Over the past few years, greywater systems have become popular among homeowners, RV enthusiasts, campers, and homesteaders. They are also an important part of the growing tiny house movement. You may be considering how such a system would fit into your own lifestyle.
If so, you’re probably aware that not every soap, shampoo, detergent, or cleaning product can be used in one of these systems. Even if the label indicates natural or unscented shampoo, the product might be an issue for your greywater system.
So which shampoo or conditioner should you choose? Keep reading to learn more about greywater-safe shampoo and conditioner. We’ve also included helpful information on greywater systems and how you can incorporate them into your life.
Finally, an interest in greywater systems goes hand-in-hand with an outdoor lifestyle. Near the end of this piece, there is some helpful information on using greywater in a camper or RV. There is even great advice on using natural products while primitive camping or on the trail.
What Is Greywater and How Can It Be Used?
Greywater is wastewater that comes from sinks, tubs, washing machines, etc. It isn’t potable, but it can be used for other purposes. For example, many people use it to water gardens or irrigate landscapes. Others save greywater to reduce the amount of water they use to flush toilets.
Blackwater is any water that has come into contact with raw sewage. This is not the same as gray water. It cannot be safely reused. Instead, it must go through the municipal wastewater system.
Greywater is useful because it conserves water by repurposing what would otherwise go down the drain. That water is put to good use, and freshwater is reserved for drinking.
Keep in mind that when you conserve water, you create a ripple effect. In addition to reducing the amount of water your household consumes or wastes, you reduce your energy usage. This is because it takes energy, often in the form of coal, to process wastewater so it can be returned to waterways or back into reservoirs for future use.
A greywater system may be as simple as a tank underneath an RV or next to a tiny home. There are people who simply divert their drain pipes into buckets to catch greywater. Then, those buckets are emptied into larger containers and poured directly onto plants or used to flush.
At the other end of the spectrum are professionally designed and installed greywater catchment systems. These may even involve underwater tanks that connect to irrigation systems for use in the lawn or garden.
Choose the system that works for your household and budget. Just be aware that a professionally installed system will likely come with specific instructions about products you may use and which ones you should avoid.
Is Greywater Legal?
You will have to verify whether greywater reuse is legal in your area. There are several states that do explicitly allow this practice. Others have not established any regulations around greywater or banned it outright.
Additionally, your county or city may also have certain requirements. For example, it’s common to limit greywater to less than 400 gallons daily.
Additionally, you may need to obtain a permit to have a catchment system installed. This could mean that you must have the work inspected and completed by a professional.
It is important to know the rules that apply to you. There are also some best practices to follow. These included ensuring that greywater containers don’t produce odors or attract insects.
Also, any water you retain must remain on your property. It should not wash into storm sewers, the street, or adjoining properties. Think of this as a good neighbor policy to help you ensure that nobody takes action to ban or limit greywater systems.
Greywater System Precautions
Greywater systems are ecologically friendly and may even save money. However, you must take certain precautions. These ensure your greywater doesn’t become contaminated.
If it does become contaminated, the water you have stored must be disposed of. In some cases, you may need to clean any containers and possibly test your greywater containers to ensure that there is no ongoing contamination. This can be expensive and time-consuming.
The most important step to take is to ensure that nothing comes into contact with greywater that can make it unsafe to use. This means carefully choosing your hair and cleaning products. This can be tricky because the ingredients are confusing.
Items that may seem natural could be too much for gray water. Products can be both safe and organic but are still not a good choice for greywater retention systems.
At the same time, ingredients with big words may be perfectly fine for greywater systems. They may simply be the scientific names for natural products that have been extracted from botanicals or other organic items.
Also, never assume that an indie brand shampoo is automatically safe. Instead, learn what the experts allow and stick with those products.
Greywater-Safe Shampoo Ingredients
As a general rule, you want a biodegradable shampoo for any greywater system. Avoid shampoos with ingredients such as petroleum distillate, alkylbenzene, and sodium perborate.
