My Soap Making Page

When I originally wrote up this page (2006), I was in the mindset that my soap would not turn out right if I didn’t have this special ingredient or that special ingredient.  Now?  I would just make soap with three basic ingredients: Fat, Water, and Lye.  The recipe really isn’t as important as the ratios: X amount of fats to X amount of water with X amount of lye.  Anything extras, like types of fats or herbs or essential oils are just that: extras.  If you enjoy math as much as I do (not), the easiest place to do the math for you is here: MMS Lye Calculator (the best one out there).  You just type in how much (and what kind of) fats you have and it pretty much does all the math for you.

Now, for the reason I am posting this here.  I am completely re-designing my website.  It’s been ugly for way too long.  Since I do most of my “work” here (and on my 2 other blogs), I’m turning it into basically a placeholder for links to my blogs, You Tube pages PLUS adding that same information for some special women I know.  So, I am transferring the last bit of information I had stored there to this blog.  Now, without further ado, to present my original soap making web page, in its entirety.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Soap Making

As daunting a task as soap making seems to be, it truly is a simple process. Once you get the basics down, the possibilities are endless! Here are some links to get you started:

The key to soap making is being prepared. You must have everything there, ready to be used, and the correct lye to fat ratio (see MMS Lye Calculator). You can try any recipe you see on-line, but be sure to check the lye calculator to ensure the proportions are correct. If the proportions are not correct, you can either end up with a soap too soft to use or so harsh it can burn your skin. Like I said, preparation is the key.

I make soap using what I have on-hand. I typically use anything you can eat. The only time I buy anything special is if I run out (I did not grow enough), or just really like it (like Coconut Oil). I keep soap making as simple (and natural) as possible. This allows me to make soap if I run out of Coconut Oil, or a particular essential oil. Purchasing as local as I can is also important to me. If I can’t find something close by, then I branch out. My Coconut Oil I purchased from a food supplier in Los Angeles, and essential oils from Arizona. If I find a supplier closer to me, then I will purchase from them. Do your best to purchase from organic sources that you (or someone you know) trust. We put enough chemicals into our bodies that we don’t need to add more.

This brings me to essential oils (referred to as EO in soaping circles). Not only do I use essential oils for their fragrance, but also their medicinal or aromatherapy qualities. The beauty of essential oils is their purity. When you get lavender essential oil, that’s all it is. There are no unknown scents or colors added. Unless I know the supplier is reputable, I am very weary of Fragrance Oils. I never know what kind of oils they used to make that particular scent. There are books out there that give formulas for mixing your own essential oils. Give those a try before purchasing a Fragrance Oil (usually referred to as FO).

There are some fantastic colors that can be added to your soaps. To me, it’s adding more expense to the soap unnecessarily and more chemicals (whether natural or man-made). My soaps are naturally colored, by the herb I am using or the soap making process itself. When I first began, I thought I needed everything under the sun in my soaps to make them better. For my kitchen soap, I added cornmeal and for my lavender I added the lavender buds. Over time, I realized those additions did not make me any cleaner and just left a mess in the tub. Now, simple soaps are the way to go.

Once you get to the point where you are ready to begin the process, you need to consider safety. Lye is extremely caustic. I always wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, glasses (any kind will do, as long as they protect your eyes from splashing lye), real shoes (not sandals), and rubber gloves. The only chemical that has burned me worse than lye is paint stripper. Also, you need to be in a well ventilated area. The first time I made soap, I did it in the garage (with the doors closed). As soon as the fumes reached my face I had an instant asthma attack.

The containers you do your mixing in are also important. They can be earthen ware, stainless steel, or plastic. No other metals can be used, since they will react with the lye. It is best to only use these items for soaping. You will need two containers, one for the lye solution and one for the oils. You also need something to stir the liquids with. I use wooden spoons. One thing to keep in mind is lye will weaken wooden spoons, so keep an eye on them and if they show any signs of weakening (splintering) then get a new one.

