When you walk through the aisles of the grocery store, you will find numerous products that are labeled as flushable. But are they really? Unfortunately, many of these products, which include toilet cleaning disposable wands, sanitary pads and "flushable" wipes, will flush down your toilet, but then could cause major problems in your septic system. So should you use these convenient products or is it best to avoid them?
Manufacturers know that consumers love items they can flush away, so it's not surprising that the number of these products has been growing steadily over the years at a rate of about five to six percent annually. And if you read the packaging on these products, many of them actually say, "septic-safe" or claim that they will break down in your septic system.
However, if you ask a plumber or someone who works in a sewage treatment plant about these products, they will tell you that these claims are far from accurate and that the products don't break down like toilet paper. Then there are the homeowners who found out the hard way that these wipes and other flushable products were a problem only after they had already clogged their septic system, and they had to call for emergency pumping service.
Why Are Flushable Products a Danger to Your Septic System?
Ideally, a product that you flush down the toilet into your septic system will break down quickly. But tests performed by sewer system experts have discovered that many of these so-called flushable products take a long time to dissolve -- if they do at all. For example, one county did a test to see how long it would take for a disposable wipe to break down, and it discovered that there was no degradation in these products even after they had been stirred in water for 24 hours. It's probably not surprising, since consumers want a flushable wipe that won't fall apart while they're using it. So that is why adult and baby wipes are designed to be more substantial than toilet paper, which typically dissolves in swirling water in about eight seconds.
Flushable products are also a problem for your septic system because:
- They can combine with other items in your system to cause a big clog. If a clump of these wipes get caught in your pipes, they could trap other items you flush down your pipes and cause a messy and unhealthy sewage backup into your home.
- The wipes and other materials you flush down your toilet could build up quickly in your tank to the point where you have to service and pump out your system more often.
Taking Care of Your Septic System
If you own a septic system, you should:
- Avoid getting rid of any "flushable" products in the toilet, even if they are labeled "Septic safe."
- Throw disposable wipes out in the trash if you do decide to use these products.
- Avoid flushing any items other than toilet paper and human waste -- such as sanitary napkins and tampons -- down your toilets.
- Have your septic system pumped out if you have been flushing these products down your toilet. Even if you are not currently experiencing a problem, you should not wait to have your tank serviced.
In addition, you should have your septic system cleaned on a regular basis by a service. Even if you are currently not experiencing problems with your system, you could have a buildup that could cause you to have a disastrous backup into your home. How frequently should you pump? Typically, you should pump your system at least once every three years. And if you use a garbage disposal in your home, the State of Massachusetts recommends pumping your system once a year.
For more information, contact a local septic service company, like Walters Environmental Services Inc.