Keep Your Septic System Healthy by Keeping These 5 Items Out of It

It is estimated that many American families use over 300 gallons of water a day in their homes, but do you know what happens to the wastewater after it leaves your home?  Many people take it for granted that anything you put down the drain just disappears, but if you have a septic system, then it all ends up in your septic tank.  

What not to put in your septic tank

Where does this waste water come from?

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Sinks
  • Dishwashers
  • Washing machines 

It’s important to understand how your septic system works and why sending solids and chemicals down the drain can impact it. This impact may lead to the need for frequent septic tank services… which no one wants. 

Bacteria are necessary in a septic system

One advantage of a septic system is that unlike a municipal water treatment plant, it does not use harsh chemicals that can affect the environment to treat wastewater.  Instead, a septic system relies on naturally occurring bacteria and other microbes to treat and clean water before it becomes groundwater and goes back into nature. 

This treatment can be very effective, but you need to be aware that some solids are more difficult than others for the bacteria to break down. Some chemicals can evem impact the delicate balance in your septic tank, leading to the need for septic tank treatments in order to restore balance.  

A few things that should never be introduced into your septic system include:

  • Strong disinfectants like bleach: These are harmful to bacteria,  and putting these types of chemicals into the system in large amounts can hurt the good bacteria in the system.  Consider looking for natural cleaners to use around your house and talking to your septic tank service providers about other safe cleaning products that are available to use.

Household cleaners in septic tanks

  • Coffee grounds: Coffee grounds often find their way into a garbage disposal and then into the septic tank.  These will not dissolve in the tank and can be very difficult for bacteria to break down.  This may make solids build up quickly, meaning that your tank will need maintenance more often. These can also cause functional issues, too.
  • Grease and cooking oil:  Even though it might seem easy to dump these down the drain when washing the dishes, they can do a lot of harm to the septic system. The balance of this system is delicate, and while there will always be some oil and grease that go down the sink’s drain, an abundance of this in the home’s septic system will almost definitely cause problems.  

Why?  These materials thicken over time, making it harder for the present bacteria to break them down thoroughly. 

They may also get stuck within the pipes and walls of the septic tank, as well as on the moving parts within it. This build up can cause backups, blockages or overflow. 

Another danger? Oil and grease may keep the moving parts within the system from operating smoothly. 

  • Condoms, disposable diapers, “flushable” wipes or tampons: Instead of toilet paper, people have started using wipes designated as “flushable” when they use the bathroom, but these items can be harmful to your septic tank, even in small amounts.  

Rubber does not break down within the system, so flushing condoms is dangerous for the system. Even though disposable diapers and tampons are marked “biodegradable,” this doesn’t make them a good item to flush. 

Yes, they do eventually break down within the tanks, but it can take a long time to do so - so these items remain present for long periods of time, and can cause other issues. 

Two of these additional potential issues? These items, which are large and solid, can clog the pipes or even get wrapped around the septic system’s motor. This may lead to a broken part or the need for septic tank treatment. 

At a cost of upwards of $5,000, is this expense worth it, or should you just be more careful not to flush these items?  

  • Medications: Another commonly introduced item that will kill the bacteria within the septic system when they are flushed is medications.  Leftover pills and liquid medications shouldn’t be flushed, because these medications may contain high doses of antibiotics. When they are flushed down the sink or toilet, these can set the necessary bacterial presence within the tank off balance. 

Medications in septic tank

Most of these items can be safely disposed of in household trash, but for things that cannot be immediately thrown away, there are other options, too

  • Grease and cooking oil: let it cool and dump it into a container with a lid that is going into the garbage anyway.  
  • Medication: some people recommend mixing it with something like dirt, coffee grounds or kitty litter to make it less appealing to pets or anyone who may come across it.  For prescription medication, you will want to scratch out your personal information on the bottle before throwing it away, or look for police or hospital sponsored medication drop off initiatives.

Other septic tank treatment types to keep the system working properly

Keeping these five items out of your septic tank are just a few simple ways to keep the system working properly for a long time.  Other ways to keep your septic system healthy include:

  • Have your tank cleaned regularly:  Even with bacteria doing their best to break down solids, they will build up eventually.  Most providers of septic tank services recommend that you have your septic system pumped every few years to remove these solids and to assess overall condition. 

Letting them build up too much can lead to back-ups and sludge entering the drain field.  Exactly how often you should have this septic tank treatment will depend on the size of your tank and how many people are using it on a daily basis.  Visit Septic Tank Treatments to learn more about septic tank maintenance and the products that are useful for keeping it running properly.

  • Know where your septic system is located:  Driving, parking, or building over any of the components of your septic system can damage them with added weight.  Knowing where they are located means that you can more easily avoid them. 
  • Use water efficiently:  Less water going through the system means less overall stress on your septic system and a smaller chance that you will need frequent septic tank treatments.  Use high efficiency appliances and have leaky toilets and faucets repaired the moment you notice an issue.

This is a lot of information to take in, but luckily for homeowners like you, there are professionals that can help to answer additional questions as well as recommend products and services.  If you have any questions please chat us and we'll be happy to help.

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