Keep Your Septic System Healthy By Avoiding The “dirty Dozen”

At Paradise Septic, we want your septic system to work well and last for a long time. Allowing “dirty” contaminants to go down your household drain can foul up your septic system, your groundwater and your soil.


Fats and oils, especially, can cause havoc in your septic system, requiring more frequent pumping and causing inordinate wear and tear on the system. Your septic system can last up to four decades with proper care and maintenance. To give your system the best chance at success, avoid using these top twelve products which are toxic to your septic tank.


  1. Dishwasher detergents and dish soaps: Check the fine print of the ingredients in every household product you buy and read the box or bottle carefully. Phosphates and nonylphenol ethoxylate surfactants commonly found in dishwasher detergents and dish soaps, if not truly diluted, will kill the working bacteria in your septic system and its drainfield, and pollute the ground and groundwater.
  1. Drain cleaners: Liquid and crystal cleaners do cut through grease and clogs. However, they also contain harmful chemicals, including sodium hydroxide, lye, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid. When used in heavy quantities or intense concentrations, they can cause metal pipe corrosion and can destroy beneficial bacteria throughout the septic system. Your best bet when dealing with a clogged drain is to call a plumber.
  1. Toilet cleaners: Most conventional products contain ingredients harmful to your septic system. Even using too much of “green” cleaning agents, such as vinegar or borax, can cause problems. Use only small amounts of natural cleaners to avoid septic issues.
  1. Spray shower stall cleaners: Skip the bleach and harsh chemicals in the spray bottles; this will keep the good bacteria alive and eating away at waste in the tank.
  1. Antibacterial soaps: As the term implies, these soaps work against all bacteria; they kill good bacteria, too.
  1. FOG (Fats, oils and grease): FOG is your septic system’s worst enemy. Fats, oils and grease can clog the system and cause sewage spills and overflows. Keep them out of your drains!


  1. Liquid fabric softener: Check the ingredients carefully; most major brands of liquid fabric softener are petroleum based. They coat your clothes and release oil into your septic tank. The quats (quaternary ammonium compounds) used in fabric softeners also kill off the beneficial bacteria throughout your septic system. As an alternative, you can use plant-based fabric softeners, or simply pour ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar into the wash.
  1. Powdered laundry detergent: Powdered detergent contains clay as a filler, and sodium and other extenders that dam up the drainfield. When choosing a liquid laundry detergent, look for no phosphates and low levels of surfactants. Biodegradable liquid detergents are best.


  1. Paint and remodeling products: Stains and varnishes, paints including latex, paint thinners and remodeling debris should not go down the drain. The chemicals destroy good bacteria and pollute the soil and your groundwater.
  1. Prescription drugs: Prescription drugs hurt the beneficial bacteria in your septic tank, which are crucial to maintaining a healthy, working system.
  1. Surfactants in cleaning products: These are made from either petrochemicals derived from crude oil or oleo chemicals from natural fats and oils. They work to loosen stains and dirt and suspend them in the wastewater.
  1. Quats: Quaternary ammonium compounds such as alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride can contaminate both your system and your groundwater.

Across the board, Paradise Septic advises that our clients stick to non-chlorine, non-ammonia products and stay away from anything antibacterial. Remember – bacteria help your septic system to function properly! Whenever possible, use nontoxic and fully biodegradable household products.

Have any of these ‘dirty dozen’ products already made it into your system? Call us! We can help. Our experts can evaluate the health of your septic system and recommend any necessary repairs. Remember – the cleaner you keep your septic system, the longer it will last!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top