A women doing laundry

How do you select your laundry detergent? If you’re like most people, you buy the one with the most refreshing scent, preferably if it’s on sale. However, if you have a septic tank, you must also make your selection based on what’s best for your plumbing.

Septic systems must maintain a delicate balance of bacteria and enzymes to break down solid waste and prevent the tank from filling up too quickly. Pouring high quantities of harsh detergent down the drain can disrupt this balance or clog the septic system. Of course, you still need your clothes to come clean, so use this guide to help you strike the right balance between cleaning power and gentleness.

Pick the Right Style of Laundry Detergent

Detergent comes in three primary forms:

  • Liquid detergent is the best option for septic systems. It can also be used effectively in nearly any water condition.
  • Laundry pods are the epitome of convenience. Simply pop one into the washer—no pouring or measuring required. Pods are safe for septic tanks, but exercise caution if you have children and expect a higher price.
  • Powdered detergent tends to clog septic systems because it doesn’t always dissolve completely in the washer. Over time, this buildup can lead to plumbing blockages.

Avoid Toxic Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Watch out for these ingredients that can harm the beneficial bacteria in your septic tank:

  • Antibacterial products, including bleach, ammonia, and chlorine, kill germs on clothes. While effective for sanitization, you should avoid antibacterial products if you have a septic system.
  • Phosphorous helps clean and remove grime from clothing, so it’s a common ingredient found in laundry detergent. However, phosphates kill the bacteria and enzymes necessary to decompose waste in your septic tank. Phosphates can also filter through the drain field, entering the surrounding soil and contaminating nearby waterways. Use phosphate-free products whenever possible.

Find Septic-Safe Products

Everything from body soaps and shampoo to dishwasher and laundry detergent flows down the drain and ends up in your septic tank. The key to avoiding a messy septic system backup is to only use septic-friendly cleaning products. Most products labeled “all-natural” are safe to use. You can also reference the EPA’s list of Safer Choice laundry products to help you purchase with confidence.

With a little research and mindful shopping, you can clean your clothes effectively while maintaining a balanced septic system, saving you time, money, and headaches in the long run. As an added bonus, non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products are also healthier for your family and better for the environment.

If you need more help maintaining your septic tank, choose Trinity Liquid Waste for the job. We offer comprehensive septic services, including septic pumping, septic inspections, and septic repairs. We can help you avoid a septic tank backup and provide the necessary repairs to get your plumbing system back up and running. Contact us online or call 510-874-6489 to schedule septic services in the San Francisco Bay Area.