Septic Tanks and Powdered Detergent (True?)

Updated on March 24, 2013
J.G. asks from Spring Branch, TX
10 answers

I am planning on making my own laundry detergent (dry with washing soda, borax, oxi-clean, and grated Ivory soap). I have read some reviews that say that 'powdered' soaps like this and others (like granulated dishwashing soap, granulated laundry soap) will create huge detergent balls in the tank or clog my pipes in my septic system. Any of you experts on septic systems? I have a brand new aerobic system that was just installed in our new home and I don't want to ruin it right from the start. Btw - we have hard water, but not as hard as other areas. We plan to get a water softener soon.

Thanks in advance to all of you!

update: I want to make my own laundry soap b/c it only ends up costing a few cents per load. I don't know yet who is our septic inspector, but will probably give a few places a call here soon to double-check on this rumor that powdered soaps are not good.

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi Mama,

You can also make liquid laundry detergent:

Grate 1 bar of Ivory soap (or whatever kind you prefer) with a cheese grater. Melt in saucepan over medium high heat with just enough water to cover. Add to 2 gallons of hot water and stir. Sir in 2 cups of baking soda.

1/2 -1 cup per load.

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answers from Houston on

Powder does cause problems... it happened to us!! Here is an excellent recipe for cheap liquid laundry soap.... This ends up being so cheap, and works wonders!!!

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap- Front or top load machine- best value

4 Cups - hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

-Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

*Arm & Hammer "Super Washing Soda" - in some stores or may be purchased online here (at Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent - It must be sodium carbonate!!

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answers from Houston on

Hm, well, my husband is certified to inspect septic systems and we have an aerobic and he never told me that. Of course, I use liquid because I don't have to worry about it not dissolving (that's an issue I've had repeatedly.)

I just did a google search and it says in many places that the powdered detergents don't dissolve well and clump in the tank. So you might want to reconsider.

I use Purex liquid natural cleaner (does not have petroleum products,) it's something like $3 for 33 loads. I stockpile when I get coupons or see it on sale. So that is 11 cents a load (or less) and comparing to the cost of supplies to make it plus the time and hassle (my time is valuable after all) I decided that it was worth it to be to buy instead of make.

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answers from Corpus Christi on

i use Melaleuca brand laundry soap called Melapower which is the safest laundry soap you can buy from any manufacturer and i recommend that to you instead of having to make your own. seems like you are trying to keep it green and safe and this would save you time and it's very cost effective. you have to be a member to get this product though, if you have questions let me know. also, i know it's extremely safe for septic tanks - we've had a tank for years at two different homes. 8 years with nothing but compliments from the septic company who checks on it.

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answers from Washington DC on

I had a sepic/well water system. We were in the house for 3y. Used Tide Powder and never had a known problem. We just made sure to use Riddex each month for septic maintenance.


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answers from New York on

Liquid is so much better for washing machines and septics. Take it from
someone who has had to have septic torn up.



answers from Chicago on

Don't know if this is true or not but we have hard water/well water and have a softner and yep...Septic....We've not experienced this problem at all in the 10 years we've had septic...I think you'll be fine. Just make sure you get that softner soon so as to not ruin the pipes...The hard water is bad and keep your septic tank running properly and you should be fine.



answers from Dallas on

Contact the maintenance people you have for your septic system and ask them about the powder. Since you are making your own I would think it will be okay. It is the commercial brands that contain a type of rubber in the powder that you need to worry about - same goes for dishwashing detergents.



answers from Bellingham on

I started making my own laundry soap but it didn't seem to get the clothes clean enough. So.... instead if bar soap I used oxyclean. after about 3 months the septic start to back up. I have lived with septic tanks most of my life and never had this happen.
We opened the septic tank and all the toilet paper was white (really white) and had not broke down at all. Not realizing that it was the oxyclean I continued to use it because it said it was septic friendly on the box. Well again 3 months later same thing. The only thing different that I had been doing is the oxyclean.
I quit using oxyclean and it's been about 5 months now, so far so good :) Just because the product says safe on the Box doesn't make it so.