Cleaning Products and Your Septic Tank

June 14, 2018

An Overview of Cleaning Products
For the most part, septic tanks can handle normal amounts of bleaches and household cleaning products. However, certain types of cleaners and large amounts of cleaners can wreak havoc on a septic system and the good bacteria within.
Septic systems are also not designed to protect the groundwater from the chemicals in cleaning products and the bacteria inside the septic tanks cannot survive if drowned in hazardous chemicals.

Bleach and Ammonia
In small quantities, bleach and ammonia shouldn’t be too harmful to your tank, however, large amounts of these chemicals will kill the helpful bacteria inside the tank that breaks down waste.

Don’t fret too much though, it takes a LOT of chemicals to do that kind of damage to your septic tank. Look at the label on your cleaner, and it should list how much of it would be detrimental to your tank. For instance, it takes about 2 gallons of bleach or 3 gallons of pine cleaner to kill most of the bacteria in a 1,000-gallon septic tank. From there, it would take about 30-60 hours for the bacteria to recover (or more, depending on the circumstances!).

You may be thinking, “I don’t use that much bleach at once!” That may be true, but imagine if you’re cleaning, and your kid chases your dog around the corner and knocks over the whole bottle of bleach, so you mop it up then wash the towels. Oops! That all went to the septic tank.

Drain Cleaners
Drain Cleaners are one of the most corrosive of the household cleaners – they have to be in order to cut through the grease and grime in the pipes! For the most part, these cleaners will dilute themselves before reaching the septic tank because of reactions to the build-up in the plumbing. However, be careful, even small quantities could be hazardous to the helpful bacteria in your tank.

Maximum Daily Dosage of Household Chemicals for a 1,000-gallon septic tank. *

Product Amount
Liquid Hypochlorite Bleach 1.3 gallons
Pine Cleaner 2.5 gallons
Crystal Drain Cleaner 0.65 gallons

Dishwashing Detergent
If you read last month’s article on Laundry and Septic Tanks, you may know that surfactants found in laundry detergent are bad for the soil. Well unfortunately, many dishwashing detergents also contain surfactants and phosphates. This means your drainfield soil is likely to get clogged if you use the wrong dishwasher detergents regularly.

Keep these things in minds, and always remember to have your septic system pumped regularly in order to keep your septic system properly balanced and healthy. Bishop-Thiem is here for you if you have any questions or need septic tank help!


*(These facts and figures are compliments of the Cornell University, College of Human Ecology Water Treatment Notes.)

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