Is it safe to dump water from the dish wash basin on plants? It would help me stretch my water in this drought, but I was not sure what the Dawn Dish Detergent would do to my plants or the environment in general.

I wouldn’t recommend it. Normal dish soaps are not biodegradable and definitely not very healthy for your plants. Even biodegradable dishsoaps are probably not very plant-friendly. There are better ways to save water in a drought, like putting a brick in your toilet tank, or flushing every other time, or showering differently (turn the water on to get wet, then turn it off while you soap up, then turn it on again to rinse). A sink full of dishwater is minor compared the water usage in other daily activities.

Actually YES ! YES! YES! We have a grey water system like the one shown below. During California’s horrid droughts in the early 90’s I won second place in the Stockton Record contest where people could submit their water saving ideas that they were actually using. And I have been hooked ever since. The ONLY grey water you shouldn’t use is the wash cycle water when washing diapers or anything that has feces in it. And even then you should wash diapers in HOT water. Thus we wash in cold water and the grey water system we and our neighbors have works super. We have a separate grey water system for the shower and the kitchen.

I would think you could use it on plants you were planning to put a soap shield on, e.g. Azaleas, gardenias–to prevent certain bugs and other attackers. On a slightly different front, I was recommended to use Dawn specifically, in fact, as a stickying agent (can’t remember the real word) in a pepper spray to protect plants from bunnies…

That’s rather different. You use a few drops in a large amount of liquid to spray on the surface of the plants. You’re talking about using dishwater to water plants, and since I imagine you do dishes fairly regularly, you’d end up putting quite a bit of soap on your plants. Anyway, it’s just my best guess that it’s probably not good for them. Try it and find out. If your plants die, you’ll know it was bad for them. 

For those of you living in a drought and water rationing situation, this is something we learned to live with starting in 1990-1 and have simply kept the good habits we learned back then. First off some people think that you have to use a lot of soap when doing dishes or laundry and nothing could be further from the truth. You see LOTS of suds in the ads because they want you to use the product up and buy more. For instance a dab of toothpaste does the job, yet the ads show a LARGE strip of toothpaste covering the entire head on the toothbrush. But back to dishes. Yes, we still us dishwater to water non edible plants. And the rinse water to water edible ones. The trick is to add a drop of Dawn (as an example) to the hot dishwater and then soak the dishes so the hot water does the work for you. This may simple take 15-20 minutes.

Then use a dish brush to „wash” the dishes and other items. Then set these dishes aside. Now drain the water into the grey water set up. Now either put the dishes thru JUST a hot rinse cycle in the dishwasher which means you can use that rinse water in the grey water system… Or…. fill the sink up once again with hot water and dip each item in it and rinse and then drain. Then put the rinse water thru the grey water system. Or save for the toilet. We ran a hose from the kitchen sinks clean water exit (this is easy to set up) and had it come up into the side bathroom into a large Rubbermaid garbage can, which was then used to provide flush water for the toilet. Use your imagination and see what works best for you. And don’t overlook mulching in the garden. You can use cardboard, newspapers, even carpet remnants cut as strips for the walk areas. These help keep the water in the ground and not in evaporation. And shade clothe is a water saver as well since it allows the ground to be warm but helps with evaporation as well.

If I understand correctly, the risk of using dishwater (in addition to the dish detergent) are the oils, fats, & grease that are left in the water. However, if you could find an „all natural” (organic) dish cleaner and use it only to wash dishes that held non greasy foods it might be OK. At this point, I’d do that. Without water there is no garden to be had……organically or otherwise. Some things I’m doing, may seem a bit extreme, but I’m willing to take the extra steps to save my garden.

  1. I have a pitcher or bucket on our kitchen counter. When anyone in our family gets a glass of water, but doesn’t finish it, the remainder goes into the container. This is used to water our plants.
  2. I rinse my coffee pot with water in the mornings, and pour the water into container plants outside. + Bonus + the coffee residue helps to feed my plants.
  3. After a long day of gardening I take a light Epsion Salt bath soak. Just soaking, not using any products in the water. This water could be used for watering the garden. Bell Peppers love it!
  4. Here’s a more extreme measure that I’m looking into, since I can’t afford to do a whole grey water plumbing and irrigation system: Using a large tub/bucket in my shower to collect water.

So I’m in search of a completely natural (organic) shampoo / bodywash. If anyone knows of one, please let me know. My kids think this is a neat idea, and are more than happy to do the same. This water will be used for the non edible plants in our garden.