Now for molds. You can either spend up to hundreds of dollars on fancy molds, or go down to the lumber store and make your own. Some people use candle molds, which are fine as long as they are not tin. Mine? I took an old wooden T.V. tray and removed the legs. I flipped it upside down and made a frame with pine 1X4s. That’s it! I line the mold with freezer paper (not the kind with plastic on one side, but traditional freezer paper), pour the soup into the mold, then tamp it down to eliminate air pockets (I knock the mold against the table).

The following description of my method of making soap is called “Cold Process” (or CP). I have always liked this method because it is a slower process, and since sometimes I am not as organized as I should be, this gives me time to run and get whatever it is I forgot.

Melt all your oils, and keep them lukewarm. Mix the lye and water, ensuring the lye is completely dissolved. Once the lye water is the same temperature as your oils, SLOWLY pour the lye water into the oils, stirring constantly. Continue stirring for what seems like forever (or use a hand blender, like a Braun mixer). When it has the consistency of soft pudding, that is called trace. That is the time when you would add any essential oils or other additives you desire. Stir a little longer, then poor into molds.

Now, you need to choose how you want the soap to look. Do you want it solid (milky, looking like store-bought soap) or would you prefer a more translucent color (similar to glycerine). If you want your soap solid, you only need to place something thin (like paper towels) over the mold to prevent dust from getting on your soap. If you want it more like glycerine, wrap the mold with a heavy towel or blanket. It’s the temperature difference that changes the soap. Leave the soap in the mold for 12 to 24 hours (if you leave the soap in the mold longer than that, it will be virtually impossible to cut into bars).

Cutting the soap into bars can be tricky. If you are making soap to sell, you have to have bars that are consistent in weight. If you are not planning on selling your soap, just cut the bars so they can comfortably fit in your hand. Then you can finish off the edges of the soap using either a knife or vegetable peeler. They can be any shape you want. Use your imagination!

Place the bars on a shelf or rack that allows good air flow, and let them cure for at least 4 to 6 weeks. This allows the soap to dry and harden. You will know when it’s ready. If you can squeeze the soap, you have to wait. The amount of time needed depends on how humid your environment is. To protect your soap from dust, place cheesecloth over the top. Once your soap is ready, store it like you normally would any soap. I keep mine in separate cardboard boxes, separated by type. OH! One more thing. The longer your soap sits, the more any scent will dissipate.

About Milk Soaps

You can take any soap recipe and replace the liquid (water) with cow or goat milk. There are two things you need to do that are different. If you want a white soap (due to the high natural sugar content in milk, which caramelizes/burns at high heat) the milk has to be frozen (I froze mine in ice cube trays). I tossed my frozen goats milk in the bucket, poured the lye over the ice cubes, stirred until the milk was no longer frozen, then proceeded with the rest of the recipe. Otherwise, the color of the soap will end up being anywhere from light tan to dark brown. The other change is you do not insulate the soap (wrap it in a blanket or towel). I found this article (with video) that may help: http://www.marthastewart.com/article/making-goat-soap.

 


 

My Basic Recipes

This is my basic recipe, and one castille recipe for soap. With this, I can just change the amounts of the other ingredients if I am out of an item then run it through the lye calculator again.

Sustainable Home’s Basic Soap Recipe

  • 28 ounces of Olive Oil

  • 28 ounces of Coconut Oil

  • 44 ounces of Shortening

  • 7 ounces of Cocoa Butter

  • 14.9 ounces Lye

  • 40 ounces Water

  • 4 ounces Essential Oil (optional)

Castile Soap Recipe

  • 107 ounces of Olive Oil

  • 13.7 ounces of Lye

  • 30 ounces of Water

NOTE: For Liquid Castile Soap, place 1 cup grated Castile, 3 cups water in a large pot. Turn on low heat and stir constantly until soap has dissolved. Add 2 Tablespoons glycerin. Once dissolved, transfer to a jar and cover tightly.

As you can see from the Castile Soap recipe, soap can be as simple or as complex as you want. What I do to make each type of soap unique is firstly, decided what kind of soap I want. For my Lavender soap, I start a few days ahead of time. I heat up the water and oil (seperately, of course), then put lavender buds in the liquids and let them steep for at least 48 hours. Then, I strain and make my soap. This adds more of the lavender into the soap and colors the soap naturally. My lavender soap turns out a very pale lavender color. For my Kitchen Soap, I do the same with dried Calendula (Marigold) petals. I have even thought of doing this with coffee, since coffee is supposed help remove odors from your hands. For hand washing dishes, I grate some soap, mix it with water, and use that just like commercial detergent. Not only does it cut the grease, it does not dry your hands.

