Why Use Biocompatible Soap?
By Maura Yates
Essential to life, our water is a precious resource and we often forget how important it is to use it wisely.
One way to take care of our water supply is to install greywater harvesting systems in our homes. Having an effective greywater system requires using the right soaps to ensure that when the components break down they are not harmful to plants. Learning to distinguish between biodegradable and biocompatible soaps will help you decide which detergent to buy.
Cleaning agents labeled eco-friendly, natural, or biodegradable often are not good for the garden. Biodegradable refers to something that breaks down naturally into individual components. However, those elements can sometimes be toxic to plants and water systems. Most laundry detergents and some dishwashing liquids, including some green detergents, are synthesized from a less-costly detergent named nonyl-phenol ethoxylate that is toxic and slow to biodegrade.
Only detergents labeled biocompatible are okay to use on your plants in your greywater-irrigation system because they are made from linear alcohol ethoxylate that is not toxic. Biocompatible means that as the components break down in the greywater system they will actually benefit the environment and provide nutrients for the soil and plants. Biocompatible soaps are ideal for use in homes with greywater and septic systems or backwoods camping.
Also, avoid powdered soaps and detergents because they often contain sodium that can build up in your soil. Liquid soaps generally contain less salt because they are made from potassium-based lye whereas powdered soaps are made from sodium-based (salts) lye.
Unfortunately, most detergents are not labeled very well and it is difficult to know if you are buying a biocompatible or biodegradable soap. One excellent source we have found is a company named Bio-Pac’s special line, Oasis, which features biocompatible laundry detergent and dishwashing soap.
Using biocompatible soap translates to being kind to the environment and your health as well as ensuring the wise use of our precious water supply. For more in-depth information in greywater detergents, check out Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands website.