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.

    vinegar-2
    Image Credit: Canva

    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. 

    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    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.


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    Lauren Greene

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    Lauren Greene is a passionate storyteller with over 4 years of experience writing and editing. She attributes her expertise from working at local magazines, newspapers, and corporate marketing and communications teams. She has worked on content with topics ranging from plant care, home decor, and home improvement. Lauren resides in Raleigh with her adorable Shih Tzu. You can catch Lauren attending to her plants, spending time with her puppy, enjoying the greenway, or lifting weights at the gym when she’s not writing or researching the latest home improvement topics.

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    Lee Ann Merrill

    Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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