Here are pictures of some of the soaps I have made, when I thought I was going to do this as a business (I was going to post exact recipes but now that I am reading all the recipes I developed, I will hold onto them):

dirtdigger1

 

This is my Dirt Digger Soap. It has Calendula-infused water and oil, lemon essential oil, ground calendula petals and cornmeal for that extra scrub. This was made in 3-inch PVC pipe.

dirtdiggersoap

 

This is the same Dirt Digger Soap as above, with the sides cut and a cigar band label with raffia. The hand cream in the picture had some lemon essential oil in it but because I did not use a commercial preservative, I had bottles explode! LOL!

emulotionsoap

 

This soap was also made in the 3-inch PVC pipe and prepared for sale as above. I replaced some of the oils with Emu Oil.

lusciouslavender

 

This soap is my favorite, though I have run out (I swore I would not make any more until ALL my soap is gone). Lavender infused oil and water, lavender essential oil, and ground lavender buds. The color of all these soaps are natural, from the infused oils/water. This soap was made in a log mold, then cut with the crinkle cutter.

lavendersoap

 

All dressed up! 🙂 These soaps were named for dear online friends of mine. I have many more but that is why I decided not to publish the recipes.

 


 

Liquid Soap

There are three ways you can make liquid hand soap:

  1. Make bar soap, grate it, then mix boiling water with it to get the right consistency. This is good for making small batches at a time. Without adding a chemical preservative, this will go rancid and/or bacteria can grow if left sitting too long (more than two to three months or so in the summer and it needs to be discarded and a fresh batch made).

  2. Go to a good craft/hobby store, like Michaels, and purchase liquid soap base. It’s basically unscented liquid soap. Then you can add some essential oils to scent it or add natural anti-bacterial properties (lavender and rosemary are good for that, if you like the scent, tea tree oil is a great anti-bacterial though a little goes a long way and smells very medicinal).

  3. Make it from scratch.

Here are three basic recipes (liquid soap requires potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide, which is your Red Devil lye. This is basically the difference between hard soap and soft soap):

Basic Liquid Soap (you can use any oils you want as long as you adjust the amount of lye)

http://www.snowdriftfarm.com/form_liquidsoaprecipes.html (website is no longer online)

Measurements by weight

  • 45 oz. coconut 76 degree

  • 80 oz. sunflower seed oil

  • 48 fluid oz. Water

  • 26 oz. Potassium hydroxide (This is a 3% lye discount.)

  • 2 to 2.5 gallons Dilution Water

Liquid Soap (you can use any oils you want as long as you adjust the amount of lye)

http://www.thesage.com/recipes/recipes.php?.State=Display&id=102

Measurements by weight

  • 1 ounce weight Avocado Oil

  • 4 ounces weight Coconut Oil

  • 11 ounces weight Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (shortening)

  • 3.1 ounces weight KOH (potassium hydroxide)

  • 8 ounces water (and we all know that water is the same in ounces weight as it is in fluid ounces)

Instructions:

Mix as usual.

 

Phase 1

Allow the water and KOH to be mixed and then added to melted fats. Stir until trace (read use a handblender). Allow to sit for a few days until pH tests low. .

Phase 2

Then slowly stir (read use a spoon) in extra water to create a liquid soap.

Notes & Comments:

Heidi Feldman (list member) uses a gelled water, created from soaking irish moss in water, when adding the water during phase 2. Also, scenting is done is phase 2, not in phase 1. The reason? It sticks!

For a smaller batch, and step by step instructions (with pictures) you can try this recipe: http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/liquidsoap/ss/basicliquidsoap.htm

Suppliers

If you can’t find suppliers locally, here are a few I have purchased from and really like:

http://www.soapies-supplies.com/shop/

http://www.brambleberry.com/

There are tons of recipes on the web for making soaps and shampoos. As long as you verify the correct amount of lye with a good calculator MMS Lye Calculator you can’t really go wrong!

