Things you should never put in your septic tank might not be the most glamorous topic, but it’s one that could save you thousands of dollars.
If ignored, this vital information can lead to costly repairs and serious environmental damage. The importance of maintaining your septic system is often overlooked until something goes wrong.
We’re here to help prevent expensive damage with a list of items that don’t belong in septic systems – saving your wallet and our environment at the same time.
Septic systems are all-in-one home waste treatment centers. Not only do they eliminate waste but they also recycle water and prevent pollutants from entering streams and rivers, which can otherwise harm aquatic life. This is thanks to the beneficial bacteria in the system that metabolizes the organic solid waste.
Like most things, however, they do need to be maintained regularly. This means using septic treatments to help supplement the natural bacteria in the tank, which will help maintain the system’s digestive functions. Not only that but it’ll also keep odors at bay and extend the amount of time needed between pumpings.
There are also things that you never want to put in your septic tank. They can kill off the beneficial bacteria and that can render the entire system infective. For example, these items can lead to clogs, overflows, groundwater contamination, and flooded drain fields.
What are some things that you should never put in a septic tank? What will they do to the system? Keep reading to find out!
10 Things That Should Never Go In A Septic System
Without further delay, here are things that you want to avoid putting in your septic system.
Never flush your leftover medications down the toilet. The drugs can easily kill and destroy the bacterial balance in the tank, which can cause the septic system to fail. Not only that but it can also contribute to “superbugs” – bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and that can pose a health risk to everyone.
What’s worse, is that the flushed medications can also contaminate the groundwater and in some cases, your own drinking water. In fact, it’s a widespread problem. In one study, scientists found trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs in the drinking water supplies of over 40 million U.S. households.
That’s not all, they can also contaminate the lakes and streams, which can hurt aquatic wildlife. In the same survey, pharmaceuticals were found in more than 80 percent of streams and rivers.
Instead of flushing your leftover medications down the toilet, take them back to your local pharmacy. Many have take-back programs that allow you to dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals.
2. Non-Septic Safe Toilet Paper
Make sure to use septic-safe toilet paper (it should say so on the packaging). Not only will they dissolve faster, which will help prevent clogs, but they also require less water to degrade. Most, if not all of them, are also free from harmful chemicals such as bleach, which can affect the bacterial balance in the septic system.
Recycled toilet paper is also safe as they’re made of shorter fibers, which disintegrate easily in water.
Other than toilet paper and human waste, nothing should ever be flushed down the toilet. This includes ‘flushable’ wipes, which despite their name, are a high clog risk as they can take more than 10 minutes to dissolve and break apart.
3. Certain Laundry Detergents
Laundry contributes a great deal of water, dirt, and chemicals to the septic system. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right type of laundry detergent – it will determine the type of chemicals that will enter the tank.
Ideally, you want to choose a detergent that’s low or free of phosphates and nitrates as they can promote algae and weeds in streams, rivers, lakes, and bonds. Similarly, you want to avoid those that contain chlorine bleach as it’s highly toxic and can destroy the bacterial balance in the system. Not to mention it can also damage the environment.
Some safer alternatives include white vinegar and oxygen-based bleaches.
4. Antibacterial Soap
Antibacterial hand soaps, as implied by their name, are specially formulated to kill bacteria. Seeing as how septic tanks rely on these germs to break down waste, it’s easy to see how they can have a huge impact on the system.
While the bacterial colonies can handle a small amount of antibacterial action, constant use can be damaging to the septic ecosystem. The same goes for antibacterial dish soap and floor cleaners. What’s worse is that they can also contribute to the development of “superbugs.”
Fortunately, you can prevent all that by using regular soap and water – ideally one that’s biodegradable and made of natural ingredients. Hand sanitizer is another alternative if you can’t get to a sink.
5. Drain Cleaners
Drain cleaners may be effective at eliminating clogs but they’re not the best for your septic tanks – and pipes.
For one thing, they contain solvent agents, which can alter the pH of the system. That, over time, can kill off the beneficial bacteria that are responsible for breaking down waste in the tank.
That’s not all, most drain cleaners also contain toxic substances such as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, sodium nitrate, sodium hypochlorite, and trichloroethane, all of which can cause harm to the bacteria living inside the tank.
A safer alternative is to use white vinegar and baking soda. Start by pouring some boiling water down the drain. From there, add half a cup of baking soda.
