If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow Review – Does it Work?

3 out of 5 leaves

3 out of 5 leaves

The saying “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down” is a well meaning, but controversial guide to preventing unnecessary toilet flushes. Sending less water down the toilet (so to speak) saves money and the environment. But how much could it really save, and is it worth it?

The Good

  • Better for the Earth – water conservation and less volume through our sewage treatment plants
  • Saves Money – water can be quite expensive in drier parts of the country
  • Feels good – not flushing the yellow is a tangible reminder each day that you are doing your part to conserve our natural resources!

The Bad

  • Unpleasant odor – a toilet bowl full of urine can get stinky
  • Toilet requires cleaning more often – scum build-up seems to occur faster when the toilet is not flushed as often
  • Social stigma – this is one of those things you really can only do at home, when you don’t have company

My Experience

Our Flush Savings Tracker (Recreation - original was rendered illegible by a certain three-year-old with a marker!)


Where I live, in Los Angeles, water is scarce. There are many laws governing water use, including how to wash your car, and exactly how many minutes you are allowed to water your lawn (and which days). Because of the scarcity, water can be expensive. We knew this, but were still shocked to get that first water bill after moving from an apartment into a single family home. The water bill was as much as the electric bill for the same period. Yikes!

I immediately changed some things about the way we lived. I adjusted the lawn sprinkler system to the minimum amount of watering time to keep our lawn alive (noting that “alive” is a different place than “green and lush”). I significantly changed the way I wash the dishes and brush my teeth to save water. I taught my children to turn the water off to soap up while washing their hands. And I considered how much money we could save by letting the “yellow mellow”.

I had already stopped flushing at night because the bathroom is right next to the kids bedroom. The walls in this house are paper thin and I didn’t want to risk waking them with a loudly flushing toilet. Over time I just stopped flushing down the yellow during the day, and when my son was potty learning, I never made a big deal about him flushing either. Recently, I decided to figure out how much water and money we could save if the whole family stopped flushing the yellow.

I posted a chart and marker in the bathroom next to the the toilet, and told my husband and son to make a mark every time they didn’t flush. I tracked for a week. The results were fascinating! I saved 5 flushes a day. My three-year-old saved about 7 flushes per day, and scribbled all over my chart so I had trouble counting the tick marks. My husband chose not to participate and recorded only 1 saved flush for the week. My one-year-old learned to flush, and did so whenever she got into the bathroom: an estimated 4 flushes a day wasted. (sigh).

I then did a little research about how much water our toilet holds, and how much water actually costs per gallon. The cost for water here can be tricky to determine. You have to take into account what season it is and what allotment tier you are in (determined by lot size, temperature zone, and number of household members). There are also surcharges for exceeding your allotment, and allotments get reduced during droughts. Water usage is billed per hundred cubic feet. Luckily, my water bill informed we paid $0.005 per gallon for water in Los Angeles (at our house, in March). This is the lowest price we pay during the year. Figuring out how much water we save per flush was easy: the stamp on the inside of our toilet tank says the capacity is 1.6 gallons.

So then, if calculating savings by the flushes saved day (13 – assuming the baby gets over her flushing obsession soon), we are saving 4732 flushes, 7571 gallons of water, and $37.85 per year. If we could get my husband fully on board, our flushes saved per day jumps to 20! (he drinks a lot of tea). That’s a theoretical savings of 7280 flushes, 11648 gallons of water, and $58.24 per year! This is just a little less than we pay for one month of water.*

The other side of this to calculate is the social side. I still flushed at work (2-3x per day), because it’s pretty darn rude to not leave a fresh bowl for the next person in. Can you imagine the office gossip if I stopped flushing? Oy! (Our whole family always flushes when out in public, btw). Also, during the week I was tracking, my husband continued to flush at home every time unless I was standing there insisting he not. I guess he felt the whole idea was a little gross. When he learned that the potential savings was $5 per month for our entire family, he informed me it was NOT worth it to him to stop flushing. I get that. And really, I couldn’t bring myself to ask visitors to our home to participate. I hid the tracking chart when people came over. I even blamed the three year old when we had an unexpected visitor to our bathroom, and I knew the toilet wasn’t flushed.

So does it actually work to “let it mellow”? Is it worth it? I think this is one of those green ideas that is great in the privacy of your own home, but that you don’t really talk about elsewhere. It’s a bit of a green hot topic, perhaps? Choosing to let it mellow can make a difference in water usage, and save you some money long term, depending on the part of the country you live in. But if it’s all too much for your taste, I think you will find few critics.

Have you tried out letting it “mellow”? Would you stop flushing the “yellow” to save $5 a month? Please share your thoughts below!

*I was shocked when I learned what our daily water usage was. Most of it stems from our lawn sprinkler system which runs 3x per week, and for the minimum amount of time needed to keep our lawn alive. (LA does not get much rain, so if you have a lawn, you need to water regularly). We’re in a rental, so there’s not much we can do about re-landscaping for less water use. And we do like having grass for the kids to play in. Still, the conservationist inside me is dying a little bit. I’m so embarrassed.

 Shared at Monday Mania, Homestead Barnhop, Better Mom Mondays, Teach Me Tuesday, Titus 2sdays, One Project at a Time,  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Women Living WellYour Green Resource, Simple Lives Thursday, Rural Thursday, Frugal Friday, Farmgirl Friday
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120 Responses to If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow Review – Does it Work?