 


 

 

Laundry

There are many recipes online for laundry soap. I would suggest trying them until you find the one you like. I only tried one recipe but I ended up going back to Tide.

With my husband’s greasy work, and a 13 year old, I use a homemade spot treater. I got this recipe from The Frugal Shopper. I LOVE this stuff! It works so well I use it for cleaning everything! It especially works wonders on a greasy stove!

Stain Remover

  • 1/2 cup of Ammonia

  • 1/2 cup of Vinegar (great way to use that white vinegar)

  • 2 Tablespoons Liquid Laundry Detergent

  • 2 quarts water

I don’t add the Liquid Laundry Detergent, since mine is powdered. Pour ingredients in a 1 gallon bottle (used plastic vinegar bottles work perfect for this). Make sure the lid is on tight, and shake bottle to mix. Pour into a spray bottle, and spray away!

 


 

 

How Did A Newbie Do?

I get so excited when someone tries soap making for the first time, and that’s exactly what an online friend did after reading this page. Here is his experience:

“July 17, 2006: Well, I made my first attempt at making soap. Just basic plain lard based variety. Figure if I start simple and something goes wacky I may have a chance to figure out what went wrong since EO is subject to being converted also plus other variables would complicate that process. Learn first then get fancy. 😉 Anyway, 4 pounds of lard, 8.45 ounces of lye and 24 ounces of water later I have a batch in a computer keyboard box lined with plastic for a “mold”. Trace wasn’t happening worth mentioning after three hours of stirring. I think one thing affecting it was I used the maximum amout of water recommended. So I started using a regular blender at a lower speed (puree) and let it blend for about 4 minutes per load which brought it almost to trace then stirred all the “blended” loads together and started a second run through blender. The second blender run required a higher speed and after only a minute or so it was tracing big time, almost like warm buttercream frosting. After running it all through blender second time I stirred it all together again to even it out then poured into my “mold”.

I would highly recommend using a stick blender and won’t attempt this again until I have one since it was close to 90 minutes before the batch would stop separating almost immediately when stirring stopped which obviously is not good. I think this may be related also to the water issue. I did use one trick from Hershberger in the Walton link which is to use ice water and ice when mixing your lye. Keeps the fumes down a bunch and takes less time to wait for it to cool since it doesn’t get as hot. Eight ice cubes and ice water from a jug till it measured 24 ounces, then added the lye. Worked great.

At any rate I should end up with a little over 5 pounds of soap for a total cost of about $4.50 which is about 30 cents less than what half that much Ivory soap would cost me so its a good deal. I’ll try to remember to let you know what its like to use after its cured.” “August 08, 2006: Just a quick note to let you kow the soap works great. Somewhat drying but then I didn’t allow for a lot of excess fat. It doesn’t give lots of lather but then lard soap isn’t supposed to either. But, when you wash with it you can see the difference in ‘clean’ compared to ‘factory soap or detergent/deodorant bars’. Thanks for prompting me to do this.

Laughs at Hurricanes”

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How To Make High Grade Natural Beeswax Leather Polish and Conditioner

This is GREAT!  I’m always running out and what better way to save money (since I have tons of stuff for soap making and haven’t made soap in YEARS) than to be able to make my own!  I hope it won’t make hubby’s work boots catch on fire easier (he’s a welder)!  lol

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Make-High-Grade-Natural-Beeswax-Leather-Pol/?ALLSTEPS

Tools:
Measuring spoons
Tins for your polish (I’m not a fan of plastic bottles but you can use them)
Pyrex measuring cup
Small pot
Small aluminum pie plate
Wooden spoon
Bamboo skewers (optional)

Supplies;
Beeswax – solid; Protection for leather. Creates a barrier for environmental influences
Coconut butter – semi solid; Conditions the leather surface.
Sweet Almond oil – liquid; Softens the leather internally and replaces the natural oils lost through dying
Castor oil – liquid; Heavier oil that provides the ‘shine’. Can be replaced with mineral oil if necessary.

**Optional**
Pure Ammonia or Alcohol – liquid; Cleans and degreases the surface before polishing. As I mentioned before, the old recipes called for human urine.

