Are Some Laundry Products Bad for Septic Systems?

April 23, 2020 11:11 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Getting rid of liquid waste is as easy as letting it go down a sink or bathtub drain or toilet. Toss a load of laundry in the washing machine and the wastewater flushes out through the pipes into the septic tank. These are easy disposal methods, but if you have a septic tank, you must know what you can and cannot safely discard down household drains. Because the tank relies on bacteria to break down waste, you have to avoid flushing anything that can damage much-needed microscopic organisms. If these organisms can’t do their job, the tank can clog and overflow.

It’s important to schedule regular septic system maintenance in Strafford County, NH to prevent costly issues. You must also refrain from using laundry products that are bad for septic systems. Here’s what you need to know.

The type of septic system dictates the detergent you can use

You may not know that the type of detergents you can use in your washing machine depend on your septic system. For traditional gravity-powered septic systems, the experts recommend using a liquid laundry detergent. If you have an aerated septic system, then a powdered detergent is best, as it limits the foam in the aeration chamber. Avoid purchasing cheap powdered detergents, most of which tend to contain fillers that lead to clogs in septic tanks. No matter the type of product you choose, make sure the packaging features a “septic safe” label.

Laundry detergent, bleach and surfactants

Laundry detergent is not the same thing as the soap we use for washing dishes or hands. Unfortunately, the majority of laundry detergents contain harmful environmental contaminants like surfactants and phosphates. When buying detergent for septic use, look for those containing low levels of surfactants (which disperse hard-to-dissolve dirt). Keep in mind that surfactants can contaminate ground and surface water if your septic system doesn’t process them properly. They can seep into your drain field, contaminate your drinking water and harm wildlife. Bleach is a powerful, effective clothes-cleaning product that can be okay to use with septic systems in small amounts. Too much bleach, however, can kill good bacteria in the septic tank.

Fabric softener and septic systems

Some people use fabric softener for each load of laundry. If you do, chances are you’re disrupting the balance of bacteria in your septic tank. You may not know that many fabric softeners are oil-based—the oil provides a thin layer of chemicals that helps make clothes feel softer. In addition, the most common chemicals in fabric softener are quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats,” which have antibacterial qualities. They actually kill the good bacteria in your septic tank. Other potentially harmful ingredients found in many popular fabric softener brands include acids, colors, fragrances, emulsion stabilizers and silicon-based anti-foaming agents.

Whether your septic tank is due for pumping or cleaning, you can trust B.H. Cameron Septic Services LLC in Strafford County, NH for all your septic system maintenance needs. Call us today to schedule an appointment or learn more.

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