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How Doing Laundry Affects Your Septic System

As a homeowner with a septic system, you might not think about how your daily habits can impact the overall health of your septic system. One often-overlooked aspect of home maintenance is the effect that doing laundry can have on your septic system. In this blog post, we will discuss the potential risks of doing laundry with a septic system and offer tips on maintenance to avoid any complications.

Doing Laundry with a Septic System

When you do laundry, the water from your washer is emptied into the septic tank where it’s combined with all other household wastewater. This mixture then undergoes a natural process of separation and decomposition. The bacteria present in the septic tank helps break down the waste and converts it into gases and solids. The solids settle at the bottom and form sludge. The clarified liquid, known as effluent, then flows into the drain field or leach field where it further undergoes treatment before being released into the ground via absorption.

However, if too much water is added too quickly or if harsh detergents are used, the septic system can become overwhelmed and fail to properly treat the wastewater, leading to a buildup of solids in the tank. Over time, the solids and grease can clog the septic system and cause contaminated wastewater to flood into your yard or back up into your home.

Common Laundry Practices That Can Cause Septic System Problems

There are several common practices that homeowners do that can cause septic system problems. These include:

Using Too Much Laundry Detergent:

Using too much laundry detergent can be a risk for your septic system because septic systems rely on a delicate balance of bacteria and enzymes to break down and decompose the waste that flows into them. 

laundry detergent bottles with folded laundry

Excessive amounts of laundry detergent can upset this balance and harm the bacterial colonies that are responsible for breaking down the waste.

Many laundry detergents contain ingredients like phosphates, surfactants, and bleach, which can be harmful to the bacteria in your septic system if they are not properly diluted. When too much detergent is used whether it’s powder or liquid, these harsh chemicals can kill off the bacteria that are crucial for the proper functioning of the septic system.

In addition, excess laundry detergent can also cause an increase in the amount of solids and foam in your septic tank, which can clog the system and prevent proper drainage. This can lead to backups, odors, and potentially costly repairs.

Doing Large Quantities of Laundry:

Dedicating a full day to catch up on laundry is sometimes what we end up doing at the end of a busy week. However, it poses a risk to septic systems. Doing load after load can cause too much water to be dumped into the septic tank causing issues in the proper functioning of the septic system. This can affect the natural flow and settling of solids, leading to blockages, backups, and contamination of the surrounding soils and water bodies. It’s best to spread your laundry washing throughout the week so as to not overwhelm your septic system.

Not Cleaning the Lint Filters:

Clogged lint filters in your washing machine can also lead to problems with your septic system. The lint that collects in these filters is made of synthetic fibers that do not break down quickly and can clog up the drain field or leach field, which can increase the maintenance needs of the septic system.

How to Identify Signs of Septic Issues

To avoid septic issues caused by doing laundry or other household activities, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of a failing system such as:

  • Slow-draining sinks and showers
  • A strong sewage odor in or around your home
  • Standing water or damp areas in your yard
  • Gurgling toilets or drains

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact a trusted professional right away to inspect your septic system and perform any necessary repairs before it becomes too late.

What’s The Best Practice for Mitigating Septic Concerns?

Get your septic system pumped at least once every three to five years depending on the tank size and household. Regular pumping, cleaning, and maintenance can go a long way in keeping your septic system functioning properly.

By following these simple tips, you can help to ensure the health and longevity of your septic system and prevent damage to your property’s value. If you suspect any issues with your septic system, we encourage you to contact the Miller’s Services team!

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