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Is Your Soap Damaging Your Septic System?

Is Your Soap Damaging Your Septic SystemAlthough you may not realize it, your septic system works hard for you every day treating all the wastewater coming from your home. Every flush of the toilet, water flowing down the drain after a shower, or a load of laundry is treated by the hard-working microbes in your septic system. Septic tanks require a delicate balance of bacteria and enzymes to break down waste. In return, the bacterial action in the septic tank needs some regular care and maintenance to keep it healthy and in working order. However, you may be disrupting that delicate process by using harsh dishwashing detergents or laundry soaps.

The first way to care for your septic system is to pay close attention to the ingredients contained in the products that you send down the drains. Many products contain ingredients that are harmful to your septic system by encouraging algae growth, killing the good bacteria, and shortening the tank’s useful life.

Powder Or Liquid?

Septic systems, just like pipes, can become clogged. Powdered detergents, particularly when used in large quantities, can clog your septic system and, in severe cases, block drains the same way sludge and debris can clog the water pipes in your home. Regardless of the brand, powder laundry detergents typically contain additives such as sodium as well as fillers that don’t break down fully during the laundry process. When these materials enter your drain pipes and septic tank, they can settle to the sides and build up over time. Eventually, you will have a clog that requires professional removal. However, liquid detergents have far fewer supplemental and filler ingredients than dry detergents. Liquid laundry detergents will dissolve completely. If you take the time to read labels carefully, you will find some products are available that do not disturb the enzyme balance of your drain field.

Be Gentle With Your Septic Tank

Antibacterial soap is made to kill bacteria. While this may be great for cleaning, it is terrible for your septic system. By its very nature, antibacterial soaps also kill the bacteria inside your septic tank. However, inside your septic tank, bacteria is essential to breaking down the solid waste, and bacteria in your system’s drain field destroy harmful pathogens. While a single use of antibacterial soap has little to no effect, using antibacterial products on a regular basis in your home can harm the bacteria living in your septic tank and will seriously affect their performance.


Phosphorous is a common ingredient used in all types of detergents because it helps to clean and remove grime at the same time. Flushing phosphates into your septic tank can kill bacteria and enzymes that reside in your tank and are used to decompose waste. Phosphates can filter through your septic drain field, eventually, enter the surrounding soil, and transfer into nearby waterways, killing fish, plants, and other wildlife and even causing algae blooms. Detergent manufacturers do not usually list how much phosphate is in their product. If you read labels, you may find products that list they are free of phosphates.

Quality Over Quantity

By design, household cleaners are harsh and dangerous. They are intended to break down grease and dirt and kill germs. The more powerful and toxic the cleanser, the more harmful it can be to your septic system. Everything from toilet bowl cleaners and sink or bathtub sprays to hand soaps can contribute to the destruction of good bacteria in the septic tank. However, trying to find septic-safe products is not an easy task and can be confusing.

Using septic tank-friendly chemicals can prevent expensive repairs and avoid serious health problems. Most all-natural cleaners are septic safe. One of the best ways to ensure you are using septic-safe laundry soap and dishwashing liquids is to reference the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Safer Choice products. Non-chlorine, non-ammonia, non-antibacterial, non-toxic, and biodegradable cleaning products may not only be better for some members of your family as well as the environment, but they will also reduce the cleaning agents that enter the septic system. Keeping your septic tank healthy can extend its useful life saving you time, money, and headaches. Learn more about proper septic tank care here.

The team of experienced and trained professionals at FloHawks has been maintaining septic systems for more than 50 years. We recommend the use of liquid detergent over powder detergent options. To keep your septic tank happy and healthy, FloHawks recommends limiting the use of antibacterial cleaners in your home because bacteria serve a very important role in your septic system. We recommend you use the least toxic household cleansers possible and that you avoid products containing phosphates as well. Call FloHawks today to schedule your septic system maintenance or use our online scheduler.

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