Septic systems take abuse from chemical cleaning products, but, according to Cornell University, the use of too many chemicals will throw off the bacterial balance inside the septic tank. This will create problems for the system such as clogging, groundwater pollution, and leech field malfunctions.The majority of usual household cleaners are safe to use with septic systems in normal amounts. Trouble arises when unusual amounts of the chemicals are placed inside the system. For best results, use products with septic-safe labels on the packaging.
Septic Safe Labels
The clearest indicator that a product is safe for use with septic systems is a label stating that it is safe to use in such homes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives each potentially dangerous chemical a registration number. This indicates that the product is safe for home and septic use. Many common household products contain these labels. Any biodegradable or environmentally friendly product is also perfectly safe for use in septic systems.
Products containing bleach are safe for use with septic systems. Bleach is a chemical that kills bacteria, but when diluted with water as in most household applications, it is not powerful enough to kill all the bacteria inside the tank. However, it is important not to use bleach excessively (like in all household products, water and laundry detergent), because a high concentration of bleach will damage the septic system.
Mild detergents, like laundry detergents and any others that can be used without gloves, are safe for use in septic systems. Other all-purpose surface cleaners are also safe. These cleaners do not contain the harsh chemicals that can damage septic lines or the bacteria inside of the tank.
Cleaning products with a high concentration of ammonia, as well as pure ammonia, are also safe for septic system use. Ammonia will not kill bacteria inside of a septic system or leach into the ground water. Take care not to mix chemicals like bleach with ammonia.
Almost any water-based cleaner, such as water-based carpet cleaners, tub and toilet cleaners, and disinfectants are safe for septic use. Water should be the first ingredient on the label for classification as a water-based cleaner. Water-based cleaners do not contain harsh solvents that can damage the delicate septic system.
Liquid Drain Cleaner
Only liquid drain cleaners are safe for septic systems. Foaming or solid drain cleaners can damage the system and should not be used. However, even liquid drain cleaners may cause septic tank damage if used on a regular basis. Use drain cleaners sparingly with a septic tank.