  1. Stella says:

    yay! we let it mellow. I grew up in LA during frequent draughts and we practiced this at home. I don’t think it’s weird at all. Now Dave and I do it at home, unless of course there is company.

    • Victoria says:

      Yay Stella! Great to know I have an LA buddy doing the same 🙂

    • Quan Q Pham says:

      I just piss in the yard.

      • Bob Dole says:

        Piss in the street and use no water like they do in Honduras or Mexico or other countries. Piss in the woods. If you really want to save water, just piss in your backyard and it will just evaporate. Funny, horses, cows, dogs, cats, squirrels, rodents, skunk and all the other animals on the planet don’t have this problem. None of them flush and none of them have to pay to just take a piss. Now we seem to be ok with all that pissing going on, right??

    • Kitty Woods says:

      I think that letting the pee sit in the toilet, and having the smell flood your whole house, is one of the most disgusting things I have ever heard of.
      There is no way I would do this. Besides, I don’t live in a place with a lot of rain, but everyone I’ve asked said that was completely disgusting and unnecessary.

      • Christy Marlins says:

        I agree with Kitty. That is disgusting with a capital D!
        The thought of it makes me want to puke!!!!!

      • First world problem. You have to think of ways to get rid of the smell and save every drop. You need to come to Africa where ever litre of water means life. We are in the throes of a drought . We are not allowed to wash cars or water our gardens. We shower with buckets around us to reuse the water for flushing the toilet. Soon water will be rationed so we really can’t say not flushing is ‘completely disgusting and unnecessary’. Every drop counts.

        • Alistair says:

          Lorna, it sounds like you live where we do! We leave a plug in our shower plug hole and scoop all of our used shower water into buckets. Very little goes down the drain. We use this grey water for toilet flushing (and flush only when the yellow starts smelling). Any surplus grey water is used to keep the garden alive. We haven’t washed our cars for months (dirty car = badge of honour!). If we need hot water from the tap we catch the initial cold flow in a jug and use that for brushing our teeth. With that routine we have our daily potable water usage down to about 50 litres per person per day.

        • Ld says:

          AMEN! Praying that Africa’s (and the multitude of other places in the world) get SOME sort of help or solution very soon. And you mentioned “first world problems”. Y’all who said eww gross- TOTAL “first world problem” here. Dealing with INDOOR PLUMBING ISSUES IS A FIRST WORLD PROBLEM.
          Give yourself a minute. For real, count to 60 while thinking about your disgust over this yellow mellows idea.
          Now, realize your privelage to even have a toilet indoors TO flush as often as your heart desires…that is, unless you live in an area of the US that has a water shortage. Then think about how at some point in the future (possibly in your lifetime?) the entire USA could be in a water shortage. Then it alllll goes downhill from there & the entire world has to live like a second or :shockingly: a third world country. Now I am NOT, nor have ever been a “tree hugger” and I even toss out 1/4-1/2 of our recycling because I’m too lazy to walk it outside. I found this article because I was searching “extreme ways to save money” as I’m disabled (physically, hopefully temporary but can’t work now or for several months to come) taking care of two permanently disabled sons (severe autism in both) that even WITH their SSI (if someone bashes me for my nonverbal 18 year old “mooching off the government” or something with the SSI, there will be no reply, you simply have no soul) it’s not enough with hubs laid off and zero prospects (he applies for 2-6 jobs/week and those he hears back from find him “overqualified” and freakin’ fast food places have said they didn’t want to hire & train him because they’ve had too many laid off people get their jobs back and quit within days or weeks) so after reading this my house will proudly let the yellow mellow and possibly spray some Lysol (at least until what we have on hand) runs out. Is the aerosol spray can runs out (told ya I’m not a tree hugger) but I’m going to consider “going green” even a bit more because this post about Africa REALLY made me think and got to me, and I pray that poster will somehow see the impact one random comment on the internet made while I’m googling saving money at nearly 3am because I’m up at this hour because I can’t sleep due to money worries.

        • Leah says:

          Thank you for the perspective! “Cleanliness” and social norms lead people to very irrational behavior.

  2. Carol says:

    I lived in the country (Australia) on tank water for a few years and we lived by the yellow mellow, brown down rule. Everyone in our area lived by that rule, so even the (local) visitors had no qualms about it. I was wondering if you found you did have to clean the toilet more often and if you counted these extra flushes in your calculations?
    Although I now live in the suburbs, we don’t flush the toilet through the night (unless it’s brown) and I don’t chase up the children about not flushing after their little wees. Unfortunately, I have to remind them to still flush after a brown deposit!

    • Victoria says:

      Hi Carol! I haven’t notied that we have to clean the toilet a LOT more: maybe once a week more frequently? I didn’t include this in the count, but I think it would be a loss of roughly 80 gallons of water and 40 cents pr year.

    • Clean the toilet, and then pee on top of the cleaning products for awhile…no need to flush at that point. The bowl will still look and smell better after you’ve done some scrubbing. You might flush the toilet BEFORE you start cleaning, but there’s probably already some yellow mellowing at that point!

      • Victoria says:

        Thanks for the tip Christine! For a quick clean, I usually just wipe out the visible scum with a baby wipe.

