Whether you're a new homeowner or an experienced one, you probably know that you shouldn't flush certain items down the drain, whether you rely on a septic system or have a connection to the city sewer. But if you do rely on a septic tank, you need to be especially careful. A septic system can be much more sensitive, and some items can damage the system more than you might realize.
In fact, in some cases it's not enough to just look for products that say "septic safe." This is partly because manufacturers might have a different idea of what's safe for your septic than the contractors who have to clean and repair the system when things go wrong.
Here are three items to choose extra carefully because they may not always be septic safe, even if they claim to be flushable.
In a perfect world, using a flushable wipe every now and again wouldn't hurt your plumbing and septic system. But unfortunately, many drains have twists and turns, rough spots on their interiors, tree roots poking in somewhere, or partially formed clogs somewhere along their length.
Any of these issues can catch and hold a personal wipe in place, and because these wipes don't fall apart when wet, this impedes the progress of water down your drain. One tricky spot can be where the inlet pipe enters your septic tank. If the pipe is poorly installed, even a wad of toilet paper can block this spot, and personal wipes often have even more blocking power.
2. Cat Litter
Cat litter should never go in your toilet or drains for any reason. Of course, any litter that contains clay is potentially damaging to not only your septic tank but also your toilet, drains, and any other part of your plumbing system that it touches.
But even alternative varieties of cat litter may not be septic- and plumbing-friendly. For one thing, cat waste tends to be more solid than human waste, so flushing it is more likely to cause a clog somewhere along the line.
Cat waste may also contain pathogens your septic system isn't qualified to neutralize. For example, you can get Toxoplasmosis from contact with cat waste if your cat is infected. If you put that cat waste down the toilet, it could contaminate the environment around the septic system, which could mean someone else gets Toxoplasmosis later.
Alternative "flushable" cat litters aren't widely used and studied either, so there's less data on whether or not they'll cause problems inside your septic tank. Many are made of organic materials such as wood shavings. But even if these materials do play nice, they'll still contribute to filling the tank up faster, meaning you'll need to pay for tank pumping sooner.
3. Toilet Paper
All toilet paper is, by definition, supposed to be flushable. And fortunately, most toilet paper won't actually cause clogs unless used in large amounts and in tight wads. But that doesn't mean all toilet paper is equally safe for your septic system; some types are more likely to cause harm than others.
Avoid toilet paper products that have lotion added or that are formulated for extra fluffiness. These kinds may behave differently inside the tank, such as floating instead of settling. Instead, go for high absorbency toilet paper or a product that's designed to dissolve quickly, like an RV type toilet paper. The faster the paper dissolves, the less potential it has to form a clog.
Some toilet paper products also claim to be septic safe. You can test for the requisite quick-dissolving ability by placing a few squares of your chosen product in a jar of clean water and swishing it around for a few seconds.
You should take special care when shopping for and disposing of these three products so you can give your septic system a longer, healthier life. Professional maintenance is another great way to care for your system, so be sure to get in touch with Acme Plumbing & Drain Service when your septic system is due for a checkup or pumping service.