Soap By The Shotglass

This was originally from a website that no longer exists. Thank you, bmama, for this.

=============
BASIC SOAP
=============

SOAP BY THE SHOT GLASS (Cough Medicine Measuring Cup)
=====================================================
1 teaspoon = 5 ml(cc), 1 fl oz = 30 ml(cc),
1 cup = 240 ml(cc), 1 qt = 1 L (1000cc).
=====================================================
mass of water = grams of oil x 0.038
mass of lye = grams of oil x 0.13
(0.19 for coconut oil)
=====================================================
Lye is approximately 30g per 1 fluid oz.
Oil is approximately 28g per 1 fluid oz.
=====================================================
Fat/Oil Soap => 1 shot oil + 11g water + 5.50g NaOH
Coconut Soap => 1 shot oil + 11g water + 3.75g NaOH
=====================================================
LESS NaOH makes soap more oily and moisturizing.
MORE NaOH makes soap more harsh + grease cutting.
————————————————–
BRIM means use 1 fluid oz plus 2 extra teaspoons
SOAP: (using a 1 fluid oz couh syrup shot cup) =>

MIX
===
1. 4 shots water (to the brim)
+ 2 shots NaOH(lye) (to the 1 oz line)

ADD
===
2. 6 shots coconut oil (to the brim)
+ 6 shots olive oil (to the brim)

NOTE: The olive oil may be substituted with another fat or oil, but the amount of coconut oil MUST remain the same. Coconut oil is unique in soap formulas. It ensures a good bubbly lather.

Simmer and stir with stainless steel fork in a 2 qt stainless steel or glass container for 60 minutes or until “mashed-potatoes” consistency is achieved (no “wetness”).

It doesn’t hurt to ensure reaction is done by stirring with heat for a longer time. When done, wait until it is cool to the touch before continuing with additions.

You can now add colors, oils, herbs.

OR, add 2 shots baking soda + 2 shots borax. These are anti-bacterials, anti-fungals, water softeners, deodorizers, and skin conditioners that will help ensure a good lather, deep cleaning, and little, if any, soap scum.

OR, for an anti-parasite and anti-bio/chemical warfare and anti-bacterial/fungal/yeast/virus soap: to a 1 qt container, add 4 shots baking soda + 4 shots borax and 1 cup bleach and mix well, until milky. Then mix this solution with the soap while still warm. It isn’t good to kill bacteria alone because it allows fungii and other competitors to overgrow. This is a very deep-cleaning, yet mild, formula.

WARNING: only use finger-tip-fulls for the whole body – add to an existing pure-soap lather if it is harsh at first (the body adapts to oxication). This will result in an extra-clean feeling lather. NOT FOR HAIR!!! It will make hair feel very “fine”.
—————————————————-

Cleaning a Fiberglass Tub

>

We have one of those fiberglass tub/shower inserts.  It was here when we moved in.  I hate fiberglass.  I can’t use what I usually do to clean it.  It has been driving me crazy, trying to truly get the tub clean.  You know, those non-slip grooves on the bottom?  I have tried everything I could think of: Scrubbing Bubbles (which doesn’t seem to clean as well as it used to), baking soda, non-abrasive scrubs, brushes, green scrubbers, filling the tub with water, pouring a gallon of bleach in there, and letting it soak all day, 409, etc.  It’s exhausting when I realize how much time thinking about that tub has taken up.
 
So, I figured I’d give it one more try.  I went looking online (again) and found it.
 
OVEN CLEANER! 
 
Well, oven cleaner and A LOT of elbow grease (my hands are shaking so much I have to keep fixing all the errors my shaking fingers are making).
 
This would have gone better if we didn’t have the “no-odor” oven cleaner.  It just does not clean as well.  So what if I have to wear a respirator!  As long as it’s clean, I’m happy!
 
So, you spray the tub with the oven cleaner and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes.  If it dries, it’s makes scrubbing more difficult.  Use a green scrubber on the smooth areas (using a circular motion).  Now, use a stiff, narrow-bristled brush for the non-skid grooves.  If the bristles are too wide, they won’t get into those tiny dimples (guess how I found this out?  I scrubbed for 20 minutes, trying to figure out why it wasn’t working.  I switched brushes, and that did the trick!).  Rinse the tub/surround, dry, and repeat if necessary.
 