      • Ld says:

        I’m only six years late replying (was searching extreme money saving ideas & came across this concept, which I then googled, and this was near the top of the search, you are all VERY correct about the social stigma if when I google the term a blog post from SIX years ago comes up at the top of my search). The cleaning first makes sense. I learned just a couple years ago from my MIL that “most people clean their toilets wrong” IDK about that, but she showed me how if you use your toilet brush like a plunger motion, the level of clean water goes down in the tank and STAYS down, allowing you access to apply toilet cleaner to areas NOT underwater, saving so much cleaner and making it much faster to clean when you are not fighting against water in the bowl sucking up all your cleaner. When I think about it, I have distinct childhood memories about my very best friend’s house (our Moms were best friends too, which is awesome because we got to see each other constantly from when we’re were babies until today when we have our own babies) anyway they lived way out in the country and had a septic system. I don’t know much anything about septic systems but I learned that was why they mellowed their yellow and I did the same at their house. No idea if that’s good or bad for a septic system, just babbling on a 6 year old post nobody except perhaps the blog owner will read.

        • Khlovia says:

          Nope, I read it! 🙂

          Thanks for the tip about cleaning the toilet bowl.

          My husband and I follow the the yellowmellow browndown rule unless we’re expecting company. Smell? Not a bit. Not if you simply PUT THE LID DOWN after every use. I don’t even turn on the vent unless I’m poopin’.

          Having a household-wide custom of always putting the lid down also eliminates the need to discuss with one’s husband the distressing results of discovering while half-asleep at 3:00 AM, having not turned on the light because one is trying *not* to wake up all the way, that somebody has not put the seat down. If the lid is down, the seat is also down.

  3. This is interesting. I’m just focusing on trying to get my 5 year old to use less toilet paper for now 😉

    • Victoria says:

      I hear you Lisa!

    • Meredith says:

      If you’re interested in conserving tp, maybe you would be interested in “family wipes”? I switched our family to cloth wipes in the past and it actually felt better than tp to me. I’ve temporarily switched back to regular tp because of the current hectic state of my life…but I’ve promised myself to go back to cloth wipes again this year!

      • Katrina says:

        Recently Chris Hayes on MSNBC did a segment on the havoc wrecked on the sewage system by cloth wipes, even those marked as safe for that use, so maybe TP is the way to go.

        • Naomi says:

          Katrina, I think what she was referring to is actual cloth wipes. Not the pre-moistened wipes discussed in the segment with Chris Hayes. Those are a problem for many sewage systems. What I think Katrina is using, is bits of cloth, which is then tossed in a small closed hamper not flushed. Then washed in bleach to be reused. Often people cut up old cotton t-shirts or sheets for this purpose. I personally would not choose this option. But really it would not be much different from using cloth diapers on a baby.

      • Linda says:

        I learned to use cloth wipes when I urinate from my mother. I keep a stack of white washcloths under the sink. I feel cleaner using the cloth than I do using TP. No paper bits caught in private areas either. Since I live alone, I can use the same cloth a few times times during a day. I hang the cloth over the side of a wastebasket between uses. I use TP for BMs. I imagine multiple people could use different colored washcloths. I also ‘let it mellow’.

        • Khlovia says:

          Same here; either washcloth or cut-up old tee-shirt. I avoid white because it can be difficult to retrain yourself to not automatically drop what you just used to wipe into the toilet; so I have formed the habit of glancing at contents of toilet before flushing, with the question in mind: “Anything in there that shouldn’t be?” A colored cloth is more easily distinguishable from TP than a white one. (And yes, if you do happen to commit that booboo, you just have to say “Ew” and dip in there right quick with thumb and forefinger to retrieve the wipe. You were going to wash your hands in the next couple of nanoseconds anyway. It really isn’t going to kill you.) (Also, yes to TP for poop. But at least this way the lady of the house can say she is not using more TP than the gentleman of the house.)

    • Ld says:

      I personally am curious of the MONEY (read above posts, “tree hugger in training here) saved by cloth wipes as I’d have to add an additional load to our already ridiculous amount of loads per week with 7 people living here-WITH at least some bleach (is bleach bad for the environment?) PLUS hot water which increases the price and waste.
      I’m not bashing the concept at all. I cloth diapered three of my six children. With the cost of diapers and wipes it was easy to see the savings, even with the investment up front for diapers (I even used fancy all-in-ones as they are called, with cover built in and velcro straps. There was no difference to a disposable when putting a new diaper ON, it was just after. But cloth wipes JUST for toilet use I don’t see the savings, especially when I do things like buy TP in bulk (probably not practical for a single person) but if combined with maybe cloth menstrual pads-and if people are grossed out at letting yellow mellow they’d probably faint knowing thousands of women around the US use cloth pads (not to mention the growing popularity of the menstrual cup, which my 21 year old daughter uses…I’ve had a hysterectomy so no need for anything)

      • Khlovia says:

        I am magnanimously going to give you a pass on TP vs wipes due to the high population of your house. ;-D

  4. We let it mellow and clean more often. But Bobo (3) never lets it mellow. If there is mellowing going on, he flushes before he uses. I’m just happy his aim is getting better, so we don’t have to clean the rest of the bathroom as often.