Be wary of boron, borax, and chlorine as well. These ingredients can be harmful to plants and shouldn’t go into any soil in meaningful amounts.
Which shampoo should you use? Start by checking the ingredients list for any items that could be harmful. This is the most important. Lean towards products that are natural and hypoallergenic next. Avoid heavy fragrances and oils.
One product that checks every box for being safe for greywater systems is the Kavella Healing Tea Shampoo. It is a hypoallergenic shampoo, free of all unsafe ingredients, and specifically marked as being greywater safe.
This refillable organic shampoo also comes in bottles derived from sugar cane instead of petroleum, which is a carbon negative process. They are also fully recyclable because they use a disc cap instead of a pump, and refillable from available gallon sizes. This makes them an ideal fit for the lifestyle of the average greywater user who is concerned about sustainability.
Greywater Safe Conditioner Ingredients
Many of the same rules that apply to shampoos also apply to conditioners. A biodegradable conditioner is an absolute must. Additionally, a clean ingredients conditioner is one you can use in greywater systems.
However, you will need to read the ingredients list on the product label. Remember that it isn’t the marketing claims on the front bottle. It’s what is listed on the back.
For example, a greywater-safe conditioner will be hypoallergenic. However, not every hypoallergenic conditioner can be used with a gray water catchment system.
The Kavella Healing Tea Conditioner does meet all of the requirements for being greywater safe. This is also a behentrimonium chloride-free conditioner.
Instead of using behentrimonium chloride that is harmful to plants and soil, this refillable organic conditioner uses distearoylethyl dimonium chloride. This ingredient is environmentally safe and biodegradable.
This conditioner is also a luxurious product. It pairs perfectly with our Healing Tea Shampoo as well.
Greywater Compatible Cleaning Products Ingredients
In addition to using greywater-safe shampoos and conditioners, you must also consider the cleaning products that may enter your greywater catchment tanks. The last thing you want to do is use products that could be harmful to your vegetable garden or landscaping plants.
Additionally, look for products that are biodegradable and pH neutral. For example, phosphates can alter pH. On the other hand, a cleaner made with vinegar is actually perfectly safe.
In addition to the ingredients that are listed above, avoid these in your cleaning products as well:
Look for product labels that specifically indicate a cleaning product or detergent is safe for a greywater system.
It is also important that you are aware of what goes down your drain at all times. This includes when you do laundry, wash dishes, or clean your sinks and tubs.
If you find that you have a mess to clean that may require bleach or another harsh cleanser, make sure to divert that water away from your catchment system. Then, rinse all basins and surfaces thoroughly.
You may also make products that are greywater friendly. Just keep in mind that not every recipe is greywater-safe, even if it is healthy for you to use in your home.
Also, consider using completely natural products such as soap nuts to wash the majority of your clothing, and save the commercial products for only your most heavily soiled items.
How to Use Greywater in the Garden
Grass is the most irrigated plant in the United States. Some homeowners use hundreds of gallons of freshwater each month to water their lawns, gardens, and landscaping. By using greywater instead, you get double use out of your water. Your plants benefit, and so does the planet.
With that being said, there are some precautions to take. Use greywater carefully. Because it may have been in contact with food and other items, pathogens and bacteria may be present. It’s best to water using a drip hose or other method that aims the water directly into the soil.
Some people only use greywater to water ornamental plants, grasses, trees, and the roots of fruit trees. This is one sure way to ensure that any gray water is never in direct contact with anything edible.
Others are perfectly comfortable watering fruit or vegetable gardens with greywater. They simply ensure that water never touches the edible portions of any plants.
Do your own research, determine what is likely to be in your greywater, and determine what is safest for your household. You may also contact your local extension office for additional information on greywater system practices.
Biodegradable Shampoo for Curly Hair
Can you use specialty shampoos for curly hair or other hair types? Yes, there are options that are safe for use with any greywater system. Just remember that the same rules apply regarding safe ingredients.
