When you have a clogged drain and your house drains into a septic system, it's important to use a septic safe drain cleaner. Many regular drain cleaners will interfere with and kill the bacteria in your septic tank.
That might sound like a good thing, but bacteria is what breaks down the solids in your septic tank and allows your system to work properly. Because of this, it's important to keep the proper balance in your septic system.
Drano and Liquid Plumr
Most people, when faced with a drain clog, automatically reach for the chemical drain cleaners. If you have a septic system, this isn't always a good idea. A septic tank is basically a bacteria ecosystem, and keeping a healthy balance of bacteria is vital to the process of breaking down solid waste. Chemicals, including many drain cleaners, are the main cause of upsetting the bacteria balance in your septic tank.
There are some septic safe drain cleaners, however. All Drano products are septic safe, and Drano Max Build-Up Remover is designed to be used on a monthly basis to replenish your septic system's bacteria. Like septic safe Drano products, all Liquid Plumr products are safe for use with septic systems and will not upset the balance of bacteria in your tank.
Natural Drain Cleaners
One of the safest ways to try and unclog a drain is to use a plunger. It is non-invasive and often works well on small blockages. It's important to not use a plunger when using a chemical drain cleaner, even a septic safe drain cleaner, because it can cause the product to splash back on you. If you do use a plunger, be sure to use it before trying a drain cleaner.
Many homeowners, for one reason or another, do not wish to use a septic safe Drano or Liquid Plumr product. For those who prefer a more natural method, pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain works well on simple clogs caused by soap or grease. For more serious clogs, a mixture of baking soda and vinegar is a popular, more natural septic safe drain cleaner. Pouring 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of vinegar down a drain will cause a fizzing reaction, like a science experiment, that unclogs drains.
Maintenance to Prevent Clogged Drains
To keep your septic system healthy while avoiding the need to unclog your drains, you can do some basic maintenance to keep clogs from building up in your pipes. The easiest way to do this is to avoid pouring things that can clog a pipe, such as grease and oils, down the drain. Because hair is a common cause of plugged drains, it's a good idea to put protective screens over your shower and tub drains to catch hair.
Another helpful tip is to limit the use of a garbage disposal. If you feel you can't live without your disposal, there are several models available that are safe for use with septic systems. You can help maintain the bacteria in your system by using a monthly septic tank treatment product like Drano Max Build Up Remover. This will help maintain the necessary balance that can be thrown off by normal household products like bleach and certain soaps and detergents.
Gary Sprague is a retired master plumber who now works as a writer. He lives with his family in Maine.