  5. Nancy says:

    We’ve followed this rule since we moved to the farm. Less flushes = less wear and tear on the well pump and less electricity. Great post. 🙂

  6. We’re not in a water conservation area, however, I did try this when it was only me and my oldest at home. We did okay, though now with 5 kids, we WANT stuff to flush and not overflow.

    If I needed to conserve water, I would definitely try again. Despite what my family said. 🙂

  7. 'Becca says:

    I have done this in some eras of my life, but we now have a low-flow toilet that becomes very smelly if let mellow even once for a couple hours! So now I do it only if I’ve been drinking so much water that it’s not yellow at all.

  8. Cassi says:

    Just a hint if you’re interested in taking it further. . . I read a post a while back from a family who not only “lets it mellow” but unhooked the drain pipe under their sink and “installed” a bucket to catch the water from brushing teeth, washing hands, etc, and used that water to flush the toilet.

    • Victoria says:

      What an interesting idea! I will definitely try it in a few years. (Right now, with little ones around, I feel like an open bucket of water is just asking for trouble!)

  9. Lana says:

    My aunt and uncle used to do this until one day a lady and her little boy arrived to visit. The little boy refused to enter the house shouting, ‘I don’t want to go in there. Their house smells like pee!’ They flush every time now. I abhor the smell of an unflushed toilet. We do live where water is still plentiful and we have our own well so we don’t have a water bill but we do try not to just waste water.

    • Victoria says:

      Funny story! I draw the line at odor. If I can smell the bowl, I flush.

    • Ld says:

      It is good to mention though, that we do as humans go “smell blind” or whatever it’s called so why one might notice the smell when they first try this, over time I’d think they’d become smell blind to it, much like my MIL who can’t smell her catS litter boxes, but everyone else who simply opens the door is pushed backwards by it.

  10. I just posted on my blog 15 easy ways to go green (and save money), but this did not make the list. It just grosses me out, so I can’t bring myself to do it.

    My grandparents always had this rule in their house though, so I don’t think it’s weird or anything, just not for us 🙂

    • Victoria says:

      Yes, there definitely is a gross factor to get over. I guess after having kids, a little bit of pee doesn’r really bother me.

  11. April says:

    Your story is a hoot. We do this at night too. (Glad we’re not the only ones.) After your story though, I decided it was probably not worth it. I decided this because of all the extra efforts and cleaning products (green products) to clean that nasty toilet more often than when we do flush. Products cost money and so does my time, darn it! I could “spend” my time on better things…you know, like LAUNDRY, or DISHES, or COOKING, or ETC., ETC., ETC. Ha!

    Thought I’d make YOU laugh since you made me.

    Take care!

    • Victoria says:

      You crack me up, April! Thanks for reading 🙂

    • Dea says:

      get a gooseneck bottle and use straight white vinegar under the rim after each flush. I re-purposed my bottle from a friend who still buys “commercial toilet cleaning products”. The vinegar will reduce both the smell and the “scum” buildup from the “mellow” process. We are on a spring-tank so I limit flushes and reduce gallons with a water-filled 1/2 gal. milk jug in the tank. I tried a gallon jug, but the tank only holds 1.6 gal, so the “brown” was NOT going down. Also, paper only goes in toilet if it is “brown”. “Yellow” paper goes in trash which is composted for garden mulch. My next step is to make “Tidy Wipes” out of old flannel nighties. Toss in wash with laundry + even more reduction of waste in septic. The guys are not too interested in the Tidy Wipe idea, but there are 3 ladies here, we use the most of the paper anyway.

      • Victoria says:

        I keep hearing that guys are not interested in cloth wipes (my guy included). Why is that?

        • Dea says:

          As far as I can tell, the issue is the “gross” factor. They don’t need the wipes for the “yellow” like us girls do, and they don’t like the idea of “skidmarks” being saved up for the laundry cycle.

  12. Martina says:

    So funny, i always yell at my son, because he forgets to flush, you know you can put a filled water bottle into the tank to reduce the water you use to flush, or if laws permit it collect rainwater not only to water the plants, and flush the toilet. My sons 4 and 2 have a great way on saving water, as the just use their “Bush” toilet during the day lol

  13. farmer_liz says:

    We are on tank water, so it seems like a total waste to flush unless absolutely necessary. We probably only flush a couple of times a day. The downside, as you say, is the smell in summer can get a bit strong (We do flush more often in summer), and remembering to flush before visitors turn up! And remembering to flush when using toilets at work or in public places, as I get so used to not flushing. My husband prefers to wee outside (we are on 8 acres, so no neighbours close by), so he’s no trouble (the challenge is trying to persuade him to wee on my lemon tree though!). We also don’t worry too much about cleaning the toilet, especially as we have a septic system, so have to be careful what/how much chemicals we use. Since being on tank water, our water use habits have really changed, we consider every drop, and think twice about whether things really need to be washed. All the greywater goes on our garden. Anyway, I think its great that you brought up the idea and got more people thinking about it.

    • Victoria says:

      With a limited supply, I can understand why you would consider every drop. It’s too bad we all don’t remember that we are on a limited supply!

  14. John says:

    Recently I came upon a situation that prompted another line.
    If its yellow, let it mellow.
    If its brown, flush it down.
    If its red, use your head.

