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Septic systems are widely used, especially in rural areas with no connection to public sewage systems. Many homeowners also install them because they are environmentally friendly and use natural processes to eliminate organic waste. But for these processes to stay undisrupted, septic tank owners need to comply with specific regulations and recommendations.
Everything that goes down your drain eventually enters the septic system, the tank, and the surrounding soil, including substances from the toilet drains, showers, washing machines, drying machines and sinks.
Each cleaning product you use in your house can affect your septic system, so it’s essential to know which ones to avoid and which ones are safe to use.
Why can’t you use all cleaning products with a septic tank?
Septic systems are not connected to any centralized sewage piping. Instead, they use septic tanks and drain fields to treat the wastewater entering the system from the house. The waste undergoes a treatment process involving bacteria in the septic tank and soil filtering in the drain field.
Given the natural processes in your septic system, it’s logical that some types of chemicals can disrupt them and cause harm to the surrounding environment. Often you can find these chemicals in everyday cleaning products we use around the house to maintain good hygiene and disinfection.
The importance of pH in septic systems
More specifically, the proper function and treatment of a septic system are directly related to the pH (hydrogen ion concentration) in the water. Optimal pH levels for septic systems are between 6.5 and 7.5. An environment below a pH of 7 is considered acidic, while an environment above a pH of 7 is considered alkaline.
Since the ideal environment for a septic tank depends on the balance between acid and alkaline, homeowners need to try not to alter those levels. However, most domestic cleaning products contain chemical compounds that alter the environment and make it more alkaline.
This leads to the development of fungi instead of the thriving of bacteria. Thus, cleaning product overuse in properties with septic systems is unfavorable and not recommended.
What products to avoid if I use a septic tank?
As a general rule of the thumb, substances that are harmful to humans are most likely to harm the bacteria in your septic system too.
When considering products you should prevent from entering your septic system, it’s good to think about all possibilities, including cleaning products, cosmetics and everything else you can flush or let down the drain.
Grease and oils
Septic system maintenance guidelines highlight the importance of preventing grease or oils from entering the drains and septic tanks. They are pontentially dangerous for several reasons, including drain field pipe clogging and solidifying inside the septic tank, making it impossible to break down and filter.
We can point out several products that fall under this category of grease and oils :
- Essential oils
- Cooking oils
- Leftover grease (from bacon or frying)
- Bath oils
Paint and paint thinners
Paint, paint thinners and brush-cleaning liquids contain dangerous chemicals that are harmful to bacteria inside the tank but also the surrounding soil. Flushing these substances into your septic system is a potential environmental hazard.
A good alternative is to wash your brushes away from drains, for example, in a bucket with water. You can use sand or kitty litter to solidify the liquid and throw it away in a designated place.
Chemical drain cleaners
If you’re complying with all recommendations regarding the exploitation of a septic system, it’s hardly possible for your drains to clog in the first place. However, if it does happen, try to refrain from chemical drain cleaners as they’re incredibly harmful to your septic system.
We understand that clogged drains are frustrating, and you want to deal with them as quickly as possible, but consider that such household cleaners will cause further damage and more problems. Instead, use plungers, natural products and boiling water or call an expert.
Antibacterial products, disinfectants and bleach
As the name suggests, antibacterial products are harmful to bacteria critical to the proper functioning of the septic system. Indeed, together with disinfectants and bleach, they are products to avoid using in your household.
Although they might seem like a great way to maintain good hygiene, they are not necessary for residential properties. Plus, letting these products enter your groundwater sources contaminates the environment and the drinking water.
Other products to avoid
They include :
- Cat litter
- Sanitary products
- Wet wipes
- Cotton buds
- Food chunks
- Water softeners
- Photographic chemicals
What products are safe to use with a septic system?
As you probably already know, most septic safe cleaners are chemically free. However, it’s not always easy to find a good cleaning solution for rooms and places that require high levels of hygiene, such as the bathroom.
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Are chemicals completely forbidden for use?
While it’s not completely forbidden to use chemical cleaning products for cleaning a house with a septic system, it’s highly recommended that you bring their usage to an absolute minimum. Cleaning your bathroom with bleach every day is certainly not something you want to do if you rely on a septic tank.
What to consider when choosing a good cleaning solution?
There are two things to remember when selecting cleaning products if you use a septic system: the bacteria inside the tank and the surrounding environment.
It’s best to refrain from using any product or substance you believe can harm any of those two things. Consider that everything that goes down the drain will eventually end up in your surroundings and affect the living creatures too.
Another thing to consider is researching septic-safe cleaning products approved by third-party evaluators. It’s best if the product has an acquired certification from Ecocert or The Environmental Working group. Such certifications verify that the substances inside the product won’t hurt the environment and can be safely used in residential properties using septic systems.
Choose natural ingredients
Choosing natural ingredients for cleaning your house is a safe option when it comes to the proper functioning of your septic system. Since the system is based on biological processes, it’s only logical that natural cleaning solutions are the best choice for preserving the environment and waste treatment.
It’s best to choose products that have one or more of the following qualities :
- Environmentally (eco) friendly
- Without bleach
- With a minimum amount of ammonia
Remember, it’s crucial that you don’t mix bleach with ammonia and let the combination in your septic tank. Overall, avoid mixing any kinds of chemicals for cleaning the household. The good news is that more people and companies worldwide are concerned about the environment and its preservation.
Today, you can find various eco-friendly, certified products in supermarkets or online platforms that will leave your house spotless, preserve your surroundings and will not damage your septic system. However, suppose you do wish to use some natural ingredients easily found around every household.
In that case, you’re in luck because the following products also do a fantastic job when it comes to cleaning without breaking the bank :
- White vinegar
- Apple vinegar
- Baking soda
- Lemon juice
- Boiling water