Proper Septic Tank Care When Doing Laundry
Not every home in the US has a septic tank system,however, more than 82% of homes have a washing machine, or clothes washer. Many homeowners neglect to properly maintain their septic tank systems, while laundry, the process of washing clothes, has become a typical household chore in America. Washing machines are the standard means by which Americans wash their clothing and linens, to sustain cleanliness and healthy living. What many people do not know is that washing machines are a leading cause of septic system failure. Because washing machines contribute a lot of water, dirt, lint, and detergents to the septic system, making some changes to your laundry routine may prevent costly septic tank problems and promote optimal septic tank care.
Just one load of laundry uses 40-60 gallons of water. Overloading your septic tank system with water can cause the system to malfunction. Excessive water in the system stirs up and flushes solids out of the septic tank because there is an insufficient amount of time for solids to settle properly. Because the drainfield has a limited capacity, it can only absorb so much water at once. When solids are forced out of the septic tank, they can easily plug the lateral lines and soil. Too much water in the septic system can also cause, wet spots over the drainfield and septic tank. Conserve water when doing laundry by following these tips:
- Replace older machines with newer energy efficient washing machines that use 50% less water and 35% less energy to conserve water.
- To avoid overloading the septic tank system, do not wash more than 1 load of laundry each day. By spreading loads out throughout the week, the system will not be overwhelmed with water.
- Select proper load size
- Only wash clothes when there is a full load
Another way that washing machines cause premature septic system failure, is by emitting lint, dirt, and other solids into the system. In just 1 year, a washing machine can produce enough lint to carpet a living room floor. Most of this lint is from non-biodegradable materials such as nylon, and polyester. Other particles of dirt and grease come from soiled clothing and stains. These fine particles do not settle in the septic tank, instead they stay suspended in effluent and pass to the drainfield. Because the particles are not organic, they can easily plug drainfield soil, preventing proper treatment of liquid. To prevent lint and other solids contained in the laundry water from entering the septic system, attach a washing machine filter (lint filter) to the machine’s discharge hose. Using a monthly septic tank treatment that contains bacteria and enzymes will immediately aid in the digestion of solid waste throughout the septic tank system.
Gray water from washing machines may contain detergents, fabric softeners, bleach, and stain removers. It is extremely important to use only the recommended amount of laundry detergent when doing laundry. Detergents and chlorine bleach kill bacteria that live in and operate the septic tank system. Using more detergent than the recommended dose, can cause harm to the septic system. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to laundry detergents, however choosing the right one is especially important for preserving the efficiency of a septic tank system. Follow these tips for choosing the right laundry detergent :
- Avoid using inexpensive powder detergents, despite the attractive price, they contain excessive amounts of fillers (montmorillonite clay) that can seal or plug soil in the absorption area.
- Liquid laundry detergent is the best for homes on a septic tank system because they contain less fillers than powder detergents, and dissolve more easily in the system.
- Powder laundry detergents are not preferred for conventional gravity septic systems because they often do not dissolve in colder temperature water. Excessive amounts of powder clump and clot, which speeds the clogging of the septic system.
- When choosing a laundry detergent read all labels and choose septic safe detergents which are biodegradable, contain a low level of surfactants and no phosphates. Phosphates encourage algae growth in the drainfield, depleting the oxygen needed for bacteria to live and digest waste. Surfactants, found in all detergents, separate body soil and oily stains from fabric. Phosphates and surfactants are environmental contaminators, that can enter and pollute ground water and surface water.
- Limit the amount of chlorine bleach used when doing laundry. Chlorine bleach kills septic tank bacteria. Just 1.85 gallons of bleach, or 5 loads of wash ( in 1 week) containing bleach can cause bacteria die off conditions( bacteria die). Choose Sodium Percarbonate (oxygen bleach)
- Fabric softener used in the washing machine can cause plugging of the soil in the absorption area. Instead of using liquid fabric softeners in the washing machine, opt for vinegar which neutralizes soap and softens clothing. You can also use dryer sheets when drying clothes (in the dryer)
- Stain remover labels should be read carefully. Apply directly to stains instead of adding to the water.
While following these laundry tips will help preserve the efficiency of a septic tank system, diligent septic maintenance and septic tank treatment are also important. Because gray water from washing machines can contain detergents (bleach, fabric softener, stain removers) that kill bacteria and dirt and lint that adds solid waste to the system, using a regular septic tank treatment each month is recommended. A monthly septic tank treatment will rejuvenate bacteria throughout the septic tank system for waste degradation and waste water treatment. Using a septic tank additive that contains bacteria and enzymes will also eliminate clogs throughout the septic system including drain lines, lateral lines, and drainfield soil, extending the life of the septic system. Proper septic tank care is important all the time. Taking some small precautions when doing laundry can go a long way when it comes to preventing septic tank problems and extending the life of your system.
For a list of septic safe laundry detergents and more information visit this site Google+