Laundry Done Right – How To Maintain A Healthy Septic System

Whether you’ve chosen a septic system because it’s an environmentally friendly option for your home or because sewer isn’t available where you live, a healthy septic system is vital for the long-term care of your household wastewater.


Properly maintained systems can last for 25 to 30 years and help keep groundwater clean and free of pollution, bacteria and viruses, as well as the nitrates and phosphates that can cause algae bloom in bodies of water.

Many homeowners want to know the proper way to take care of their septic system, and one of the best ways to do so is by understanding how laundry can affect the overall health of your septic system.


On average, American families wash about 300 loads of laundry each year, and can use as few as five gallons of water in newer, more efficient washers. Older washers use much, much more – up to 29 to 45 gallons of water per load of laundry.

Excess amounts of water can throw off the balance of treatment solutions and water in the septic tank and can cause several problems, like plumbing backups, flooding or sewage leaks. This is because as wastewater enters the septic system, the filters need time for pollutants and waste to drain properly. Water might move too quickly — or too slowly — through the tank or drainfield.

A few simple tips can help to prevent problems and keep your appliances and septic tank working properly:

  • Set your washing machine to the properly sized load setting. Using a large setting for a small load can use excess water, wasting both water and energy. Make sure that if you do a small load of laundry, you set your washing machine setting to the small setting.
  • Space your laundry out. It can be tempting to do all of your laundry at once, but that can cause damage to your system and surrounding property. Washing multiple loads of laundry in succession doesn’t leave the septic system enough time to treat the waste, causing build-up and overloading the system. As a result, solids may cross into the drainfield. To prevent this, do one or two loads a day, and make sure to leave some time in between loads of laundry.
  • When it’s time to replace your washing machine, look for machines that are certified energy-efficient. Not only do they use less energy, but they need about half as much water as a traditional washing machine.


Detergent choice can make a big difference in the health of your septic system. To help treat the contaminants and pollution in wastewater, the tank is filled with bacteria. This friendly, anaerobic bacteria inside the septic tank is what gives the system its name. The bacteria both mineralizes and decomposes the waste at the bottom of the system. When you consider that bacteria transform about half the septic system pollution into liquids and gases, you see that taking care to ensure their longevity can be a crucial part of your tank’s health.

Laundry detergent plays a large role in the life of bacteria. Certain cleaning agents, like bleach, non-biodegradable soaps and antibacterial soaps can weaken and even kill the bacteria that maintains septic system health. Additionally, too much detergent released into the tank can be the cause of clogged soil pores, preventing drainage and inciting backups. Typically, liquid detergents are the best option when it comes to healthy septic systems.

Certain detergents are labeled to be safe for septic tanks and they are almost always liquid, because liquid detergents have fewer ingredients that are harmful for septic tanks. Some dry detergents use clay and sodium as a fillers, which will cause clogs.

Combining good laundry habits with the five most important tips that can protect your tank will help your septic system operate at its best, giving you and your family peace of mind and a healthy system that can run for 20 to 30 years. For septic system help, or more information about how your laundry habits might affect your tank, call Paradise Valley Septic today.

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