  15. Louise says:

    We keep a bucket in the shower recess to catch the water that is usually wasted while the water heats up to temperature. This then gets used on the garden, or if we have had a lot of rain, into the washing machine. Washing machine water is diverted with a long hose pipe to run onto the grass (make sure you use a phosphate free detergent). We have a dual flush toilet that uses minimal water for the yellow, so I feel ok that personally the mellow is a bridge too far for me.

    • Victoria says:

      It sounds like you are doing a great job of water conservation, Louise. I’m going to try to figure out the washing machine water diversion – what a great idea!

      • Cat says:

        You can also flush the toilet by pouring shower-water directly from the bucket into the toilet. The trick is using a bucket with a spout and pouring it into the hole in the toilet bowl. You’ll get the hang of it. We can also use the shower water for mopping. Then I use it to water my flowers and shrubs and trees (but not edible plants). I don’t like to use mop water in the toilet because it’s just as rank as pee (if not worse…)

  16. Elisa says:

    I also tried the “let it mellow’ method. I found a good alternative that saves water and doesn’t gross out your visitors. I did get some grossed out looks when i would ask my sister in law and my husband’s friends to not flush. And I too blamed it on my baby saying it would wake her up because of the super thin walls. The tank on my toilet was holding way more water than what needed to be flushed with. I put a 2 liter filled with a little sand inside of my tank so that the water would fill up to level without using so much water! Some people use other things such as bricks in their tanks. I still let it mellow at night but don’t ask the kids to. My nieces like to leave not just their pee in there so I like to get them in the habit of always flushing. =)

    • Victoria says:

      Elisa, you’re brave to ask guests to let it mellow too! I’ve only recently learned about putting something else in the tank to decrease the flush capacity. What a great idea!

  17. Michelle W says:

    My husband and I do this. I take it a step further (don’t read beyond here if the “mellow” grosses you out…)

    So, I don’t use TP unless I’ve had a bowel movement. What do I use instead? I use small rags, made of old T-shirts. Hear me out, though. Cloth diapers are a thing, why is it bad then to use cloth wipes? After I wipe, I just drop it into a bucket of sanitizer and deal with it when I do laundry. You can also rinse the cloths out when you wash your hands, but that seems like more of a water waste to me, YMMV. I do empty and hide the bucket when we have guests, though, because I know it grosses people out for some reason. I’ve found that the cloth is so much nicer on my lady bits, and it saves us a ton in TP costs.

    • Victoria says:

      Family Cloth! Yes, this is on my list to try, although I don’t think it would save a ton of paper right now. It seems boys don’t feel the need to wipe anything after peeing, and my daughter is still in diapers. I’m with you though, I don’t think I’m set up well logistically to use family cloth for BMs. Also, my husband almost put me on the train to crazy town when I floated the idea 😉

      • Michelle W says:

        Hah! Mine thinks I’m insane, too! We just got our electric bill, our water bill is on the way (I’m scared), and everything costs so much more down here. See, we just moved from FL, and when your average utilities goes from $100 to almost $400, the wife seems a little less crazy when it comes to saving money where ever she can. 😉 Or, at least I like to think that’s the case. Besides, he can think I’m crazy all he wants, it’s not like he can send me anywhere, I’m the one that cooks. hehe

  18. Dea says:

    I have adressed the waste issue to guests by saying “having septic tank issues…please do not flush unless solid waste. Liquid waste can set for a while. Ladies, please only flush ‘dirty’ TP, damp can go in the trash” Some of my “younger guests” are grossed out, but the older generation seems to understand.

    • Dea says:

      for personal use, I am finding the cloth is working well. I only use the traditional TP when solid waste needs

  19. Christa says:

    I applaud you for talking honestly about a subject many find taboo! Waste is a normal, natural part of everyday life and we should not be so embarrassed or grossed out to talk about something everybody does!

  20. Paula says:

    I do this, but I only ‘let it mellow’ once, i.e. I flush every two times I pee. With my style, I only have to clean the bathroom twice a month. (wWe’re two people in this house; I live with my husband.) It’s about saving time, not just about saving water or money!

    Of course, when it’s ‘brown’ – or red! – I flush immediately. Talking about ‘red,’ I’m all for menstrual cups and rewashable sanitary napkins.

    I work in the evenings, so at night I’m too tired to wash the dishes. (I don’t have a dishwasher.) I always put dishwashing liquid on the dishes, removing all food particles, early in the morning before my shower. Then, I place the dishes on the dishrack, which I place in the shower. I need five seconds to wait for the water to get warm: that (and a little bit more) is enough water to rinse my dishes.

    When my husband takes a shower, he collects the extra water in a bucket. It fills up to about half its volume. I use that water to flush the toilet… which brings me back to my first paragraph!

    Good post! Nice to talk to likeminded people!

  21. Miriam says:

    Great article and great important discussion!
    To me, it is not about the dollar value, though I do appreciate the savings, even $5 a month. It is about this precious, dwindling resource of clean water.
    We can decide to lead in this area, and eduacate our friends, neighbours, guest and co-workers about it rather that hiding our practices as if it was shameful. We have been brainwashed by our modern society to be ashamed of our bodily functions, but actually everyone urinates (if they are well and are to stay alive), and this is the way it has been since God – or evolutions – put us on this planet.
    If we want our children, and their children, to be able to survive on this earh, we will have to push ourselves to be that bold in many areas, so we might as well start here!

