Household septic tanks are vital for many properties, especially those in rural regions where municipal sewage systems are not available. That is why it’s important to ensure that septic systems work efficiently through regular maintenance and cleaning, reducing excessive flow into the tanks, and ensuring no harsh chemicals or harmful cleaning products end up in the system.
Chemicals, such as those present in cleaning products, can be detrimental to your household septic system, as they can destroy important bacteria that live in the septic tank. These bacteria decompose waste matter through the process of anaerobic digestion—it breaks down biodegradable waste in the absence of oxygen.
The bacteria are also necessary for killing pathogens in the effluent wastewater before it gets released to the septic drain field and eventually into the groundwater.
Too many chemicals in the septic tanks can thus disrupt the biodegradation process of solid waste and lead to many issues such as tank clogging and groundwater pollution.
Cleaning products you can use with a septic tank
It is quite natural for you to wonder which chemicals and cleaning products you can use around the house and not cause damage to your septic tank.
Fortunately, most household cleaning products can be used in homes with septic tanks. But it’s important to be moderate in your use.
Below is a list of products you can use in your home without worrying about your septic tank:
Household multipurpose cleaners
Generally, multipurpose cleaners are mild and can be used with septic tanks, but in moderation. Ensure that the cleaners are phosphate free and do not contain any harsh chemicals.
Safe laundry detergents
Avoid harsh, chemical-based detergents and used products that are phosphate free as phosphates can kill the good bacteria and enzymes that live in your tank.
Use products with low levels of surfactants or with natural biodegradable surfactants, such as coconut oil in coco betaine and sodium lauryl sulfate, which allows the laundry detergent to remove dirt as well as breakdown better in septic tanks.
When used in moderation, household bleach can be used with septic tanks and will not harm the bacteria in the system. However, extra strong bleach should be avoided.
You can also use household products containing ammonia if they are used in moderation and not used regularly. However, avoid any product with a high concentration of ammonia.
Liquid drain cleaners
Many liquid drain cleaners are safe to use with septic tanks once in a while. Check labels on commercially bought drain cleaners to see if they are safe for septic tanks before use.
These products are the safest to use with septic tanks as the chemicals are heavily diluted with water, which is the key ingredient. Check the label to see that water is the first ingredient.
Homemade cleaning products to use with your septic tank
Instead of commercial cleaning products, you can also use a variety of homemade cleaning products that are safe to use at home and also for your septic system.
You can quickly make these natural products from ingredients in your kitchen cupboard. Some products you can use are:
- Unblock a drain with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and white vinegar. Simple pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow with a cup of white vinegar, leave the mixture to foam for a few minutes and then pour boiling water down the drain. This will flush the drain and clear blockages.
- Clean toilets by sprinkling baking soda and letting it sit for 30 minutes. Add white vinegar and use a toilet brush to scrub.
- Clean baths, showers and sinks with baking soda and scrub with a damp sponge. Wash with warm water. You can also dilute white vinegar instead of water to remove stubborn stains.
- Add a cup of distilled white vinegar in your laundry for a natural deodoriser, whitener, brightener, and softener.
- Use ½ cup of borax mixed with water to disinfect surfaces and to act as a deodoriser.
- Scour pots and pans with baking soda on a sponge.
What household cleaning products to avoid
There are several household products you should avoid and prevent from entering your septic system:
- Crystal drain cleaners
- Foaming and solid drain cleaner
- Large amounts of disinfectants
- Oven cleaners
- Oily products like leather conditioners
- Solvents like paint thinners or nail polish remover
Look after your septic tank
Besides cleaning products, several other products should not enter your septic tank, such as petroleum-based products, paint and weed killers, lead-based paints, car maintenance products, non-flushable items and strong bleaches and disinfectants.
Now that you know what cleaning products to avoid and which ones to use in your home, you are better prepared to look after your septic system and keep it working properly.