What Do I Need to Know About Having a Septic System?

Updated on May 24, 2013
L.B. asks from New Rochelle, NY
15 answers

I just moved from an apartment to a house that has a septic tank. I've heard there are a lot of things that are now forbidden. Can you tell me what they are? No tampons? No draino? How do I clean the toilets? I used to use those scrubbing bubbles brand flushables, are they off limits? Are certain laundry detergents off limits? Do I need to buy special toilet paper? I've been searching the town website but haven't found anything. Thanks!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Kansas City on

Plumber in the family. He loves it when people flush the wrong things down the toilet. :)
Pee, poo, paper (Scott's is fine.)
(Btw, nothing should go down a garbage disposal that you can't eat. No charge!)
I grew up with septic. Get it cleaned out every 3 years, more if lots of people live in the house.
My mom always used typical toilet cleaners, etc. but I wouldn't use those flushable things.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Boston on

Basically, don't flush anything except toilet paper. You don't need special TP, it's all safe for septic systems. I use non-toxic laundry, dish, dishwasher and toilet bowl detergent from Method so I haven't had any concerns or issues with that. That's more for my own family's health and safety but I like that I don't have to worry about chemicals leeching into my groundwater from detergents and they break down easily in the septic tank. Detergents should be phosphate-free and for laundry, which place the biggest strain on your system, liquid is better than powder.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We have lived on a septic tank system for many years. 14 years in SoCal, 4 years in Germany and 7 years in Arkansas. I never had to have one pumped out because we always made sure we didn't flush harsh chemicals down the toilet. No 2000 flushes or that type of cleaner. No draino.

We would flush yeast that we started down the toilet if we accidently put a harsh chemical down the toilet. It kept the bacteria in the septic tank active and consuming the waste flushed. We used regular toilet paper and didn't use our garbage disposal very much, but we did use it at least twice weekly.

You already know that all feminine products belong in the garbage, not the toilet. We used whatever laundry detergent was on sale. My wife and I are allergic to Tide, so I can't comment about Tide being OK or bad.

Most people tell you to have the septic tank cleaned out every two years and others say every three years. When I was in high school, we lived on a septic tank system and we never had it pumped out. I lived on a septic tank system in Arkansas for 7 years and never had to have it pumped out. I lived on one in SoCal for 14 years and never had to have it pumped out.

I had a plumber rotorooter out a line because it was clogged (roots). He sent a camera down the line and looked at our septic tank because he wanted to pump it out and charge me a bundle. He looked at our septic tank and said we could probably use it for another 18 months before pumping it out. I asked him how long did it appear we had been since it was pumped. He said a septic tank should be pumped out every other year and it looked like we had had it pumped out 6 months to a year ago.

We had lived in that house about 7 years at the time. We lived there another 7 years and it still didn't need pumping when we moved.

Don't plant a bottle brush plant or a weeping willow tree anywhere near your sewer lines or septic tank. They're roots are very invasive and will clog your lines and fill your septic tank with roots.

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

I'm not an expert by any means; we've only had our home with a septic system for a year. But the septic inspector we hired when we were inspecting the home said in general avoid putting solids in the toilet or drain. He included tampons, pads, and basically any other toiletry item that went beyond toilet paper (including flushable wipes). He didn't mention the toilet scrubbers specifically but I'm betting they would have been frowned upon by him. He didn't say to only use certain types of toilet paper.

He did say to avoid certain chemicals (I'm sorry; I don't remember specifics); bleach was allowed but only in small amounts. He didn't mention avoiding specific laundry detergents. We still use either Tide or Gain powder and a regular powder dishwasher detergent. He did say to avoid putting too much food stuff in the drain including food particles, grease, etc. because all of those things can fill up the tank too fast.

Hope this helps!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I do not have a septic tank, but I have been told by many plumbers that no one should ever flush anything but toilet paper down the toilet. Tampons, flushable wipes etc will all eventually jam up your plumbing. My sister, who is very frugal, has a septic tank, and in order to avoid having to have it pumped very often she has rules about selective flushing, toilet paper goes in the garbage, not the toilet, and she never uses her garbage disposal, she composts instead. She rarely has to pay to have her tank pumped.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I just had to deal with a major clog in the line from the house to the tank - so I would suggest (if you don't already know) that you locate and mark the clean out access now, before you have an emergency in the middle of the night and have to dig up your lawn trying to find it! We have ours covered with a stepping stone, so all we have to do is lift up the stone and the spout is right there!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on



Look at these two sites, and make sure to scroll all the way down the second one.

My mom has a septic tank. Seven years, and she hasn't had to clean it out yet. She only uses bleach in the washer once in a blue moon, and she never puts anything in the toilet except regular toilet paper - NO tampons, no wipies, no facial tissue. She does not have a garbage disposal.

Just go by the tips online, and you'll be fine.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

I have had several homes with septic tanks. It really depends on what type of system you have. Some are just a holding tank where the liquids spill out to a leach field and some have a pump and grinder that pump everything to a sand mound (you would see this in your yard).
Most toilet paper can go into the toilet and most wipes are also made for them too. NO tampons, pads or anything else in there (make sure to tell guests). You can use regular cleaners but not anti-bacterial and don’t use bleach too often. You can also add enzymes once a month, pour in toilet and flush.

I normally use more natural products anyway so I never had a problem. They say to not use harsh chemicals because of killing off the bacteria that eats the waste and because the over flow goes into the earth. You can also have it emptied every few years, but I would recommend having it checked at least every now and then (maybe once a year or every other year). You want it always working properly and you should find out if there is an alarm on it if it stops working (the sand mound ones usually have that).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

We have a disposal, it has never effected the septic tank.

We use Comet to clean the toilets and tubs and sinks. I use Gain in the washer and Great Value powder in the dishwasher.

I use Pine Sol or Mr. Clean to mop with, then I put the left over water down the toilet.

I don't use tampons so I would say that they would go in the trash.

We use regular White Cloud toilet paper, my FIL uses the store brand from Sam's. It's pretty thick and it still goes down.

We have had the same septic tank for over 30 years and it's never clogged. My FIL has had the same septic tank since the late 80's and the same thing.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Scott toilet tissue is best. Liquid laundry detergent. Best for washing machines and septic. Showers rather then baths are best. When my kids were growing up, there were four, we did not let them linger in the shower, wash two pairs of jeans (full loads only). Eventually we needed new fields because of our property. That was expensive! Just be aware. Make sure you get it pumped every other year. That is about $350.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I just had my septic tank filled in and connected my house to the city sewer system.

When I had the tank, most of the "rules" were the same as for the sewer:
No special paper needed. Just regular toilet paper - no paper towels.
According to my plumber, the only thing you want to flush is pee, poop, and toilet paper. Period. No tampons, no wipes (even if the label says they are flushable). No cat litter (even if the label says it's flushable). No cigarette butts. I clean my toilets with baking soda and vinegar. I never use bleach for anything (the smell makes me sick), and I use a non-phosphate detergent.
Once a month, flush some Rid-X down the toilet. It's a bacterial culture that produces an enzyme that breaks down solid waste at the bottom of the tank.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest you google septic systems and learn about how they're set up as well as how to live with one. