Is Your Soap Damaging Your Septic System?

soap

Although you may not realize it, your septic system works hard for you every day treating all the wastewater coming from your home. Every flush of the toilet, or water flowing down the drain after a shower, or load of laundry is treated by the hard-working microbes in your septic system. Septic tanks require a delicate balance of bacteria and enzymes to break down waste. In return, the bacterial action in the septic tank needs some regular care and maintenance to keep it healthy and in working order. However, you may be disrupting that delicate process by using harsh dishwashing detergents or laundry soaps.

The first way to care for your septic system is to pay close attention to the ingredients contained in the products that you send down the drains. Many products contain ingredients that are harmful to your septic system by encouraging algae growth, killing the good bacteria, and shortening the tank’s useful life.

Powder or Liquid?

Septic systems, just like pipes, can become clogged. Powdered detergents, particularly when used in large quantities, can clog your septic system and, in severe cases, block drains the same way sludge and debris can clog the water pipes in your home. Regardless of the brand, powder laundry detergents typically contain additives such as sodium as well as fillers that don’t break down fully during the laundry process. When these materials enter your drain pipes and septic tank, they can settle to the sides and build up over time. Eventually, you will have a clog that requires professional removal. However, liquid detergents have far less supplemental and filler ingredients than the dry detergents. Liquid laundry detergents will dissolve completely. If you take the time to read labels carefully, you will find some products are available that do not disturb the enzyme balance of your drainfield.

Be Gentle with Your Septic Tank

Antibacterial soap is made to kill bacteria. While this may be great for cleaning, it is terrible for your septic system. By its very nature, antibacterial soaps also kill the bacteria inside your septic tank. However, inside your septic tank, bacteria is essential to breaking down solid waste, and bacteria in your system’s drainfield destroys harmful pathogens. While a single use of antibacterial soap has little to no effect, using antibacterial products on a regular basis in your home can harm the bacteria living in your septic tank and will seriously affect their performance.

Phosphate-Free

Phosphorous is a common ingredient used in all types of detergents because it helps to clean and remove grime at the same time. Flushing phosphates into your septic tank can kill bacteria and enzymes that reside in your tank and are used to decompose waste. Phosphates can filter through your septic drainfield, eventually, enter the surrounding soil, and transferring into nearby waterways, killing fish, plants, and other wildlife and even causing algae blooms. Detergent manufacturers do not usually list how much phosphate is in their product. If you read labels, you may find products that list they are free of phosphates.

Quality Over Quantity

By design, household cleaners are harsh and dangerous. They are intended to break down grease and dirt and kill germs. The more powerful and toxic the cleanser, the more harmful it can be to your septic system. Everything from toilet bowl cleaners and sink or bathtub sprays to hand soaps can contribute to the destruction of good bacteria in the septic tank. However, trying to find septic safe products is not an easy task and can be confusing.

Using septic tank friendly chemicals can prevent expensive repairs and avoid serious health problems. Most all-natural cleaners are septic safe. One of the best ways to ensure you are using septic safe laundry soap and dishwashing liquids is to reference the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Safer Choice products. Non-chlorine, non-ammonia, non-antibacterial, non-toxic, and biodegradable cleaning products may not only be better for some members of your family as well as the environment, they will also reduce the cleaning agents that enter the septic system. Keeping your septic tank healthy can extend its useful life saving you time, money, and headaches. Learn more about proper septic tank care here.

The team of experienced and trained professionals at FloHawks have been maintaining septic systems for more than 50 years. We recommend the use of liquid detergent over powder detergent options. To keep your septic tank happy and healthy, FloHawks recommends limiting the use of antibacterial cleaners in your home because bacteria serve a very important role in your septic system. We recommend you use the least toxic household cleansers possible and that you avoid products containing phosphates as well. Call FloHawks today at 1-800-356-4295 to schedule your septic system maintenance or use our online scheduler.

Why is There Dirty Water Coming Up in My Bathtub?

white foam on blue water

As a homeowner, dirty water coming up through your shower drain and into your bathtub is never a good sign – especially if it reeks of raw sewage. Most commonly, when something like this happens, it’s a sign of a larger issue such as a drain clog. A sewer drain clog is a serious issue as it could cause sewage backup to come out of your drain.

What is “dirty water”?