Let it sit for several minutes before adding half a cup of white vinegar. It’ll start to foam – that’s normal. Once it’s done foaming, flush the drain again with boiling water.
Note: Many drain cleaners are advertised as being ‘septic-safe’ when in fact, they can cause harm to the tank.
Oils can solidify and clog your drains once they go down the sink and over time, that can cause the system to back up. That’s why it’s so important to dispose of your grease and cooking oils properly – ideally, by throwing them in the garbage once they’ve solidified.
It’s also recommended that you wipe off as much oil as you can with a paper towel before washing your pots and pans.
The same goes for bath oils. While they’re good for your skin, they’re not that great for your septic system. Once they enter the tank, they’ll form a layer of scrum, which will prevent the beneficial bacteria from dissolving the waste. On top of all that, it can clog the drain field.
7. Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds should never go into the garbage disposal. For one thing, they won’t be able to break down properly in the septic tank, mainly due to their texture.
If they do go into the tank, they’ll contribute to the amount of sludge within the system, which over time, can cause septic dysfunction if it’s not pumped frequently.
Not only that but the grounds tend to be acidic and can throw off the tank’s pH, which can harm the bacterial colonies. The same goes for liquid coffee; avoid pouring it down the drain as the acidity can affect the pH balance of the system.
8. Auto Toilet Cleaners
Auto toilet cleaners might seem convenient in that they clean the bowl with every flush but did you know that they can wreak havoc on your septic system? For one thing, many of these products contain harmful chemicals such as bleach, phosphates, and surfactants.
Sure, they’ll kill the germs in the toilet bowl but they’ll also kill off the ‘good bacteria’ inside the tank.
Instead of using these automatic cleaners, consider cleaning the toilet bowl with natural ingredients instead. For example, you can use white vinegar and baking soda – it will clean the toilet bowl effectively without damaging the septic system in the process.
9. Cat Litter
Nowadays, there are many different types of kitty litter, including ones that are “flushable.” These are typically made from biodegradable materials such as shredded paper, corn, , wheat, and wood products.
For the litter not to clog, however, you’ll need to flush the toilet after each scoop – that’s what’s recommended by the manufacturers.
Most people, however, don’t do that. Rather, they try to flush it all in one go. The problem with that is that there’s not enough water with one flush to keep the litter moving. The dried poop can also harden and clog the pipes.
To make matters worse, it can introduce pollutants into the waterways, which can harm and kill native vegetation, fish, and wildlife populations. Not only that but it can also spread a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which can contaminate the water and soil.
10. Personal Hygiene Products
Feminine hygiene products, including pads and tampons, should never be flushed down the toilet – including those that are biodegradable in landfills. Unlike toilet paper, they’re not designed to break down quickly in water. For one thing, there are bits of plastic woven into the fabric.
Instead of dissolving in water, they will expand once they’re flushed and that can easily clog the pipes. In other words, you’ll end up with a backed-up toilet. Not only will it be messy but it can also be an expensive problem to fix.
Similarly, you want to avoid flushing diapers and wet wipes. Just like pads and tampons, they won’t break down in the system. If anything, they will only take up space in the tank, and over time, that can raise the liquid levels, which can lead to various issues.
Things to Never Put in a Septic Tank Conclusion
And there you have it – 10 things that you should never put in your septic tank! As you can see, various products can wreak havoc on your system from medications to personal hygiene products. Given that, you want to be mindful of what you’re flushing or putting down the drains.
Remember that non-biodegradable items like coffee grounds, cat litter, or paper towels can cause blockages and disrupt the bacterial balance needed for waste breakdown.
Avoid using household products such as drain cleaners and antibacterial soaps, which harm this delicate ecosystem. Instead, opt for septic-safe cleaning products.
Maintain your system by running full loads in dishwashers and washing machines to reduce water usage. Never pour grease down the sink, limit solids flushed into the system, and install effluent filters where necessary.
If you notice signs of trouble like slow drains or a lush lawn over the leach field, act fast! Get professional help immediately to avoid costly replacements or repairs.
Now that you’re equipped with knowledge on things you should never put in a septic tank, why not take your home care expertise a step further? We offer cleaning products for a wide range of household appliances and applications along with more guides to help with the do’s and don’ts of home maintenance.