Recycling Water

Alot of my friends have asked me if its safe to use their washing machine water directly onto the garden. So…you would think CHOICE’s recent article on recycling water would address these concerns. However… even their testing of “greywater friendly laundry detergents” does not seem to address these issues. They tested how well they cleaned but gave no information of how it would affect your garden. I read the labels and will only use products labelled “septic safe”. I still would not run these products directly lnto my garden…its not worth the build up of salts that would be detrimental to plants. But Choice did not test those washer balls which require no detergent. Might be a good idea CHOICE!
and perhaps also tell us if its safe to just run a hose from the machine directly out onto lawns etc? Will it damage the washer’s pump? Many of us do not have expensive greywater systems…and I surely can’t afford to put one in.

I’m on a farm so water is precious but your information seems always geared to urban dwellers…


Some 50 years ago, most of Townsville did not have sewerage and residents would run their sink water, laundry water and washing water out onto the grass near their residences…

A lot of Townsville is clay which is hard to grow anything in but where the water drained out, the buffalo couch would be 30cm or higher whilst the rest ot the yards would be flat out having any green grass in the dry season.

The grey water never seemed to have any detrimental effect back then.


I covered some of the issues in this post…

Concerns in the past has related to phosphates and the impact on downstream water quality (elevated phosphorus and nitrogen can lead to algal blooms)…and impact of phosphorous on phosphorus sensitive plants…which is covered here…

The main issue with greywater today is its alkalinity (changing or increasing soil pH which can effect nutirent availability etc) and sodium which affects soil physical characteristics. Both can be ameliorated through soil additives/conditioners…but there can be some long term impacts on the soil if continually used in the one area.


We have tested them several times since the '90s. Here is the latest:


40% of Australians live in Greater Sydney and Melbourne.

And we are now called on to celebrate the foundation stone or flag ceremony of the founding of the Port Jackson jail or penal settlement. Apologies if this is a different version of history to that taught at school?

There are obvious reasons Choice is urban centric. Although at least for detergents those claiming to be septic safe are identified.

For reviews of those items which are more rural specific, EG Household water and waste water treatment, 50” cut ride on mowers, or powered garden tools that have an all day continuous duty rating; it is unlikely that Choice has the membership numbers or income to finance independent testing. Perhaps some market survey, tabletop reviews, aided by members who use such things often might be a way forward. It might be a great way to return some added value to us non urban members, and perhaps of interest to others too!


The main issue with using washing machine water on a small area of ground, assuming the detergent is suitable, is that the masses of clothing fibres clog up the gaps between the soil particles and eventually water wont penetrate below the surface. Using a shade cloth filter greatly reduces the problem, and spreading out the discharge over a larger area can also help.


Hi @Trude and welcome to the forum. It is not necessary to use expensive greywater systems. They are at one end of the spectrum and then there are also cheap alternatives.

I used Google to search for (click on the blue text ->) using greywater for vegetables because I thought if you know what vegetables to use greywater on, and how to water them with the greywater, then you can use greywater anywhere else on your garden including lawns.

[Edit: To be clear, as @mark_m points out in the next post, the potential for health impacts which may be caused by using greywater on leafy or root vegetables means that you shouldn’t irrigate these with greywater.]

Here’s some info from the search which may help:
from Bunnings on how to reuse recycled water.
The Brisbane City Council on using greywater in your garden

I also read many years ago about putting in a system of ponds with various algae and plants to systematically filter the grey water naturally until it was at (tested) potable quality. They did not advocate drinking it, but were pointing out that a cheap natural system can also work extremely well.


Noted Bunnings advice is that you Cannot Use Grey Water on Vegetables! similar advice is provided in the other linked articles.

It is worthwhile checking what your local council permits. Bunnings make this clear while the BCC site is also more detailed in what is required. Some are very particular about how waste water including grey water is reused.

One other example of best practice.