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  23. Tami says:

    A number of years ago, I lived at a place where we had to haul every drop of water we used. Not only did we use the let it mellow, we put a shut off on the shower so that we could get wet, reach up and turn off the water (thus keeping the temp adjustment) and soap up and then turn the water back on to rinse. Washer was used for full loads. Dishwasher when used was FULL. Currently, we have a slow well. Sometimes we have water. Sometimes we can’t even take a shower due to low water level in the tank and the livestock come first. You do what you need to do!

    • Dea says:

      In 1991 I bought 20 acres of land with no improvements. I has sold my home, so this meant moving onto the land with 3 registered Appy mares, a dog and a husband (who was just about useless) All water had to be hauled, so I learned to ration and re-use where ever possible. We built a barn first, and moved my wood cook stove in. Now I had heat, cooking, and dishwashing facilities. Two old fashioned metal dishpans were my wash and rinse. Wash was with yesterdays rinse water, wash water became garden water. Garden was container-grown to conserve water. I can still brush my teeth and wash my face with 1 cup of water. Three years later, when I finally was able to sink a shallow (90 ft.) well we only came up with 1/2 gal. per min, so I set up a holding tank and shut-off system. we had plenty of water for the horses and a real garden, but I still hoarded my water like liquid gold. Finally after 4 years of drunken rages and verbal abuse the husband put me in the hospital with a split skull and concussion. He left, and my family stepped up to help deepen the well and get me a mobile to live in. Now at 225 feet, I have 25 gal. per minuite, but I still conserve water. I still wash full loads of laundry and dishes, shut the water off while brushing my teeth, and let it mellow!
      MNI WICOZANI – Water is life

      • Ld says:

        I’m sorry you had to go through that with you husband. Sadly, been there, done that (minus needing to be hospitalized he was amazing at hiding my bruises and the few he didn’t hide I covered with makeup) but so awesome was the rest of your post. Affected me enough to comment in 2018 and I’m pretty sure you won’t see this, but if you do, Godspeed to you and yours.

      • Khlovia says:

        Seconding Ld on the (belated) YAY YOU! Salutable badassery herewith saluted! Hope you see it.

  24. Felicity says:

    Another trick I like to use is to put a soda bottle of water (or a brick, anything solid) inside the cistern. So long as you position it so that it doesn’t interfere with any of the internal mechanics, you save that volume of water with every flush. It is a good way to minimize your water usage without any daily effort or gross factor.

  25. Naomi says:

    I found your discussion because we had recently started the “if it’s yellow let it mellow” idea in our home because our city has the highest water bills anywhere. We have a family of 3 and our combined water sewer bill which comes every other month is easily about $360 this is not due to water shortages or anything like that. We live in NW Washington state and the other cities around us have much much lower rates! At this rate even $5 a month will help. I appreciate all the comments people left with suggestions. I noticed a few people mentioned the water jug in the back of the toilet, another idea is to just place a brick or two in there. I will also often turn off the shower while I am washing or shaving. Or my husband and I just shower together so while one rinses the other is washing this also gives us the opportunity to talk about our day or whatever with out kids bugging us about stuff.

    • Dea says:

      The shower idea is great…but it would not work with my hubby…We would end up using MUCH MORE water than 2 individual showers…LOL

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  27. Tina says:

    My family (we live in Hong Kong) has been following the “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” mantra for a few years now, so I totally buy it. However recently I’ve noticed that the toilet bowls are really stained and our normal practice of using store bought toilet bowl cleaner just does not crack it. While I don’t mind it so much, it’s just not very esthetic to look at. Any ideas how to clean up stained toilet bowls?

    • Chris says:

      You could put a replaceable plastic carton (e.g. an old 1kg margarine tub or old ice cream tub) into the toilet bowl and pee into that. When its full empty it into the bowl and wash it with the flush. When the tub gets too grubby and stinky – throw it out and use a new carton. That way, the toilet bowl does not become stained.
      Also, if you have a garden, then you could keep a compost heap in a discreet place. Peeing into the compost heap helps the decomposition process and keeps rats away from any kitchen waste.

  28. lee says:

    I work for a UK based water company and I encourage this practise at home,at work iI’m not paying the bill so I don’t mind. I calculated that a toilet will flush 7 – 9 litres of water, on the solow tariff (low user) its about 4p a flush. So typically you could easily flush the toilet 10 times a day per person per day. It soon adds up. I’m going to try a cheap bottle of cola to clean the limescale off as thats my only problem at the moment.

    • DEA says:

      cheap cola sounds like a great idea… I can get 2.5 l for a buck at the dollar store…I will try that!

  29. dea says:


  30. Joe says:

    I just go outside and pee in the yard somewhere.

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  34. Maynard says:

    If it’s yellow, let it mellow, If it’s brown, how many Nixons’ will fit before you can’t flush them down. Plant a thyme lawn. No watering, and mow only once a year.