Dirty water refers to any water that has been previously used and not treated. There are different types of dirty water, including blackwater, brownwater and greywater. Your toilet, sink and bathtub drains all feed into the sewer line, and if that water is coming back up the drains, you could experience some serious sanitation issues. Failing to address these problems immediately could lead to severe damage.

When dirty water comes up in your bathtub, it is usually considered a sewer line problem. The sewer line connects to your toilet, sink, bathtub and shower and runs outside to your septic rank or the city’s sewer system. A sewer line clog can be caused by tree roots, flushed items, or grease buildup. First, it’s important to know that no amount of plunging will dislodge the clog in a sewer line. Plungers are for clogs in the toilet itself, not the sewer line. In the case of tree roots, the roots should be cut out of the pipe and the pipe would need to be repaired. If you suspect you have a clogged sewer line, it’s important to call a professional plumber as soon as possible.

Fixing a Clogged Drain

  • Video Inspection
    Through today’s technology, skilled plumbing professionals like FloHawks can perform a video inspection of your plumbing system to locate and determine the condition of deteriorating and corroded pipes. After we have assessed the issue with our plumbing cameras, we can easily determine how to clear the line.
  • Hydro Jetting
    Hydro jetting is an effective solution to stubborn clogs. Slow drains are common first signs that your pipes have accumulated buildup. While many homeowners turn to do-it-yourself products to unclog drains, it’s important to understand that sometimes these chemicals can cause more harm than good and can also damage your septic tank system. Hydro jetting is an environmentally preferred way to clear your lines without the use of harsh chemicals. Before resorting to a major plumbing procedure like pipe replacement, having a hydro jet clean problem pipes can save you a lot of time and money.
  • Drain Cleaning Snake
    A drain snake is a long flexible metal cable with a spiral of metal at the end and is fairly low-tech. This tool is sent down into the drain and breaks up any blockages that may be in the pipe. A drain snake is perfect for small clogs or for instances when objects like toys or other items are dropped into the drain.
  • Main Line Replacement
    In some more extreme cases, the clog is caused by root infiltration in the main line. This happens when tree roots and/or debris makes their way into the line that leads to the septic tank or sewer through cracks. Our trained technicians can dig out the affected main line and replace it with a new one and then bury it once again.

Your family’s health and safety are our top priority, so we’re here for any emergency plumbing situations that may arise. Call us today at (800) 356-4295 or use our online scheduler here.

What is the Impact of a Leaking Toilet on a Septic System?

toilet

That frustrating “drip-drip-drip” from a leaky faucet or running toilet does more than annoy your family. Every drip is wasting water, which is not only bad for the environment but can also seriously affect your septic system. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that household leaks can cause more than 1 trillion gallons of wasted water each year.

leakyHomeowners with septic systems, however, should take extra precaution against leaking fixtures. Excessive water use from leaky faucets and fixtures in your septic system can cause disastrous results. The steady flow of water from a leaky toilet or faucet day and night can quickly flood your septic tank as well as the ground around the drain field, making it impossible for water to flow out of your septic system, eventually leading to septic system failure. This is referred to as hydraulic overloading.

That dripping noise might not be as innocent as it sounds, so it’s important to pay attention. Every time you flush the toilet, take a shower, brush your teeth, rinse the dishes, or wash a load of laundry, water is flowing to your septic tank and your drain field. When your septic system is working as it should, the drain field gets a break during the day while you are out of the house during the day and again at night when you are sleeping. But, with a leaking toilet, the drain field never gets a break to dry out. All this extra stress on the septic system is no good. If your drain field is taking on more water than it can absorb, it never has a chance to dry out and make room for more water.

With nowhere to go, the water eventually backs up through the plumbing system and into drains and toilets in your home. Not only will the water flood the system, but it may also flush solids from the tank into the drain field. A flooded drain field can also lead to untreated sewage flowing into the groundwater and local streams, putting them at risk for significant environmental contamination.

You can protect your septic system by using water efficiently. Fix leaky toilets. Fix shower heads and faucets. Toilet leaks can be frustrating because they are often very difficult to detect. If your toilet was manufactured before 1994, consider buying a new high-efficiency toilet that has the EPA “WaterSense” logo. These high-performing, water-saving toilets can eliminate leaks while improving flushing power.