Literally the only grey water mentioned as suitable for reuse on the garden is that from hand washing in the laundry. Note you can also collect the first run shower water that is wasted by placing a bucket under a shower head.

The reuse of laundry water direct from the washing machine is not mentioned. It is required to be managed by an OSF.

I’m not agreeing or disagreeing. Just pointing out an alternate viewpoint.

The cautious SCC approach may be a consequence of many smaller residential blocks in the council area having old septic systems and grease traps with a high risk of impacts on adjoining properties. Do you really trust your neighbour watering the plants along the fence line with waste water from ???


This is very conservative advice which authorities and vendors who don’t want to be sued are fond of. It is just possible that there is some communicable disease or microbe in your grey water that could survive and go into the food chain. But if it worries you take care. It is easy enough to direct your GW to trees and keep good water for vegies.

Probably a more useful generalisation is don’t store it. Which is a problem if you want to do deep watering and it trickles out the hose.

1 Like

The worry for some is it may be in difference to council regulation or bylaws and subject to penalties. Councils don’t spend all their time spying on backyards. It only needs one grumpy neighbour to complain to council to unleash the monster?

Better to be firstly aware of what councils accept before making a personal judgment based on alternate and assumed sound science.

We make neighbourly judgement calls all the time. Some of our neighbours stretch the reinterpretation further. One did water close to our boundary and outside their enclosed designated evaporation area using the waste from their treatment plant. We knew when the system was not effective by nose and surface run off. Several others regularly burn off piles much larger than permitted, and arguably contrary to smoke nuisance and land size. It’s usually wisdom to consider the neighbours before you act rather than to offer apologies after the event.

Sage advice might be,
“If it might worry others, take care!”

1 Like

Country people aren’t like that. They may cordially dislike you but would still take your side against the council and expect you to do the same for them - but we digress.

1 Like

True on both counts. :wink:

Hi @Trude I have always used the washing machine greywater to nourish and sustain my veggie and flower garden. I have found the best liquid for getting my clothes super clean and soft was a product made my Nutrimetics called Nutri-Clean OLC - Original Lotion Concentrate. It can be purchased in 1L or 5L containers and is very concentrated, so you only need to use a very small amount.

It is formulated to be bio-degradable, phosphate-free, provide maximum efficiency while remaining completely harmless to our environment. It has a PH Level of 7. It is non-flammable, non-magnetic, non-toxic, non-polluting is natural and 100% safe and my home-grown organic veggies really thrive on it, along with my herbs and flowers :wink:
You can purchase it from any Nutrimetics Consultant, just do a search on your computer to find your nearest Consultant. I hope this helps you save lots of money and keep your water bill right down! Please let us know how you get on! Cheers Natalie :slight_smile:


Your choice of laundry detergent is not the reason authorities caution against putting grey water on to veggies. They are concerned with transfer of harmful microbes from human bodies or clothing. I have the same issue with the output of my aerated waste treatment system. Theoretical I am forbidden to do anything with it but run it on to trees and shrubs and the area is supposed to be fenced to prevent people and stock from walking on it!

If this really bothers you ensure that you do not spray grey water in the air or above ground. Trickle it on to the roots and do not hose it on to leaves or fruit that might be eaten. The chances of a microbe surviving in the soil and then being taken up by a plant and then being transported to some part of the plant that you might eat involves so many unlikely events all happening in succession that I for one will not worry about it - there is a greater chance of your house being hit by a meteorite.


I would hope it isn’t magnetic, being magnetic would infer it had metallic iron (Fe), and/or Nickel (Ni) and/or Cobalt (Co) or some rare earth metals in it. Having those metals in the solution wouldn’t make much sense, and if Fe it would likely turn to rust even in the solution or bind with other elements to make a non magnetic compound. If the product states it is non-magnetic that is a bit like the sales pitches that declare sugar is fat free, indeed sugar is fat free and similarly so should your washing liquid be non magnetic.


I bet its gluten free as well and has no trans fats.