Healing Tea Shampoo is curl-friendly. So is the Healing Tea Conditioner. Other products intended for curly hair may be greywater compatible. Just read the label and verify the ingredients to make sure.
What is Greywater in a Camper?
Many campers and recreational vehicles have two waste tanks attached to them. One is the black tank for waste that must go into an appropriate sewage system. The other is for greywater.
The rules for dumping can vary. In some places, it can be directly dumped onto the ground or into a storm sewer. In other locations, you must properly dispose of it at a dump station.
Legal or not, please consider the impact on the environment before you simply dump greywater. When you do this in a natural area, you could be disturbing plants and wildlife, creating erosion, and exposing other campers to foul odors.
Can You Reuse Greywater from Your RV?
You can reuse water from your greywater tank as long as you have followed the standard guidelines for the products you use. Also, adhere to the same rules that apply to irrigating your lawn and garden as well as flushing your toilet.
You will have to have a system in place for transferring greywater from your RV to your garden or into your greywater basin.
Biodegradable Shampoo for Camping
If you enjoy the type of camping that may not include having access to an RV or running water, you will need to consider some other options for washing your hair.
One easy and convenient choice is to bring along dry shampoo. Fortunately, all ingredients in Kavella Root Revival Dry Shampoo are biodegradable. This makes it a great choice for camping as it is unlikely to be problematic.
Guidelines for Skin and Haircare While Camping
It’s important to follow some best practices for environmental stewardship and adhere to the rules of leaving no trace when you go camping.Follow Posted Rules
If you are camping in a place with shower houses, there may be signs indicating what can be flushed or rinsed down any drains. Be certain that you comply with these, no matter if you are using a biodegradable shampoo or not.Keep All Products out of Bodies of Water
Don’t use soaps, detergents, hair, or skincare products directly in any body of water. Even if the product is labeled as a clean ingredients conditioner or organic refillable shampoo, it can be harmful.
Instead, wash a safe distance away. That way, there’s no danger of runoff. A good rule of thumb is to be 200 feet away from your campsite and 200 feet away from any body of water.Remove Products to Recycle at Home
Many people consider it to be a best practice to take all trash and recyclables away. This helps to prevent additional stress to any waste removal, composting, or recycling processes that are already in place in natural areas.Keep It Lightweight and Convenient
Avoid packing in too many items or adding too much weight to your pack. Bring travel-sized containers, or choose a refillable organic shampoo over a large bottle. You are less likely to run out to the nearest big box store to buy products that are full of chemicals if you make it convenient to bring along your own clean products.
Guests and Greywater Systems
You may take care to use biodegradable shampoo, conditioner, and other products. Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee that your guests will do the same. Make sure to inform them about what you are trying to do to conserve water. You can even provide them with a list of products to avoid.
Better yet, keep your guest bathroom stocked with a high-quality, refillable organic shampoo that will work for every hair type. It’s a great way to show hospitality to your guests while upholding your sustainability goals for your household.
Skincare and Greywater Safety
What about soaps, body washes, lotions, sunscreens, and moisturizers? These products may also rinse into your greywater systems, although not in as high quantities as shampoos or conditioners. Insect repellants can also become a concern, depending on the ingredients they include.
Again, read labels carefully. Look for ingredients that are harmful to your system, and avoid those products. If you aren’t sure, feel free to contact the manufacturer or distributor with questions.
If you have pets, you’ll also want to be vigilant about the ingredients in their care products, including pet shampoos and sprays.
Greywater Safe Products for a More Sustainable Life
If you have installed or plan to install a greywater system, it’s clear that you are concerned about sustainability and water conservation. It’s only natural that you would also want to use products on your hair and body that are also good for the planet.
As an indie brand shampoo, conditioner, and skincare products provider, our values align with yours. Our products feature ingredients that are vegan, cruelty-free, good for you, and better for the planet.
Many are safe for use in greywater systems or when you are out in nature. Our goal is to ensure that all of our beauty products can be integrated into an intentional, conscientious lifestyle.