Washing things down the drain of your sink or tub is one of the easiest ways to dispose of liquid waste. However, before blindly discarding in this manner, you need to consider one important factor - the health of your septic tank. Because your tank relies on bacteria to break down waste, you've got to avoid flushing anything that will injure or damage these microscopic organisms. Normally, bacteria break down 95 percent of waste, leaving only 5 percent behind. If these organisms can't do their work, your tank may begin to clog and overflow, leading to a contamination of groundwater and a flooded drainfield.
While many household products won't have an effect on these bacteria, there are several common types of products that can do irreparable harm to the health of your tank.
1. Ammonia and Bleach
These powerful cleaning tools might help you get a shiny bathroom, but they also wreak havoc on your tank. Small amounts of these chemicals, such as the amount you use when cleaning clothes, shouldn't be too harmful. However, if you dump an entire bottle down the drain, then this can cause serious damage to the bacteria in your tank.
2. Laundry Detergent
Laundry detergent is different than soap, and not in a good way. Most laundry detergents contain the environmental contaminants like phosphates and surfactants. These can soak into your drainfield, potentially harming wildlife as well as contaminating your drinking water.
3. Dishwasher Detergent
Much like laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent also contains nonylphenol ethoxylate surfactants and phosphates. If these hazardous chemicals make it through your tank without killing bacteria, they eventually enter the surrounding soil and can transfer into nearby water sources, killing fish and other water creatures.
4. Drain Cleaner
Drain cleaners in small quantities shouldn't be too harmful to your tank, as they become too diluted to do much harm to bacteria. However, if you treat your drains on a weekly or even monthly basis, then your tank could be in trouble. The chemicals in cleaners are extremely caustic and could cause your bacteria levels to drop dangerously.