harmful chemicals (see list below). 

Using various reliable sources and our own experience, we've compiled a list of plant-friendly cleaning products that you can easily make. Following this list are products you can purchase, plus a detailed list of what to avoid. Many of these earth-friendly products are very cheap to make and were used by our grandparents before we were brainwashed by big corporation to believe we needed expensive toxic chemicals to keep our homes and clothes clean.

Dr Bronner Pure Castille Soap
Baking soda is a good, cheap, earth-friendly cleaning product but you  limit the amount of baking soda you use in a gray water system. In small amounts it won’t harm plants but too much can be cause salt buildup. (Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, and sodium is salt.) Dump water with baking soda into the toilet. It will help keep the toilet clean and will be processed so it won’t harm the environment. 

Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent disinfectant and much better for plants than baking soda,  Hydrogen peroxide is inexpensive, non-toxic, and readily available. It's a nearly odorless liquid that is commonly used on open wounds and therefore safe to use around pets and children. Hydrogen peroxide has stronger cleaning capabilities than vinegar and works much like bleach, just without any harmful health or environmental effects. You can also add about half a cup of this mix into laundry water to whiten clothes. The acidic lemon juice helps break down grime and add a fresh citrus scent. Water helps dilute the mixture. Hydrogen peroxide is also good for plants. . (See http://www.using-hydrogen-peroxide.com/peroxide-garden.html)


·         All-purpose cleaner for everything from streak-free mirrors to wiping out the cat litter box. 2 cups Water, 1 cup Hydrogen Peroxide, ¼ cup Lemon Juice.
·         Hardwood floors: Mix one cup of olive oil and one-half cup of lemon juice for a hardwood floor polish.
·         Ink stains in carpet: Mix cornstarch with milk to form a paste that will get up ink stains.
·         Grease on counters: Use cornstarch to sop up grease on the kitchen counter.
·         Floor cleaner: 1/8 cup liquid soap 1/4 to 1/2 cup white vinegar or lemon juice 1/2 cup herb tea (Peppermint has antibacterial qualities.) Combine ingredients in pail with 3 gallons of warm water. Swirl until it is sudsy. Rinse with 1 cup of vinegar in 3 gallons of cool water.
·         Wood floor cleaner: Use 1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water. Wipe dry.
·         Wood cleaner: 1/4 cup white vinegar 1/4 cup water 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap a few drops olive oil. Combine the ingredients in a bowl, saturate a sponge with the mixture, squeeze out the excess, and wash surfaces. The smell of vinegar will dissipate in a few hours.
·         Furniture polish: 1/2 teaspoon olive oil 1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice. Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces.
·         Carpet spot remover: Blot immediately. Sprinkle with baking soda or cornstarch, and let dry. Wash with club soda and vacuum. (
·         Window cleaner: 1/4 cup white vinegar 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent 2 cups water Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, and shake to blend.
·         Oven cleaner: 1 cup or more baking soda a squirt or two of liquid soap. Sprinkle water generously over bottom of oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda so surface is totally white. Sprinkle more water over top. Let sit overnight. Wipe up the grease the next morning; then with a bit of liquid soap on a damp sponge, wash remaining residue from the oven.
·         Soft scrubber; Basin, tub and tile 1/2 cup baking soda enough liquid soap or detergent, to make frosting-like consistency 5 to 10 drops antibacterial essential oil, such as lavender (optional) Place baking soda in bowl; slowly pour in liquid soap, stirring continually. Add essential oil. Scoop mixture onto sponge, wash surface, and rinse. (Bon Ami is another option.)
·         Toilet bowl cleaner: Use above soft scrub with a non-scratching scrubber sponge. Bacteria, mold, and germs A straight 5% solution of vinegar – such as you buy in the supermarket – is effective for eliminating harmful bacteria, mold, and germs. Keep a spray bottle of vinegar in your kitchen and in your bathroom.
·         Bathroom mold:  Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower.
·         Chopping block cleaner: Rub a slice of lemon across a chopping block to disinfect the surface. For tougher stains, squeeze some of the lemon juice onto the spot and let sit for 10 minutes, then wipe.
·         Coffee and tea stains: Stains in cups can be removed by applying vinegar to a sponge and wiping. To clean a teakettle or coffee maker, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar; bring to a boil. Let cool, wipe with a clean cloth and rinse thoroughly with water. 

Another way to avoid harmful cleaning products is to use microfiber cloths which are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years.

