Five Common Household Items That May Put Your Septic System in Danger
Although there are plenty of other places to dispose of trash within the home, sometimes people simply choose to utilize their toilet or garbage disposal for items that don’t belong in these pieces of equipment – may put the septic system in danger. Sure, a toilet is designed to process and dispose of certain things – bodily waste, specific paper products the occasional spider wadded up inside of toilet paper, but there are items that some people flush that can do much more harm than good. This is also true for the garbage disposal, though the items that people put through this machine tend to be much safer for the system overall than the ones they throw into the toilet.
You may think that “if it flushes, it’s fine”, but this isn’t the case, even for things that may be marketed as safe to flush as a means of disposal. It’s important to think of your toilet and the connected septic system as a small-scale sewage treatment system that is localized to your home when you’re deciding whether or not to throw something into the toilet and press that lever – and this is true for many reasons.
What is a septic system?
As mentioned earlier, a septic system within the home acts as a waste disposal system that processes and eliminates wastewater from the home. This means that if you own a home that features and anaerobic or an aerobic septic system, you’re not relying on your city or town’s sewer system to carry water away and treat it.
Like all other systems and components of the home, a septic tank system has many moving parts and features, and in order to function optimally, it needs to be maintained properly. The goal of this system is use air and or movement along with natural bacterias to treat household sewage, turning it back into groundwater before it is safely – and completely – released into the environment. The best way to know whether or not this system is fully functional is to rely on the services of a septic tank inspector, who can (and will) provide you with a detailed septic tank inspection report after each visit.
Along with telling homeowners like you about the state of your septic system, this inspector will also be able to provide you tips about the things that can, cannot and should not be introduced to this septic system via a single, simple flush.
The more you know about the system and how it should function, the less likely you are to experience problems like braking, clogging or backups into the home… which will require costly repairs and mean a lot of time and aggravation for you. While there are many things that commonly get put into the septic system that can cause issues, some of the most common are things that people may not think twice about flushing – or putting through the garbage disposal.
Here’s a list of the top five things you should avoid introducing into your home’s septic system:
- Coffee grounds: While these won’t be flushed, coffee grounds often find their way into a garbage disposal, and then, in turn, into the septic tank. Their texture makes it very difficult for the bacteria to break them down, which can put your septic system in danger over time as they build up. One great comparison is to think of these grounds as gravel, even though they are much smaller. Over time, the amount of coffee grounds that do not break down will contribute to an increase in the amount of solids – or sludge – within the system, which can impede proper function.
- Strong disinfectants like bleach: Since a properly functional septic system relies on helpful bacteria to break down waste, putting these types of chemicals into the system in large amounts can be harmful. There’s nothing wrong with the weekly cleanings or introducing these chemicals via a toilet bowl insert in small amounts per flush, but excessive amounts are not recommended. As a “living system”, the bacteria amounts decreasing within the holding and treatment tanks can result in an increased amount of solid waste build up, which may lead to the need for more frequent visits from a septic services professional.
- Condoms, disposable diapers, “flushable” wipes and tampons: As an alternative to toilet paper, many people are using wipes designated as “flushable” when they use the bathroom, but these items aren’t as safe to flush as you may think. Rubber will not break down within the system, so flushing condoms may put a septic system in danger. The materials that are used to make disposable diapers and tampons may be deemed biodegradable, but that doesn’t mean that they are good for the system overall. While they will eventually break down within the system, it can take a long time to do so, meaning that these items remain for long periods of time, and can cause additional issues. One of these additional issues? It is easy for these large items to clog pipes, or to get stuck around the motor of a septic system, causing it to break. A septic motor is a high cost item, and typically will require upwards of $600 to fix. Is this risk worth it?
- Grease and oil from cooking: Though it may seem easy to simply dump these things down the sink when washing out pots and pans, they do much more harm than good. A septic system’s balance is delicate, and while there will be some oil and grease that cannot be avoided, an abundance of this entering the home’s septic system is sure to cause problems over time. The reason? These materials tend to thicken and congeal over time, making it harder to break them down. They may also get stuck to the sides of the pipes and walls of the septic tank, as well as the moving parts within it, which can lead to backups, blockages and overflow – or even a breakdown of the aerator or any other affected parts.
- Medications: Another thing that can – and will – kill the bacteria that needs to be present within a septic system when they are flushed is medications. This doesn’t just mean leftover pills; liquid medications shouldn’t ever be flushed, either. Many of these medications contain high concentrations of antibiotics, so when they are flushed down the toilet, these chemicals will harm the balance that is required within the tank. Another thing to consider? If there is an issue with your septic tank – like an undetected leak – these chemicals will be introduced into the environment, too.
There are options for the disposal of all of these products outside of the sink or toilet, and homeowners should consider using them. Though it may mean trash bags filling quickly, or the need for an empty jar to collect grease, in the long run, making these decisions will save you time, worry and likely a great deal of money, too. Keeping a septic system fully functional is not difficult or overly expensive – as long as you follow the recommendations of septic service professionals, but the moment you deviate from the plan, this may change. For people that have not been following recommendations and may have put things like this into their system? There are options. There are even septic-safe septic system treatment options available to those that need to reintroduce the good bacteria and eliminate some of the known issues, so don’t be afraid to ask what your options are.
For more information about caring for your home’s septic system, call Aeration Septic at (330)791-3226 to speak to a professional and schedule an in-home consultation.