What NOT to Do If You Have a Septic System

Replacing a septic system can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and pumping your tank more frequently gets expensive too. This article describes things you should NOT do if you have a septic system, to help you avoid these major expenses.

If you have a septic system, it is important to protect the natural bacteria in your septic system. The role of these hard-working bacteria is to break down the waste material coming from your home. In addition to protecting your septic system’s bacteria, you should avoid putting things down your drains which could possibly clog your septic field.

Things that Hurt Your Bacteria:

Since your septic tank needs bacteria to operate properly, you should try to avoid using anti-bacterial soaps in your home. These types of soaps destroy good bacteria in your septic tank and the drainfield, which results in solids building up faster, and potentially over-flowing and clogging your drainfields.

You should also not dispose of solvents, paints, unwanted medications down your toilets or drains, as these products can damage the good bacteria in your septic system. Instead, these products should be disposed of using other means such as hazardous waste disposals and exchanges. And un-used medications should be returned to the pharmacy, or other medication disposal programs. Also, do not allow any herbicides or pesticides to get into your septic system.

You should also reduce or eliminate your use of harsh cleaners, disinfectants, detergents, and bleach. It can help to use liquid laundry detergents and gel dishwashing detergents. These help minimize the non-organic solids that go into your septic system. But read package labels carefully, as many gel dishwashing detergents are high in phosphorus content, and these should be avoided (helpful accessory: drain cleaning toolsdrain cleaners).

If you have a water treatment equipment in your home (water softener, iron filter recharge, etc.), don’t backwash this equipment into your drains, as the excess water and chemicals are bad for your septic system.

And don’t put any additives, such as yeast or bacteria into your septic system, as most additives are not beneficial and waste your money. And they won’t eliminate the need for regular pumping of your tank.

Things that Can Clog Your Field

In addition to protecting the natural bacteria in your septic system, you also want to be careful to avoid items getting into your system that can clog your septic drainage field.

For example, do not pour liquid fats, grease, and oils down your kitchen sink. Grease is very resistant to decomposition. If it is allowed to enter your plumbing system, it can build-up in your septic tank, carry over to your drainfield where it can reduce soil permeability.
Also, don’t flush solid, non-biodegradable items into your toilets or drains such as: disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, paper towels, cigarette butts, plastics, coffee grounds, cat box litter, dental floss, etc.

If you have a washing machine, you should add a lint trap on the water drain pipe coming from your washer. Over time, lint can clog your septic system, so installing a lint trap is a good way to keep this material from getting into your system (see types, costs, and reviews of lint traps).

And if you have a garbage disposal, you should not use it unless your system has been specifically designed to handle the extra load.


Replacing a septic system is very expensive. We hope this article has helped you understand how to protect the good natural bacteria in your septic system, and how to avoid doing things that could potentially clog your drainage field.

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