  35. Dave says:

    I don’t use much in the way of traditional toilet paper anymore. Instead, I use baby wipes and toss them into the biodegradable baggies that come from the dollar store for dogs/cat excrement. The bags are not see through and are made with a light fragrance. I tie them off and then toss them in the garbage. There is no odour and no excessive use of toilet paper. The wipes clean more effectively also. The baby wipes are inexpensive to buy in bulk from large scale bulk stores. My doctor told me they were better to use anyhow for hemorrhoid sufferers and generally do a better job. Never flush them down the toilet though (even if they say it’s safe – it’s not). This practice is viewed with disdain by my siblings who do not live with me. One of them practices the “if it’s yellow let it mellow” rule. This mellow yellow topic came up over the holidays and the general feeling at the table (where everyone was 58 and up) was that this was not a sanitary practice and some even were quite vocal about it, distaining any signage to that effect. I disagree with a poster who said older people are more accepting. I will add that when I visit her house and find it, I instinctively flush it all down first before using the toilet. I don’t like it. I will also comment on the reusable linen tp idea. I don’t like it either. I don’t trust that the washer will clean things well enough especially after stains are allowed to set. Also I would not want my wash machine smelling unpleasant after the soiled pieces of linen “tp” were washed in it. This idea gets a huge no from me (very sorry). As for removing the stain off of a toilet bowl, a large bottle of Coca-Cola will clean it. Pour Coke into the bowl. Pour it around the rim so it flows over the stains around the inside of the bowl. Let it sit for at least an hour. The acids in the Coke will break down the stains. For extra cleaning power, let the Coke sit overnight. If there are lots of stubborn stains, you may need to use a brush to further loosen them before going to the next step.Flush. At least some of the lime-scale buildup should be dissolved by the phosphoric acid in the Coke. Try conventional natural toilet cleaners if problem persists. Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) jug of water. Store and apply to toilet bowl, scrubbing and waiting an hour before flushing.

  36. Maitai says:

    I used to do this, but the odour got to be too much. I have found a better way, that actually uses less water.

    When I take a shower, I put a bucket under the tap while I wait for the water to warm up. I then use this water for washing the floor, or dumping it in my washing machine. This allows me to have a big load, but only fill it up to small/medium load. So I save a little water on cleaning/laundry. Although mind you, it’s a pretty small amount it’s probably only 10 liters of water or so.

    I put the drain in my tub and I take my 4 minute shower. I collect the soapy water, in the tub. Every time I go to the bathroom, whether it’s number 1 or 2, I scoop the soapy water out of the tub, with my bucket, and I put the water in the toilet bowl. Voila it flushes. It actually uses more water to flush, but I’m not using any new water, because the soapy water would have gone down the drain anyways. I do this, until I take another shower, and then I let the old water drain, and collect new water. Since I live alone, there usually isn’t a whole lot to drain, there’s usually enough that it looked like I ran the water flowing for 25 seconds.

    There is no stench, my toilet is actually cleaner than before, and it actually uses LESS water than the yellow mellow thing. In my books this is a win! The only drawback, is that my bathtub is constantly full of water. I realize this doesn’t work for everyone.

    • Maitai says:

      Just wanted to add that the 10 liters for the washing machine/floor thing actually works out to 40 liters of water a week. So over a year that adds up to 2080 liters of water, for laundry/floor washing that would have otherwise just went down the drain. My toilet probably uses 10 liters per flush, since I am home a lot, and I go to the bathroom probably 7 times a day, this amounts to 25,550 liters of water saved a year in toilet flushes. Not to mention the water, I also saved from going down the drain from my bathtub which is about 6240 liters of water which is 33870 liters of water saved. For you Americans out there, that’s 9154 gallons of water saved. 🙂 The average person uses 1891 gallons of water per month.So out of the whole year that’s like only using 5.5 months of normal water. 🙂 If I am doing my calculations correctly.

      • Craig says:

        It is contrary to the Green Movement to compromise hygiene so drastically by cutting back on water use. Unless you live in a desert where water is a scarcity, then saving water is unnecessary.

        However, I do commend the spirit of your actions


  37. Craig says:

    There is nothing relaxing or mellow about a cesspit full of urine, unless you get off on that.

    On a camping holiday I heard a hippy neighbour whining out the old hippy mantra “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown wash it down”. Apart from the aesthetic objection that one shuld not have to check the colour of other peoples excrement , their tent smelt like piss, and their demeanor was so feeble and unhealthy. They lived in dirt because washing used up water. Even the white trash were more advanced in hygiene. They looked shabby and depressed, like they were desperately holding on to their mantra as a last string of sanity….

  38. Craig says:

    A friend of mine uses a stacked shower system in their hotel.
    One shower is positioned on each floor of a 10 story block
    The water from shower A drains to shower B the floor below, then to shower C below that.
    If everyone has a shower at the same time, then they can all have a shower with the same water. Bingo.

  39. Craig says:

    Live in the water you’re born with.

    A suit that fits over your whole body and recycles all moisture, sweat, piss and dribble, so that you need never use a cup of water again.

  40. Craig says:

    I went to a talk (cost me 5 bucks) , where I listened to a breatharian from Australia, who claimed not to need water or food at all. Naturally I was sceptical. How could she look so fit and sexy, but not eat food or drink water??? So after the talk I approached her to shake her hand. I wanted to see if she felt healthy. Her skin was translucent, and thin. She seemed ok, but I suspected she might snap.

