Detergents, Cleaners and Garbage in Septics

By Ken Olson

Many materials generated in daily living enter the wastewater system for disposal and treatment. Some are obvious and others much less obvious. The following are choices you can make to improve the performance of your septic system and protect your investment.

When washing clothes or dishes, use the minimum amount of soap, detergent or bleach necessary to get the job done. Also use liquid detergents and soaps. If liquid detergents are undesirable, use highly biodegradable powdered detergents.

Reuse laundry wash water with a suds-saver device on the automatic washer. The second load of clothes requires only a fraction of the soap and reuses the water.

Consider a front loading or low water use washer when purchasing a new washer.

Minimize the amount of hair, grease and food materials that go down your drains.

Use minimal amounts of mild cleaners and only use as often as needed.

Do not use "every flush" toilet bowl disinfectants. Reduce toilet bowl cleaner use by doing more scrubbing.

Garbage disposals shouldn't be used with septic systems. Vegetable, meat, fat, oil, and other food products add large amounts of sludge. A result is more frequent tank cleaning. These materials are difficult for bacteria in the septic tank to break down.

Hazardous waste products should not be disposed of in a septic system. This includes even small amounts of latex paint rinsed off rollers or brushes. Dispose of all solvents, paints and chemicals through local recycling and hazardous waste channels. Consult local solid waste officials for proper methods. These materials kill valuable bacteria in the system.

Unwanted medications should not be flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain. They will kill beneficial bacteria in the septic tank and drainfield.

Do not flush facial tissue, paper towels, cigarette butts, disposable diapers or personal hygiene products.

For more information contact your local Extension office.