What you put in your septic system dramatically affects its ability to do its job. Your septic system contains living organisms that work to break down and treat waste. As a general rule, you should not dispose of anything in your septic system that can just as easily be put in the trash. This rule applies to both your bathrooms and your kitchen.
No wipe of any kind is septic safe, even flushable wipes. They can destroy a septic system in as few as three years of regular use. Heavy, multi-ply toilet paper accounts for 80% of backups; consequently, it is best to use single-ply or thin, 2-ply toilet paper.
- Use the right methods of disposal. Toilet paper and wastewater get flushed. Everything else should go in the trash can.
- Do not put paper towels, cigarette butts, sanitary and baby wipes, tampon applicators, condoms, disposable diapers, or anything plastic/non-biodegradable into your septic system. Be especially wary of wipes, as none of them are septic safe.
- Use household cleaners (bleach, toilet cleaner, etc.) only as the labels direct. Excessive use of these chemicals will harm your septic system.
- Be aware that unused medication should be disposed of at a pharmacy.
- Invest in water-saving toilets to reduce the amount of water used per flush. Water-saving toilets use 1.6 gallons of water per flush, as opposed to the 3-5 gallons per flush of a typical toilet.
- Additionally, invest in water-saving faucets and showerheads. These items are capable of reducing water usage by 50%.
- Have leaking toilets and faucets fixed as soon as you notice the problem. A toilet that continues to run after it is flushed can cost you 5-10 gallons of water per hour. Leaks can cost you as much as $240 per year. That’s a lot of money!
- Do not let the water run unnecessarily. Only turn it on if you are using it.
- Do not wash excessive amounts of food down the drain when rinsing your dishes. Always scrape coffee grounds, scraps, etc. into the trash can before rinsing.
- Never pour items such as paint, gasoline, insect or weed killer, etc. down the drain. These toxic chemicals can poison your septic system and, in some cases, hurt the neighboring water supply.
- Do not pour cooking grease (such as bacon grease) down the drain. It can thicken inside the drain and lead to clogging.
- Do not use chemical-based cleaning products when cleaning out your drain.
- Use your garbage disposal as it was intended. It is not a trash can! If an item can be placed in the garbage, always choose that over the sink. There are garbage disposals that are specifically designed for the septic system, such as the InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist ¾ HP Household Garbage Disposal. These disposals release enzymes each time you use them.
- Scrape dishes into the trash, rather than the sink.
- Use a drain catcher to prevent too many scraps from going down the drain.
- If you have a water softener, this should not affect your septic system, but check with your technician to make sure.
the laundry room
- When looking for a washing machine, keep an eye out for one with an EnergyStar symbol. Energy-efficient washers use 50% less water than regular washers.
- Utilize each load to its fullest. Try to avoid running several small loads of laundry; instead, run one full load. Running small loads unnecessarily is a waste of water.
- Spread your loads out. Try doing only a couple of loads per day multiple times a week, instead of having one big laundry day.
- Cool any hot water and drain on a landscaped area, rather than too near the septic tank or the drainfield.
- Do not use caustic drain openers and cleaners.
By educating yourself and your home about what can harm your septic system, you can resolve a lot of issues before they even begin. This saves quite a bit of money and annoyance in the long run, while simultaneously helping the environment and your family’s health.
how to maintain your septic system
If you want the maximum life for your septic system, follow these helpful tips.
- Enlist the help of an authorized professional to design a maintenance plan.
- Schedule an annual inspection of your septic system.
- Install an effluent filter to reduce the number of solids leaving the tank, consequently prolonging the life of your septic system.
- Have your septic cleaned by an experienced and licensed professional every 2 to 3 years, or as often as is appropriate for your system.
- Call a professional if you suspect that there are any problems with your system. It is far better to nip it in the bud than to pay the price later.
common septic questions
Here are some common questions septic owners ask.
What is bad for septic systems?
Do not put paper towels, sanitary and baby wipes, tampon applicators, condoms, disposable diapers, or anything plastic into your septic system. Be especially wary of wipes, as none of them are septic safe.
How do I keep my septic system healthy?
Bacteria like yeast and bacteria actively break down waste solids, so flush about ½ cup of instant dry baking yeast down the toilet, and then add ¼ cup of instant yeast every 4 months.
Can I use bleach if I have a septic tank?
When diluted by laundry water, bleach should not have an effect on your septic bacteria. However, you should never pour concentrated bleach or other harsh chemicals down the drain.