Is Your Disinfectant Harming Your Septic System?

Person washing hands. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling serving Portland OR & Vancouver WA talks about if disinfectants are harming your septic systemWith the current health concerns related to COVID-19, you may be doing a ton of hand-washing and disinfecting. Goodbye manicure, hello dry, cracked hands, am I right?!

Besides making your hands look like Death Valley, did you know disinfectant can actually harm your septic system? It’s true.

Your septic system relies on bacteria to help break down waste. In fact, bacteria is responsible for breaking down 95% of the waste that goes into your septic tank! Amazing right?

If these organisms are killed off, you may suffer clogs, backups, and drainfield malfunctions (aka sewage in your yard)—yuck!

We want you to be safe, but we also don’t want you to experience any costly septic system issues. Especially during the current pandemic. That’s why we want to help educate you on the chemicals and cleaning products you should and shouldn’t put down your drains.

Flushing Wipes

Flushing wipes down the toilet seems quick and easy, but don’t do it! Sanitizing wipes can kill off beneficial bacteria and present a clogging issue further down the road. Even baby wipes that say “plumber recommended” or “flushable” aren’t made to break down like regular toilet paper, and can clog up your system.

Laundry Sanitizers

Laundry sanitizers are a hot trend right now. These commercial products come with and without bleach, and can claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria.

But bleach and petroleum-based chemicals can wreak havoc on a septic system!

You can actually sanitize your laundry without buying extra products using just hot water. Hot water eliminates 99.9% of bacteria that’s most commonly found in clothing, towels, sheets, and other fabric. Wash your clothing in an extra-hot wash cycle or “sanitize cycle” if your unit has this setting.

*Keep in mind, these cycles and sanitizing products are harsh on your fabrics, so only use them if absolutely necessary.

Household Cleaning Products to Avoid

In addition to chlorine bleach and petroleum-based cleaning products, you’ll also want to avoid ammonium quaternary compounds (QUATs). QUATs are found in various products from shampoos and toilet cleaners, to hand soap and baby care products. It’s a list as long as the Columbia River!

The EPA has registered QUATs as pesticides, so you’ll often find them listed as active ingredients on products. They’ll typically say, “antibacterial” or list the actual active ingredients which can be: Didecyldimethylammonium chloride, Ammonium chloride, Tetraethylammonium bromide, or more (there are over a dozen QUATs).

While QUATs do kill viruses and bacteria, they can also irritate your lungs and skin and harm your septic system when used in large quantities.

Safe Cleaning Products

Whether you’re sanitizing your toilets or your floor, there are various cleaning products out there that are safer alternatives. Opt for “green” cleaners that are EPA Safer Choice designated or make your own using baking soda, lemon juice, or distilled white vinegar.

Septic systems are a part of plumbing most people don’t think about until something goes wrong. And when something does go wrong, it’s usually nasty and expensive!

If you want more tips on how to properly care for your septic system, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Let our family help your family!

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