At XO2, we are not scared of answering tough cleaning questions! Thanks to all of our customers who reach out and contact us. Please keep those questions, comments and curiosities coming!
This article is here to answer a commonly asked question about disinfectants and septic systems. The good news is that we have been in the disinfectant game for over 50 years. The other good news is that 3 of our main chemical designers live on properties with septic systems. We also work with septic system manufacturers and service repair agents too.
Anyways, enough about us. Let's get into answering your question.
Before we begin
1. If you have a septic system, only cleaning products that go down the drain need to be septic safe. Cleaning products like spray and wipes, air fresheners, carpet stain removers and floor cleaners don't tend to travel down the drain so you don't have to worry about them affecting the friendly bacteria inside your septic system. If you do have left over solution in a bottle or bucket you need to discard of, don't pour it down the drain. The biggest concern for septic systems is the use of unsuitable laundry detergents (and soakers), automatic dishwashing detergents and bathroom cleaners.
2. No pre-moistened wipe or baby wipe should ever be sent down the drain or flushed down the toilet. Regardless of whether it's a disinfectant wipe or non-disinfectant wipe, don't flush them, throw them in the bin. Some wipes call themselves flushable but please don't ever flush them especially if you have a septic system. They are famous for causing blockages and other issues.
Are Disinfectants Septic Safe?
The Short Answer:
Yes. No. And... it depends.
Disinfectants, sanitisers, antimicrobials, and anti-bacterial cleaning chemicals can kill the good and necessary microbes in septic systems. However, it comes down to the concentration/dilution, time, and frequency that the solution enters the septic tank system. It also depends on what else is going into the tank, and when. And then of course, if you are using a disinfectant correctly in a spray-and-wipe-and-leave application, the disinfectant never actually goes into the septic tank.
'It depends' is the best answer. It depends if the disinfectant gets to the tank and if it does, it depends on the dilution, frequency and what else is going into the tank around the same time.
What we want you to take away is the ability for you to be able to look at the cleaning task you are doing and be able to answer the 'Are Disinfectants Septic Safe?' question yourself.
The trick to determine if a disinfectant is septic-safe.
Follow the disinfectant
This is just like big business and politics... 'Follow The Money' if you want to find the existence and source of corruption. Except we are just trying to follow the chemical disinfectant product to see if it goes into the septic tank :) It's a bit easier!
Most of the time, you will find that the disinfectant doesn't even enter any drains and therefore doesn't go into or affect the septic system whatsoever. Examples of cleaning tasks that apply to this, and can be determined as safe for your septic system are...
• Touchpoint cleaning and disinfecting: This is where you clean and disinfect touch points around your facility or home with a disinfectant (wipe or spray and wipe method). The whole idea of this is to apply the disinfectant and leave it. You do not rinse it off the surface.
• Disinfection by electrostatic sprayer or fogger: This is where you are using a specially designed piece of equipment to apply the disinfectant effectively, economically and efficiently. The whole idea of this is to apply the disinfectant and leave it. You do not rinse it off the surface.
• Disinfecting floors: Like the above two examples the idea here is that you are applying and leaving the product on the surface. If you are using a 2-in-1 (clean and disinfect) product like Disso® with a microfibre flat mop system, the disinfectant does not enter your drain or septic system. A lot of customers are doing their floor disinfection with the Disposable Microfibre Floor Mop Cover which means there is no subsequent laundering required.
What if the disinfectant does enter the septic tank?
Okay, now things are getting tougher but the good news is that this is the minority of cleaning tasks. The reality is that there are cleaning tasks that require the use of disinfectants (including bleaches), antimicrobials, antibacterials, and sanitisers. These tasks mean that sometimes, some of the product will go down the drain and eventually make its way into the septic system tank. Sometimes the disinfectant has already run its race and is no longer effective and sometimes it is still working whilst somewhat weakened.
In any case, some of the cleaning products you need to be aware of are...
• Toilet bowl cleaners
• Shower and bathtub cleaners
• Sink dishwashing liquids
• Automatic dishwashing machine detergents (liquids, powders and tablets)
• Drain cleaners
• Laundry detergents, soakers and stain removers
One general rule
We do tend to always recommend avoiding the use of chlorinated cleaners that go down the drain to a septic system where possible. But that doesn't mean you cannot use a spray and leave mould cleaner... just don't flush them down the drain.
What if you have to use a disinfectant or chlorinated cleaner that will go down the drain?
Use as little chemical as possible
Flush with lots and lots of water
Follow up the next day with a probiotic drain treatment like Drain Relief. It work in a similar way to when we take a course of antibiotics and follow that course with probiotics to replenish the good bacteria.
More info on this subject
We have written a really good article related to this article that comes at the subject from the angle of a mandatory cleaning task for hospitality facilities using and providing spa baths for their guests. It is an application where disinfectant does enter the septic tank. As it turns out, no probs at all with the septic system when you know how. Check it out here...
The 3 biggest cleaning chemical enemies of a septic system usually are...
For most properties with septic systems, the most damage done by cleaning chemicals is due to laundry detergents, automatic dishwasher detergents and bathroom cleaners (used for cleaning showers, baths and basins). All these products tend to get used in high concentrations and often contain chlorinated/bleach type ingredients that are brutal for septic systems.
Here's some septic safe product recommendations to help...
2. Septic Safe Automatic Dishwasher Powder: Enviro Shine
4. Septic Safe Bathroom Cleaner: Bravo
There are many variables to think about when using disinfectants in a facility with a septic tank system. It is important to have an open mind and use it. Don't fall into the trap of the answer always being a definite yes or no. We hope this article has let you know more about the subject so that you can make better decisions.
We are here to help you clean better, so make sure you get in touch if you need a hand with anything!
Extended piece... This next bit goes out to a really good friend of XO2. We call him Pete the Poo Man. He is a very passionate septic system technician servicing the Gold Coast Hinterland. And we know he will be reading this blog.
When we talk to Pete about disinfectants and septic systems, he starts twitching. He will always say to never put anything down the drain that kills germs!!! We love to banter with Pete on this topic :) But he knows where we are coming from and has done the tests with us. He knows and agrees with us, that 'It Depends'.
Pete, looking forward to talking crap with you over coffee next week. We can argue more about this blog. Hahaha!
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