  41. Craig says:

    The worst possible PR

    “If it’s yellow, let it mellow”


    If there is excrement, let it fester”

    What a diabolical irony that the idiots who came up with this idea then strive to associate it with the purity and health of the Green Movement

  42. David K. says:

    Not only do I save cold water from the hot water tap in a 5 gallon bucket for flushing, but I also save waste water from the laundry machine for flushing. I have allergies and blow my nose a lot but I save it in a small trashcan and toss it in the toilet. Tenants in my building are always tossing out dish detergent bottles not completely empty so I pour water in there, shake it up and leave the cap open for the bottles to pop and use it to clean the toilet often like once a day or every 2-3 days when I can.

  43. David K. says:

    I forgot to mention it’s tissue I throw in the toilet instead of the landfill. Also, if I have liquid or semi liquid food like soup or porridge that I have to throw out, it goes into the toilet.

  44. PJ says:

    YES we do as it makes over a $10 difference on our monthly water bill, still flushing as needed for odor, company or necessary (saves us minimum of $120 a year with also catching rain water for the small garden instead of watering but for rare instance we run out water all my veggie plants in the garden as that can jump our bill to $80+ a month from usual $49-55 depending on if short month or longer month as we always go just over minimum bill on long months in the Midwest and we never have a water shortage…just outside a college town, smaller town and they think water is worth the price of gold. I also only run the dishwasher once every two months to keep it in working order and we do an average of 2 loads of laundry a week….3 if the grandbaby has been by a lot that week. To save all summer, get back to hanging out the laundry as that alone outside the occasional it rained all weekend so in the dryer it goes, we also have the gas bill down to the minimum amount 4-6 months a year based on how soon winter hits even with long hot showers but rarely cook on the stove in the summer, it is all grilled, boiled, fried or smoked outside on the grills and fryers. Just those items reduced our bills by over $300 a year and did not increase other costs of propane or wood for grills or smoker as we have always grilled and smoked foods year round.

  45. Dave James says:

    Not flushing causes an inordinate amount of germs to generate in the bowl which will find their way into the air you breathe. Sorry, but I’d rather flush it down rather than barf it up at a later date after which I would have to flush the toilet anyway. But hey! That’s just me!

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  50. JoDa says:

    My flapper needs replaced. I know how to do it, and it’s a cheap repair, but, quite frankly, it’s tax season, my windows are being replaced next week (also a green upgrade), I just went through a solar installation, I’m working with a company to re-do my landscaping to be both more functional and greener…basically, the flapper on my toilet is a low priority. When I realized it was a problem, I knew the solution was simple…turn the toilet off at the valve unless you’re about to flush. It’s not hard to turn on and off, but it’s extra work and time, so I only flush my toilet 2x/day weekdays (after work and bedtime) and 3x/day weekends (late morning, evening, and bedtime) unless it’s “brown” (I flush that immediately).

    If your husband thinks its gross, another solution is installing a very-low usage toilet. My brother and SIL have one in their house that they replaced that only uses something like 1.1 gallons per flush. It looks like a normal toilet, but if you pull the tank cover off, it’s anything but! It has this “bin” that the water collects in, then dumps into the tank with force, so everything goes down well even while using less water.

    Also, if your pee smells strongly, in the absence of eating tons of things like asparagus or garlic, you need to drink a little, or maybe a lot, more water. With my toilet in the state it’s currently in, I don’t flush my morning pee for 6-10 hours, and it’s fine. But I go to bed with a 30 ounce glass of water on my bedside table and polish it off before I do my morning “business.”

  51. Lula says:

    We flush every 2nd or 3rd “yellow” and every “brown”, and it saves a little. I’ve never noticed it smell at that frequency. Nobody has mentioned that if you’re still using one of the older toilets, that use up to 7 gallons per flush, you could save up to 50,000 gallons/year. Living in the SW, I’m more concerned about the water than the money. Its surprising how easily people are grossed out. If you have never had to deal with water shortages, or any kind of harsh circumstances, consider yourself lucky and hope you never do, because obviously you won’t be able to handle it.

  52. Yttecarb says:

    My mom invited me to stay at her house with my younger sibling for a month. I realized very quickly that non of them wash there hands and rarely flush the toilet. It smells awful!!!! I can barely breath in the bathroom every time I go in there because there’s always pee festering in the toilet. It’s so beyond disturbing . The entire toilet bowl is stained a yellow color. I am so disturbed and I purposely flush the toilet before and after using the bathroom. I can not stand over someone else pee inhaling their pee while I pee on top of it. I also realize no on washes their hands here I been here for a week and I already started breaking out and I’m starting to feel sick. I have a sour throat and runny nose now. I am so disgusted of this practice 5$ is NOT worth it to live in these conditions. The smell is so freaking bad and I’m afraid to touch anything and the SMELLLLL even after you flush it smells. I never feel completely clean comping out of the shower and inhaling piss. I feel like my sinuses are congested and I feel dirty on the inside being in this place. And this is how she’s raising her children and I’m beyond desturbed!!! What should I do ? Should I do anything? It is my moms house I am only visiting. I just feel so incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t think they ever clean the toilet bowl. I am not exaggerating when I tell you it’s literally difficult to breath in the bathroom. And everyone’s ignoring it and never washing there hands everrrrr!!!!!!!! Any advice. There’s no way this can be ok behavior

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  54. Khlovia says:

    Well, of course the real solution is Composting Toilets For Everybody!

    If it’s yellow, let it mellow.
    If it’s brown, flush it down.
    And if you’d make your green-life bid
    Without odor, close the lid.

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