So, how can this help you to become more sustainable?  GET A PORCELAIN TUB AND TILE SURROUND FOR YOUR BATHROOM!  If this was my house, it would have already been done!
 

Safe Use of Household Greywater

>Here’s another item submitted to Preparedsurvivalistsunite2:

http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_m/m-106.html

Safe Use of Household Greywater

Guide M-106

Revised by Marsha Duttle, Extension Research Assistant

College of Agriculture and Home Economics New Mexico State University

Greywater is water that has been used for washing dishes, laundering clothes, or bathing. Essentially, any water, other than toilet wastes, draining from a household is greywater. Although this used water may contain grease, food particles, hair, and any number of other impurities, it may still be suitable for reuse. Reusing greywater serves two purposes: it reduces the amount of freshwater needed to supply a household, and reduces the amount of waste water entering sewer or septic systems.

The New Mexico Environment Department and the Construction Industries Division govern liquid waste disposal in New Mexico, and issue permits for approved systems. Greywater use is restricted by the Liquid Waste Disposal Regulations (LWDR), but the Environment Department can grant a variance if the applicant shows that:

  1. “granting the variance will result in public health and environmental protection equal to or greater than the minimum protection provided by the varianced requirement” (LWDR section 202.D.2.); and
  2. “the proposed liquid waste system will, by itself or in combination with other liquid waste systems, neither cause a hazard to public health nor degrade any body of water” (LWDR section 202.D. 1).

Note: Be sure to obtain all necessary permits before installing a greywater system.

USES FOR GREYWATER

The amount and quality of greywater will in part determine how it can be reused. Irrigation and toilet flushing are two common uses, but nearly any non-contact use is a possibility.

Greywater is suitable for irrigating lawns, trees, ornamentals, and food crops. Though irrigation methods in greenhouses may differ greatly from outdoor irrigation, several guidelines for use of greywater apply to both situations.

  • Apply greywater directly to the soil, not through a sprinkler or any method that would allow contact with the above-ground portion of the plants.
  • Root crops which are eaten uncooked should not be irrigated with greywater.
  • Plants that thrive only in acid soil should not be watered with greywater, which is alkaline.
  • Use greywater only on well-established plants, not seedlings or young plants.
  • Disperse greywater over a large area, and rotate with fresh water to avoid buildup of sodium salts.

In addition, when irrigating outdoors, apply greywater only to flat areas where runoff is not likely. A cloth bag attached to the end of the hose will help distribute water and also act as an additional filter. The filter will need to be removed and cleaned periodically (every three or four days).

In arid areas where dry grass or brush pose a fire hazard, homeowners may wish to plant a firebreak or “greenbelt” of a selected high-moisture species. Greywater is ideal for irrigating firebreaks, because it contributes plant nutrients in the process.

Remember that in most areas outdoor irrigation is a seasonal use for greywater, but greywater is produced throughout the year. If reverting to sewer or septic systems during the winter is not feasible, find uses that are possible during all seasons.

Toilet flushing can use considerable amounts of greywater, as it normally accounts for up to 50% of indoor water use. Poor quality greywater is not a problem if it is used to flush toilets, because the water goes into the sewer or septic system where it would have gone had it not been reused. Greywater should be pumped into the toilet bowl for flushing. DO NOT put greywater into the toilet tank. Greywater in the tank may not only cause the flushing mechanism to malfunction, but could be backsiphoned into the fresh water supply if water pressure decreases suddenly.

Lagoons or ponds containing greywater can grow algae to feed fish in a separate pond, or provide food for ducks and other waterfowl. Removal of the algae is necessary to keep the system aerobic and prevent foul odors. Ponds are often lined with concrete, stone, or plastic to prevent leakage. This method is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to recycle water, but requires some expertise to site and construct the lagoons.

With an automatic clothes washer, the wash water from a lightly soiled load, or rinse water, can be saved to wash the next load. When reusing laundry water for irrigation, do not use liquid fabric softener or detergents including softener (use softener sheets in the dryer instead). Water should not be reused if the laundry includes diapers. Wash water containing gasoline, diesel, or similar pollutants, should not be used for purposes other than flushing.