Observation alone might show you some of the leaks in your house, but others may be well-hidden. The residential plumbing experts at FloHawks will tell you that it’s much cheaper to simply fix a leaky toilet or faucet than to repair a failed septic system. Let us take care of your needs. It’s important to catch and repair leaks early to minimize septic system damage.

Repairing leaking fixtures is part of proper care and maintenance for your septic system. To ensure that your system runs well and performs at its best, get your system professionally inspected and serviced every two to three years. Don’t wait for an emergency. Call our trained professionals today for any leaks or septic system needs. Call us today at (800) 356-4295 or use our online scheduler here.

 

Do Not Flush Cat Poop Down Your Toilet

litter

Pets are loving creatures. And the animal lovers among us gladly open our homes to them. However, while you may be willing to share most things with your pets, your septic system should not be one of them.

Why you should never flush cat poop or litter

catEven though it may seem like a good idea, you should not be flushing your cat’s litter or feces down the toilet. It can cause havoc on your plumbing, clog pipes, and damage your septic system. Your septic system operates on a delicate balance of microbes and is designed to process human waste and biodegradable tissue only. Flushing your cat’s litter adds more solid waste load into the biological mix going on in the septic tank. Not only can this extra load disrupt the tank’s microbial balance it can even cause harm to the environment.

Cat waste can contain a nasty parasite called Toxoplasma which can cause some serious health problems to humans. Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible. Wastewater treatment systems are primarily designed to handle human waste and aren’t designed to handle things like Toxoplasma. Unfortunately, wastewater treatment systems don’t remove this parasite from the water before it is discharged back into the environment and into the waterways. The harm can also extend into the waterways where new parasites are introduced, and fish, shellfish, otters, and other marine life can also be affected by Toxoplasma – ultimately resulting in brain damage and even death.

Even if you separate the cat poop from the litter, FloHawks recommends against flushing any of it down the toilet. Adding cat litter, even organic or all-natural kitty litter like corn, pine or wood chips, into the septic system over time puts an undue overburden on the septic system. This could lead to serious septic system failure. Flushing kitty litter is never a good idea.

What’s in your cat litter?

Most cat litters are made from bentonite clay which hardens when it gets wet. Add some water, and you get a cement-like consistency. If you’ve ever waited too long to clean out the litter box, you know how quickly the litter can clump and turn into a solid force that is difficult to deal with. Imagine if the litter solidifies in your pipes – the solution may be costly. Depending on how clogged the pipes are they may require water jetting or, if they are completely blocked, the only solution may be to remove the pipes and replace them.

FloHawks advises against flushing any unsanctioned item down your drains, including your cat’s litter, because it can cause harm to your septic system and to marine life. It’s always a good idea to dispose of your cat’s waste properly. Leaving cat or dog feces in your yard can also spread disease. So, what is a pet owner to do? The best way to discard your pets’ waste is by emptying it into a biodegradable bag and putting it in the trash.

Our pets are not the only ones worthy of our love and affection – your septic tank can use some TLC too. Learn more about how to take care of your septic tank here. The professionals at FloHawks have been taking care of septic systems since 1968. Call us at 1-800-356-4295 or schedule your service today.

Key Peninsula Septic Care Incentive Program

If you are a Key Peninsula resident in need of septic service, you’re in luck. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is now offering an incentive program for homeowners. You can save up to $450 on your next septic inspection, riser installation or pumping. Here at FloHawks, our service technicians are experienced in working with the county Health Department and we can help you file the proper paperwork to receive your incentive.

Follow these steps to participate in the septic care incentive program:

  1. Choose a certified septic system service provider.
  2. Schedule your service here. Let us know that you are participating in Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Septic Care Incentive Program.
  3. Download the form here and fill in your information. When the service technician arrives at your home, give them this form to receive:

✓ $125 off a routine inspection (required to receive other discounts below)
✓ $125 off riser installation (inspection required first)
✓ $200 off tank(s) pumping (inspection required first)

Important information:

  • Savings are valid for properties with onsite septic systems in the Key Peninsula only. You must have a gravity or pressure distribution system. Not valid for home sale inspections.
  • Septic systems require ongoing inspections. The county will notify you when a routine inspection is due.
  • Questions? Contact Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department at (253) 798-4788 or EHsepticsystems@tpchd.org.

Key Peninsula Infographic