A glass of dirty water at left and a houseplant at right

Houseplants are often a part of some homes and can provide you with warmth, comfort, and beauty. For many people, caring for their houseplants is an integral part of their daily routine. 

But is it a good idea to water your houseplants with dirty water?

Is Contaminated Water Dangerous for Houseplants?

You can water your houseplants with dirty water, but you should do so cautiously. Contaminated water can contain harmful bacteria or fertilizer that may be too strong for your plants. Furthermore, it can also be filled with substances that can be toxic to your plants or stunt their growth.

It’s better to use clean, filtered water on your houseplants. This precaution will ensure your plants get the nutrients they need without harmful bacteria or substances in the water. 

Let’s dive into the dangers of using dirty water on houseplants.

Perils of Watering Houseplants With Dirty Water

Dirty water can be dangerous for houseplants. Its contaminants can build up over time and cause root rot, nutrient deficiencies, and even disease. You should use clean, fresh water for your plants whenever possible.

A woman watering house plants from a small green watering can.

Here are some of the components in dirty water and how they can affect your houseplants:

How to Filter Dirty Water for Houseplants

However, if you don’t want to waste clean water and want to repurpose dirty water, there are a few things you can do to ensure your plants stay safe.

  • Put the water in a container and let it sit for 24 hours before using it – this measure will allow any impurities to settle to the bottom, making the water cleaner and safer for your plants.
  • Add a carbon-based filter to the water – this will help remove any leftover contaminants.
  • Ensure you’re not over-watering your plants – over-watering can cause root rot, a common issue with houseplants, and dirty water can increase the risks.
  • Be aware of any nutrient deficiencies that may arise from using dirty water – if you notice any signs of stunted growth or yellowing leaves, you may need to supplement your plants with a good fertilizer.

Activated Charcoal

The best way to filter dirty water for houseplants is by using activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is carbon treated with oxygen to open millions of tiny pores within the material. These microscopic pores capture contaminants such as chlorine, sediment, and heavy metals in the water so they don’t end up in your plants.

a basket of activated charcoal

Start with clean tap water when using activated charcoal for houseplant water filtration, and allow the activated charcoal to sit in the water for at least an hour before use. This step will give the activated charcoal time to remove contaminants from the water, so it’s safe for your plants.

Once the activated charcoal has done its job, you can strain out the particles with a coffee filter and use the filtered water for your plants. 

You can use this process on various types of dirty water—however, depending on the water source, you may need to repeat it several times until you’re satisfied with the purity of the water.

What Types of Dirty Water Can Be Used to Water Houseplants?

You can use dirty water from your faucets, aquariums, and ponds to water your houseplants. To do this, you must ensure the water is free of bacteria and other contaminants.

  • Tap water – tap water is usually safe for houseplants as long as it doesn’t contain chlorine or other bacteria-killing chemicals. To use tap water for your plants, let it sit for 24 hours or boil it for 15 minutes before using.
  • Aquarium water – you can use aquarium water as long as it’s free of harmful chemicals like ammonia and nitrates. Change the water in the aquarium at least once a week and use only dechlorinated or distilled water.
  • Rainwater – rainwater is safe for houseplants if you collect it in a clean container. Don’t use water for other purposes, such as washing cars, to water your plants.
  • Pond water – water from a pond can be used to water houseplants, but only if it’s free of contaminants and bacteria. Test the water’s pH levels and other elements before watering your plants.

The Best Water for Houseplants

The best water for most houseplants is distilled water because it contains no contaminants that may affect your plants’ health. 

An outstretched arm pouring a glass of water on to one of two plants placed next to each other

If you live in an area with hard water or water with high levels of salt, it’s always best to use distilled or reverse-osmosis water for your plants. This type of water is free of minerals and other contaminants, which can build up in the soil over time and cause nutrient deficiencies. 

Chlorinated water is also not ideal for plants, as it can be too harsh on the roots and foliage and can even cause chlorine toxicity.

Using rainwater is another great option since it is naturally filtered and contains very few contaminants. Rainwater also has a slightly acidic pH, which many houseplants prefer. However, if you don’t have access to natural rainwater, you can also purchase filtered water from the store.

Final Thoughts

Using dirty water for houseplants can be an economical and eco-friendly way to repurpose wastewater. However, ensure the water is free of harmful chemicals or contaminants before using it on your plants. 

Tap water can be used but needs to be dechlorinated first, and rainwater is an excellent option if you have access to it. Using the right water type lets your houseplants thrive and stay healthy. 


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