UNTREATED GREYWATER

Untreated greywater should not be kept for longer than one day, but adding two tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of water will extend storage time somewhat. Try to use greywater the day it is collected or the high bacteria count will cause objectionable odors.

Observe these precautions when using untreated greywater:

  • Greywater containing sodium, bleach or borax can damage plants. For this reason, water from automatic dishwashers should not be used for irrigation.
  • Water used to wash cooking utensils in the sink may contain grease, fats and oils, and is not acceptable for greywater use.
  • If you plan to use water from your washing machine, avoid liquid fabric softeners and detergents with softeners. Use a dryer fabric softener sheet instead.

TREATING GREYWATER

Investing time and equipment in a system designed to filter, store, and possibly disinfect greywater may make water reuse a more convenient practice. Some questions to answer before building a treatment system are:

  • How much greywater will have to be treated? About 65% of domestic wastewater is greywater. Bathing and laundry can generate considerable quantities of greywater in a large household.
  • What contaminants are present? Greywater from the bathroom will have different characteristics than that from the kitchen (see figure 1).
  • What are the possible uses after treatment? The planned uses of greywater may call for more or less treatment. Some uses, such as outdoor irrigation, are seasonal; greywater is produced year round.
  • What is the soil type and depth to water table at your site? A shallow water table underlying sandy soil could be in danger of contamination.

Answering these questions will help you decide what type and size of system to install. Because greywater treatment systems are not much in demand, you may have to design and build a system to meet your own specifications and needs. Options to consider for greywater treatment include settling tanks, disinfectants and filters.

Figure 1. Water-quality characteristics of selected domestic wastewater. (Figure has been modified from its original version in order to be html programmed. Please see PDF file or contact NMSU Agricultural Communications for the original hard copy.) ________________________________________________________________________________________

  Water Source       Characteristics
________________________________________________________________________________________
Automatic Clothes Washer Bleach, Foam, High pH,
Hot water, Nitrate, Oil and
Grease, Oxygen demand,
Phosphate, Salinity, Soaps,
Sodium, Suspended solids,
and Turbidity

Automatic Dish Washer Bacteria, Foam, Food particles,
High pH, Hot water, Odor,
Oil and grease, Organic matter,
Oxygen demand, Salinity, Soaps,
Suspended solids, and Turbidity

Bath tub and shower Bacteria, Hair, Hot water, Odor,
Oil and grease, Oxygen demand,
Soaps, Suspended solids, and
Turbidity

Evaporative Cooler Salinity

Sinks, including kitchen Bacteria, Food particles, Hot water,
Odor, Oil and grease, Organic matter,
Oxygen demand, Soaps, Suspended
solids, and Turbidity

Swimming Pool Chlorine, and Salinity
_________________________________________________________________________________________

Tanks

In a settling tank, solids and large particles will settle to the bottom, while grease, oils, and small particles will float. The remaining liquid will be reused. A settling tank also allows hot water to cool before reuse. The tank should be large enough to hold twice the expected dally flow plus 40 percent, to allow for sludge accumulation and surge loading. One type of settling tank well-suited for greywater treatment is a septic tank. A septic tank is specifically designed to allow settling, but do not confuse the use of a septic tank to treat greywater with the conventional use of a septic tank. Greywater intended for reuse should NEVER be mixed with toilet wastes.

Greywater coming out of a septic tank contains little or no oxygen. Greywater from an aerobic tank will contain more oxygen, which is better for irrigation purposes. An electrical pump or aerator added to a septic tank can create an aerobic environment. Aerobic conditions allow some decomposition of wastes in the tank, and may help minimize sludge buildup and blockages in the system. Both aerobic and septic tanks will need to be pumped Out every three to five years.

Several types of tanks may be suitable for settling or storage of greywater. In addition to metal, polyethylene, fiberglass or wooden tanks that are commonly used, consider using plastic garbage cans, 55-gallon dims, portable swimming pools, or waterbed mattresses.

