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Can I Use Rainwater to Wash Dishes?

can i use rainwater to wash dishes

In places where water shortages are a regular occurrence, it’s always a good idea to have an alternative source of water to use. Sure, you could stock up on tons of bottled water, but then you’d have to deal with all the waste in the form of empty bottles. 

A common household chore is washing dishes. Can you use rainwater to wash dishes safely? The answer is yes. You can definitely use rainwater to wash your dishes, as long as it is captured in a sanitary rain barrel.

You might want to consider collecting rainwater for other personal use as well. There are several ways to go about collecting rainwater, and you can use it for a number of things including washing dishes, cooking, bathing, and even drinking. 

Can I Wash Dishes With Untreated Water?

It’s one thing to wash dishes with rainwater, but if your town has received a boil water advisory and you need to wash your dishes, that’s another thing entirely.

Boil water advisories are usually declared when a town’s water supply has been contaminated with some kind of microbiological agent, like E. coli or salmonella. You can still drink your tapwater when a boil water advisory has been issued, but you need to boil it for at least a minute beforehand to kill off any harmful bacteria that may be present.

As for using untreated water to wash dishes, this can be done; however, there are a few steps you should take to ensure that your dishes don’t pick up any contaminants:

  1. First, wash and rinse your dishes as you normally would.
  2. Fill up another sink or a separate basin with warm water and add one teaspoon of unscented bleach per gallon of water used.
  3. Let your rinsed dishes soak in the bleach mixture for at least a minute.
  4. Allow the dishes to completely dry in the air before using them again.

If you have a dishwasher, on the other hand, you can run it as you normally would, as long as the final rinse temperature is at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit, or if your dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle.

Of course, if you happen to have any disposable dishes or cutlery on hand, it may be worth it to just use those and save yourself some time and effort. 

How Can I Harvest Rainwater?

There are a few different ways you can harvest your own rainwater if that’s what you want to do. Here are some of the best methods for doing so:

Rain Barrels

The concept of rain barrels is pretty simple; you place a barrel at the end of your gutter’s downspout, and it collects any rainwater that flows into it. Rain barrels are easy to implement since you can buy a decently-sized barrel at pretty much any hardware and quickly set them up yourself.

However, the main downside of rain barrels is that they don’t have a very large capacity, so not only will you be able to drain your rain barrel relatively quickly, rain barrels will also overflow more easily and cause you to waste water that you could have otherwise used.

We recommend using a rain barrel that is leak-proof and has a high capacity if you utilize rainwater for many daily chores. This collapsible rain barrel by Vingli is high-quality, portable, and reusable. It comes in 50, 66, and 100 gallon tanks.

“Dry” Harvesting System

A “dry” harvesting system is essentially a scaled-up version of the rain barrel method. A dry harvesting system retains the simplicity of a rain barrel, but uses a much larger collection reservoir, allowing you to store significantly more rainwater at once. Dry harvesting systems are also relatively inexpensive to set up.

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The drawback of using a dry harvesting system, however, is that the collection reservoir needs to be located directly beside your house. If you don’t have space on your property to keep such a reservoir, it won’t be possible to use this system.

“Wet” Harvesting System

Finally, you have the “wet” rain harvesting system. Unlike the other two methods of rain collection we’ve mentioned, wet harvesting systems use a collection reservoir located some distance away from the house, with collection pipes running underground to the reservoir.

These systems are referred to as “wet” systems because water remains in the pipework after the rainfall has stopped, due to the fact that the pipes are located below the level of the reservoir inlets. In contrast, the pipes in “dry” systems empty all of their water into the top of the reservoir and never contain standing water, hence the name.

Wet harvesting systems offer distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared to the other two systems. One advantage is that wet harvesting systems are more aesthetically pleasing than the other systems since the pipework is all hidden underground and isn’t normally visible.

Wet harvesting systems also allow you to have multiple collection pipes that all lead to a single reservoir. This is in contrast with the other two systems, which require separate reservoirs for each collection pipe.

The downsides of a wet harvesting system are that they’re more expensive to set up than other harvesting systems, and the perpetually wet pipes can sometimes attract mosquitoes since mosquitoes breed in standing water. Therefore, it’s a good idea to install screens over the openings of your pipework and periodically flush any standing water out of your pipes.

Final Thoughts

The act of collecting and saving rainwater for future use is referred to as “rainwater harvesting”, and as for why it might be a good idea for you to start harvesting your rainwater, there are several good reasons.

The first, as you might have guessed, is the cost. Aside from the initial expenses required to set up a rainwater harvesting system, using rain as a water source is incredibly cheap compared to using water from the city. Since rainwater literally falls from the sky, you can collect and use as much of it as you want without having to worry about being charged for it.

It’s also convenient to have a backup supply of clean water in case you need it. If you live in an area with frequent water shortages or where boil water advisories are regular, it can be incredibly helpful to have a reliable supply of clean water easily on hand.

Lastly, by collecting your own water, you can get a much better sense of how much water you tend to use. When you collect rainwater, you need a reservoir to store it, and by keeping an eye on the water levels in your reservoir you can gain an increased awareness of your water usage which can make it easier for you to conserve water in the future.

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