Household Cleaners and Septic tanks

Can Household Cleaners Effect Your Septic?

Your Septic System Is Your Responsibility!

Over the next couple of posts I will be getting experts in the fields that I have been blogging about. My desire is to offer informative information, that can be used. I will not get into full depth on how a septic system works, but I will share with you ways to keep it working efficiently and to understand what are failure causes.

What Does A Septic System Do?

Wastewater from homes is a by-product of most of the water-using processes carried on in the home. An average of 40 to 50 gallons of wastewater is produced per person per day. The purpose of on-site sewage systems is to dispose of these wastes and to treat the water so it will be safe when it reaches drinking water supplies or recreational waters. In fact, the largest part of the treatment of the wastewater actually takes place in the soil beneath the drain field.


A typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a drain field, and the soil. Microbes in the soil digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater.

Pipe from the home

All of your household wastewater exits your home through a pipe to the septic tank.

Septic tank

The septic tank is a buried watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drain field area.


The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drain field for further treatment by the soil. The partially treated wastewater is pushed along into the drain field for further treatment every time new wastewater enters the tank.


Septic tank wastewater flows to the drain field, were it percolates into the soil, which provides final treatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients. Suitable soil is necessary for successful wastewater treatment.

Protecting health and the environment

Safe treatment of sewage is preventing the spread of infection and disease and protecting water resources. Typical pollutants in household wastewater are nitrogen, phosphorus, and disease causing bacteria and viruses. If a septic system is working properly, it will effectively remove most of these pollutants.

With one-fourth of the U.S. homes using septic systems, more than 4 billion gallons of wastewater per day is dispersed below the ground’s surface.

Failure Causes (Household toxics)

Cleaning out paint rollers, solvents and a large volume of toxic cleaners should not enter your septic system. Even latex paint cleanup waste should be minimized. Squeeze all excess paint and stain from brushes and rollers on several layers of newspaper before rinsing. Leftover paints and wood stains should be taken to your local household hazardous waste collection center. Remember that your septic system contains a living collection of organisms that digest and treat waste.

Household Cleaners

For the most part, your septic system’s bacteria should recover quickly after small amounts of household cleaning products have entered the system. Some cleaning products are less toxic to your system than others. Labels can help you understand the potential toxicity of various products. The word “Danger” or “poison” on the label indicates that the product is highly hazardous. “Warning” tells you the product is moderately hazardous. ” Caution” means the product is slightly hazardous. (“Nontoxic” and “Septic Safe” are terms created by advertisers to sell products.) Regardless of the type of product, use it only in amounts shown on the label instructions and minimize the amount discharged into your septic system.

Does Bleach Hurt Your Septic Tank?

Bleach is put in all kinds of household cleaners. Drops to eliminate odors in the garbage disposal, detergent packs for the dishwasher, liquids for laundry. But what – if anything  does bleach do to your septic system?

* Expects typically recommend avoiding putting bleach through the plumbing system since it can damage the septic tank. The septic tank relies on bacterial microorganisms to maintain balance, as it breaks down the solids in the tank. Obviously, bleach kills bacteria – which is one of the reasons why people use it for household cleaning – and therefore can kill the helpful bacteria in the septic tank and upset the balance of the septic system. In addition to killing useful bacteria, bleach also is very corrosive and can cause serious damage to the pipes, septic lines and septic tank. Without bacteria, the solids will not break down and eventually the tank will become full and can lead to a septic system backup or complete failure.

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In 1986, I started my cleaning business. I put one ad in the local newspaper and, within one day, I had received over twenty calls. I have always been passionate about using safe natural cleaning products and finding useful ways of creating a sustainable environment. I do my part by using natural cleaning products to clean my clients' homes. But don’t take my word for it. Read my testimonials and then give me a call at 203-710-3188.