Could My Choice of Household Cleaners Damage My Septic Tank?

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woman holding cleansers

If you’re a homeowner whose wastewater empties into a septic tank, you know how important it is to use caution when choosing toilet paper and bowl cleaners. Some products simply aren’t safe for septic tanks. They can contribute to stubborn clogs that are expensive to fix and to more frequent maintenance than should be required.

But it’s not just your toilet that empties into your septic tank. Your bathtubs, sinks, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and outdoor drains do, too. If you’re putting harsh chemicals down these pipes, you could be unthinkingly causing problems for yourself in the future. Which products are safe for septic tanks and which ones aren’t? To understand this better, it’s helpful to know exactly what your septic tank does and how it operates. Here’s what you need to know as a septic-tank owner in San Antonio.

Aerobic Treatment System or Traditional Septic Tank?

While traditional septic systems are more prevalent, both traditional septic tanks and aerobic treatment systems are used in the San Antonio area. It’s helpful to know which type your home uses:

Aerobic Treatment Systems

Aerobic systems use aerobic bacteria to break down solid waste. Aerobic bacteria are introduced by the injection of oxygen into the tank. This type of system is newer and more expensive than a traditional septic system, but it can treat household wastewater more effectively in certain situations. 

Aerobic treatment systems are often needed in areas where there is not proper soil for an absorptive type system or if there are challenges with the lot size. Electric pumps are used to move the oxygen throughout the tank. However, they pull about as much electricity as an extra light bulb in the house so you won’t notice much change in your electric bill. Aerobic systems are more technologically advanced and require more maintenance than a simple septic tank, also.

There are many products that can damage your aerobic treatment system, including common household chemicals such as:

  • Bleach
  • Fabric Softener
  • Paint Thinner
  • Drain Cleaner
  • Toilet Tank Tablets

Other things can damage your aerobic system as well, including the introduction of grease or oil, overusing your garbage disposal, and pouring unused medicines down the drain or flushing pills down the toilet. All of these things can upset the balance of your treatment system and make costly repairs necessary.

Septic Tank System

A traditional septic system accepts wastewater from your home into a buried receptacle called a septic tank. Inside the tank, the solids settle at the bottom while oil and grease float to the top. The remaining effluent, or wastewater, then discharges into the leaching field where the soil naturally disinfects it.

A traditional septic tank uses no electric pumps to aerate the tank, rather anaerobic bacteria grow inside the tank and break down the solid matter in the wastewater before it exits the tank to the drain field. Anaerobic bacteria are bacteria that can grow and thrive without oxygen.

It’s surprising how many chemicals are harmful to your septic system. These include:

  • Bath and Body Oils
  • Laundry Detergents Containing Phosphorus
  • Disinfectants
  • Bleach
  • Drain Cleaners
  • Pharmaceuticals

Many of these destroy the anaerobic bacteria your tank needs to break down waste solids. Never pour other chemicals, such as motor oil or antifreeze, into the system.

If you haven’t always kept the health of your wastewater treatment system at the forefront of your mind, it’s time to become more aware. And if your system needs to be maintained, call Van Delden Wastewater Systems for help. Since 1937, the Van Delden family has serviced San Antonio and its surrounding areas, providing quality customer service and leaving behind a long line of satisfied customers.

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


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