Hands-On-Green: WASHING MACHINE GRAYWATERING

Here in the upper part of the mid-Atlantic we are experiencing drought conditions.  Lawns are crisp, gardens are wilting, tree leaves are rustling like the end of fall and rain barrels are nearing the end of their supply. What to do? Turning on the tap to water all outside is a no-no.  We still need to do wash and washing machine water is suitable for a graywater system.  No time to install a full graywater system so why not jury-rig a mini-washing-machine-graywatering system?

Need:

  • Washing machine with relocatable discharge hose
  • Laundry sink that is above the garden
  • Garden hose
  • Environmentally aware or at least gentle soap – and no bleach.

To do:

  1. Move discharge end of the discharge hose from the drain line to the laundry sink.  I like to push the hose off the wall of the sink a bit to prevent splashback – hence the bottle of soap you see in the picture.
  2. Plug sink.
  3. Run garden hose from laundry sink to spot in garden – or lawn if you prefer –  that needs watering.
  4. Anchor the garden hose to the sink – I do this with a wood clamp (not shown).
  5. Run the washing machine.  Be watchful when the water is discharging to avoid an overflowing sink.
  6. Once the sink is about half full, stop the washer.  Getting the garden hose to drain the wash water from the sink is the only tricky part.  Starting at the sink end of the hose, pick it up a foot or so from the ground and then drop it back to the ground.  Keep moving down the hose until you hear or see water running out the garden end.  This may start the siphon all by itself.  If not you may need to get personal with your hose because you will need to set up a vacuum in the hose line to drain the sink.  Some hardware stores sell pumps for this purpose or you can do it the old fashioned way by sucking the air out of the hose until the water starts to run.  Luckily the soap from the washer is on top of the sink water so you just get dirty water!  Probably best not to drink it.
  7. Once the siphon is going drop the hose on the ground and you have a handy dandy graywatering system in action!
  8. When you are all done with the wash and the sink is drained, remember to hold the sink end of the hose up in the air as you move it back outside so none of the remaining water discharges onto your floor.

Happy Graywatering.