Air Fresheners/Deodorizers: Commercial air fresheners mask smells and coat nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell. Here are better alternatives:

• Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odors around the house.
• Having houseplants helps reduce odors in the home.
• Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking. To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
• Keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter.
• Grind up a slice of lemon in the garbage disposal.
• Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove.
• Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room.
• Plastic food storage containers - soak overnight in warm water and baking soda
• In-sink garbage disposal units - grind up lemon or orange peel in the unit
• Carpets - sprinkle baking soda several hours before vacuuming
• Garage, basements - set a sliced onion on a plate in center of room for 12 - 24 hours

Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), and Sulfur (S) are okay for grey water going directly into the soil / mulch basin.


§  boron/borax (toxic to plants)
§  sodium and ingredients with the word “sodium” in them*
§  chlorine bleach (acceptable alternative: hydrogen peroxide)
§  sodium perborate
§  sodium hypochlorite
§  peroxygen
§  petroleum distillate
§  alkylbenzene
§  water softeners (contain sodium chloride or potassium chloride)
§  anti-bacterial soaps & cleaners
§  “whiteners”, “softeners”
§  enzymes (enzymes in biological washing powders break down protein or fat stains on clothes)
§  titanium oxide
§  chromium oxide
§  artificial colors; FD&C colors
§  synthetic fragrance
§  artificial preservatives
§  no toxic waste down the drain!!

Tip: liquid soaps tend to contain less sodium than powdered soaps — lean toward liquid laundry products.

examples of more- and less-suitable cleaning products
for use with grey water systems


§  Oasis laundry liquid
§  Bio Pac Laundry Liquid
§  Biokleen Laundry Liquid
§  LifeTree Laundry Liquid
§  Ecover Laundry Wash (some salt)
§  Mountain Green Laundry Detergent
§  Vaska Herbatergent
§  Lullwater Soap Nuts Seventh Generation (enzymes)
§  Citra Suds (sodium chloride)
§  Planet (salt, sodium carbonate/washing soda)

§  Tide (enzymes +???)**;
§  All (perfume, brightening agent, colorant, +?);
§  Arm & Hammer (baking soda, water softener, optical brightener, +?);
§  Woolite (?);
§  Ivory Snow (enzymes +?)

**Note: Question marks indicate that these products do not list all of their ingredients on their labels. This is a common practice with most of the major conventional brands. It may be safe to assume that many of them contain artificial colors and scents, among other things. Avoid products that do not list ingredients!

Other Laundry Products:

§  Clorox (chlorine bleach)
§  Borax
§  Biokleen Bac Out (sodium percarbon1ate, enzymes)
§  Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus (sodium sulfate)


§  Oasis dishwash/all-purpose cleaner for handwashing dishes, body & shampoo
§  Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (liquid)
§  Aubrey Organics Shampoos
§  Kirk’s Castile bar soap (may have some sodium)
§  Dial liquid handsoap (sodium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride, antibacterial agent, cocamidopropyl betaine (synthetic surfactant), +?)
Note: The Skin Deep database can help you find out what chemicals are in your body & beauty products.



§  Oasis dishwash/all-purpose cleaner for handwashing dishes, body & shampoo
§  Ecos: Creamy Cleanser; Parsley Plus; Furniture Polish; Window Kleener; Floor Kleener; Carpet Shampoo
§  Bon Ami (it is biodegradable and has no perfumes, dyes, chlorine, or fragrance, but does contain sodium carbonate)
§  Ecos: Shower Kleener (sodium gluconate, sodium citrate)
§  Dr. Bronners: Sal Suds (sodium laurel sulfate)
§  Citra Dish (sodium chloride)
§  Ecover Dishwashing Liquid (sodium laureth sulfate, sodium chloride)

§  Ajax (sodium carbonate, bleach, fragrance, color);
§  Comet (bleach, +?);
§  Ajax (?);
§  Ivory (?);
§  Palmolive (?);
§  Joy (?);
§  Dawn (?)


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  3. I'm shifting from detergents to things like castile soap. I want to steam clean my old carpet regularly because I have asthma but steam cleaner companies refuse to admit that anything but their detergents work in their machines. Do you know of any substitute machines? I don't have the money right now to replace all the carpet with hardwood. Thanks

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  7. Camelia Brown: Thanks for the great cleaning tips! It is so important to choose natural cleaning options whenever possible, so much better for your health and the planet.

  8. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

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  11. Thank you for all the helpful information. California should definitely have some sort of incentive to help perserve and conserve all the water possible. Regardless, these are some pretty helpful recipes! And thanks for the list of things to avoid, I would have never imagined household products like Dawn dishsoap or Clorox would be so bad.

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  14. Gray water solution is the type of product that is used to clean the things in a way that remove all the grease from the things.

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