If you have a septic tank on your property, you need to spend some time learning what types of items it can and can’t handle.
Many septic tank owners ask whether flushable wipes are septic-safe. And what about dishwasher detergent and toilet paper? Well, it depends on the type. While a well-maintained septic tank should last for decades, you can do an incredible amount of damage to the system if you’re not careful.
Check our guide on septic tank installation costs for more details on system durability. Continue reading to learn more about the four top items that are safe for your septic system.
1. Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
When cleaning your home, use extreme care with product selection if you rely on a septic system. Many commercial formulas contain harsh chemicals that can damage tanks. I recommend using only cleaning products marked as septic-safe.
Many commercial cleaning products won’t damage a septic tank, but some harsh chemicals might weaken pipes or erode gaskets. Dishwashers and laundry detergents often contain harsh chemicals, so avoid overusing them.
When you can’t find septic-safe cleaners, opt for eco-friendly products made of natural, non-corrosive ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and salt. Many retailers now carry eco-friendly laundry and dishwasher detergents specially formulated to be septic-safe. Carefully read labels and choose these over traditional formulas.
2. Softer Food Waste
During installation, contractors should advise you on which foods to keep out of a septic system.
While fats, coffee grounds, corn cobs, and eggshells need a disposal to break down, softer foods like yogurt, cooked vegetables, fruit pieces, and breads are fine. These items break down more easily.
The key is moderation. Occasionally adding soft foods poses little risk, but routinely dumping waste can overwhelm a healthy septic system. If unsure about a food, check tank manuals, which typically list approved and prohibited items.
3. Most Toilet Paper
Surprisingly, septic systems don’t need specialty toilet paper. However, biodegradable toilet paper avoids overfilling tanks too quickly. The paper fibers dissolve rapidly upon contact with internal chemicals, preventing clogs.
If opting for traditional brands, choose those labeled as septic safe. Most major companies now label septic-compatible options directly on packaging. Avoid luxury toilet paper with added lotions, fragrances, or oils that could disrupt tank operation and form clogs.
Ideally, toilet paper should dissolve into tiny pieces. As for flushable wipes, exercise caution. Unless labeled septic safe, traditional wipe fibers often resist breaking down, risking major blockages. When in doubt, place wipes in the garbage.
4. Most Beverages
Septic tanks contain chemicals that rapidly decompose sodas, coffee, milk, juices, and other drinks. The organic compounds in these beverages break down quickly. However, moderation is key. Repeatedly pouring down excessive quantities can overwhelm septic systems. Stick to typical household usage.
Additionally, avoid dumping liquids like cooking oils, grease, paints, or harsh chemicals into drains. Though small spills during cleanup are insignificant, these substances resist decomposition and could coat septic components.
So, Is Your Home Ready for a Septic System?
For rural properties without municipal sewer access, septic tanks present the best drainage and sewage solution. Get quotes from qualified local contractors and learn precisely how these systems operate. With attentive maintenance, septic tanks and drainfields can effectively filter household wastewater for 20 years or more.
Stick to the tips we’ve outlined here to keep your septic system functional into the future. Carefully watch what goes down your drains and what you flush, choose septic-safe products when possible, and get professional system inspections every three years.
Read more about seven common types of plumbing pipes used in homes.
FAQs About Septic Systems
How often should a septic tank be pumped?
Typically, pump septic tanks every three to five years based on usage and the number of home occupants. Larger households using more water may require more frequent pumping. Watch for indicators such as pooling effluents, foul smells, or languid drains that signal a need for service.
Can I use bleach in my septic system?
Avoid bleach and harsh disinfectants, which could eliminate beneficial bacteria and disrupt biological processes inside tanks. Instead, opt for safer alternatives like hydrogen peroxide or vinegar.
Can I install a garbage disposal if I have a septic tank?
Yes, but use caution regarding food waste. Fats and greasy solids could accumulate, so restrict disposal to soft foods only. Additionally, pump tanks routinely.