Disinfection

Two chemicals used to disinfect water are chlorine and iodine, with chlorine being more common. Not only is it readily available (as household liquid bleach or at swimming pool supply houses) and relatively inexpensive, but it is stable in storage and will, in time, vaporize from the water after disinfection. Organic material in greywater may combine with chlorine, and reduce the amount available for disinfection. For this reason, a filter or settling tank before the disinfection point may be advisable.

Iodine is less affected by organic material, persists longer, and may be more effective at the high pH of greywater. Iodine is also fast-acting, requiring no more than two minutes to kill most pathogens.

Several devices are available commercially that dispense appropriate amounts of iodine or chlorine (in solid or liquid form) to a water system. Check with swimming pool supply houses or water treatment companies.

Filters

The type of filter required for a greywater system depends largely upon the amount of greywater to be filtered and the type of contaminants present. A drain filter is an easy and inexpensive way to filter lint and hair Out of bath or laundry water. A simple cloth bag tied over the end of a hose or pipe may be sufficient for irrigating outdoors or similar applications.

Many types of commercial water filters are available. Most use an activated charcoal, cellulose, or ceramic cartridge that must be cleaned or replaced regularly. Before buying a filter, determine whether it is a gravity filter (for low volumes) or a pressure filter (for flow rates greater than 20 gallons per minute). Also consider the frequency, cost, and ease of maintenance.

Slow sand or multi-media filters are usually built by the homeowner. These gravity filters may be constructed in a 55-gallon drum or similar container that is of suitable size. Features that should be part of a filter include a perforated plate or some other device to distribute water evenly over the top, a concrete funnel in the bottom to help water drain to the perforated drain pipe, and a cover and vent to prevent odors. Fill the bottom of the filter with stones that are too large to enter the drain pipe.

Slow sand filters are shallow layers of stone, medium gravel, and pea gravel beneath a deep layer of sand (see figure 2). A slow sand filter will treat approximately 0.05 to 0.13 gallons per minute per square foot of surface area.

Multi-media filters are filled with a variety of media in order of increasing size, for example, fine sand, coarse sand, gravel, stone, and wood chips, to a total depth of 2 1/2 to 3 feet (see figure 3).

NOTE: Figures 2 and 3 are not available. Please see PDF file or contact NMSU Agricultural Communications for a hard copy.

Slow sand filters require regular cleaning and replacement of the top layer of media. Multi-media filters require less frequent cleaning, but all layers must be cleaned or replaced when maintenance is required. Routing greywater through a settling tank before filtering reduces contaminant load and can lengthen the interval between cleanings.

Figure 4. Treatment for water-quality variables (Figure 4 has been modified from its original version in order to be html programmed. Please see PDF file or contact NMSU Agricultural Communications for the original hard copy.)

_______________________________________________________________________________________

 Treatment        Variable
_______________________________________________________________________________________
Aeration Odor, Organic matter, Oxygen
demand, and pH

Alum Soaps, and Turbidity

Carbon filtration Odor

Chlorination Bacteria, and Odor

Crop filtration Bacteria, Food particles, Suspended
solids, and Turbidity

Crop uptake Nitrate, Phosphate, Soaps,
and Sodium

Dilution Hot water, Nitrate, pH, Phosphate,
Salinity, and Sodium

Filtration Food particles, Oil and grease,
Organic matter, Soaps, Suspended
solids, and Turbidity

Flotation Oil and grease

Hydrogen peroxide Bacteria, and Odor

Lime Bacteria, Odor, and Sodium

Settling Foam, Food particles, Hot water,
Organic matter, Oxygen demand,
and Suspended solids

Soil filtration Bacteria, Bleach, Chlorine, Foam,
Food particles, Organic matter, Oxygen
demand, Suspended solids, and Turbidity

Soil uptake Nitrate, Phosphate, Soaps, and Sodium

Storage Foam, Food particles, Hot water, Organic
matter, Oxygen demand, pH, and
Suspended solids

(Figures 1 and 4 reprinted from Water and Wastes Engineering with the permission of Scranton-Gillette Communications, Inc.)

New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affimative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.


Written: January 1990
Last Modified: February 1994
Placed on Server: April 4, 1996

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And here is an article from the University of Florida Extension explaining how to build a cistern for non-potable water:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae029