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Your Septic System, Garbage Disposal, and You

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Septic system and garbage disposal

A question we are frequently asked by customers with septic systems is, “Can I have a garbage disposal?” Texas regulations do not prohibit the use of a garbage disposal with a septic system, but that does not mean caution should not be taken when using one.

A garbage disposal is not a trash can

Most people use their garbage disposal like they would a trash can, stuffing veggie peelings, leftover food, and grease down the system. But the matter going down the disposal has to go somewhere — and when your house has a septic system, it all ends up in the septic tank.

Some of the matter can be broken down by the bacteria in the septic tank, but both the broken-down matter and un-broken-down matter accumulate over time. When we pump out a tank that has heavy garbage disposal use, it is very obvious inside the tank; often there is literally a pile of food under the inlet pipe of the tank.

Along with causing extra pumpings, a septic tank full of leftovers can overthrow your system’s bacterial balance, making it less efficient in treating wastewater. Your septic system will not function at its peak.

Do not overuse your garbage disposal

If you currently have or plan to install a garbage disposal, our best advice is to pretend it is not there. Using your disposal daily can have adverse effects on your septic system, but occasional or infrequent use lessens that potential.

Little pieces of food washed off your plate are perfectly okay to go down the drain. But if you have a large amount leftover, scrape most of the food into the trash can and then rinse the smaller remains in the sink.

Do’s and don’ts for garbage disposals on septic systems

  • DO act like its not there.
  • DON’T use it like a trash can.
  • DO pump out your tank more frequently if the garbage disposal is used heavily.
  • DON’T stuff food, veggie peels, egg shells, etc. down the disposal.
  • DO consider starting a compost pile for peelings, spoiled food, etc.
  • DON’T pour grease or oils down the drain
  • DON’T use the garbage disposal to clean out your refrigerator


For 86+ years, Van Delden Wastewater Systems has withstood the test of time as the leading Wastewater System company, providing San Antonio, Boerne, and the surrounding Texas Hill Country with services you can count on now and in the future. 

Call us for any of your wastewater systems needs and let our professionals help you with your septic installation and maintenance requirements: 210.698.2000 (San Antonio) or 830.249.4000 (Boerne).

10 thoughts on “Your Septic System, Garbage Disposal, and You

    • There appear to be two selling points here: one is that it appears to be a higher grade garbage disposal and grinds better (they claim). That’s all good, but too much organic matter in the septic tank overloads the bacteria. The other is that it appears the garbage disposal puts additives down the drain with the food. In general, additives are not recommended for septic systems (per EPA, TCEQ, etc). So, they are adding something that most professional in the industry agree does not help the septic system anyway. My opinion is its safer to use the disposal minimally, and put most of the food and food waste into the trash can.

  1. Thank you so much the information was very interesting and very helpful. It also means that my husband was correct.

  2. My disposal is primarily used to grind up the small particles that get flushed over from my dishwasher. After a week or two, the sink water stops flowing through the disposer. We run it for about 10 seconds to clear it. Is that what you would call minimal use?

    • I would say that’s minimal use. Most garbage disposal users stuff anything and everything down it, and often.

  3. I add a monthly treatment to my tank. Would this help with the breakdown of the organic matter if I install a disposal?

    • Most septic tank “treatments” don’t do anything. You can have a garbage disposal, just don’t use it like a trash can. The more you use it, the more often the tank will need to be pumped and the more it will throw off the balance of bacteria in your system. There is no treatment that will magically offset the garbage disposal use. Some “treatments” do more harm than good. Just be careful with how much you use the disposal.

  4. I can tell by the smell, my dishwasher detergent has chlorine in it. When I move to a house with a septic tank, do I need to change detergent? How about chlorine in the clothes washer?

    • In general, it is recommended to not use chlorine in your household appliances when using a septic system. This could cause the good bacteria to die off, which will result in treatment issues with your system. If you do use it, its best to use it sparingly.

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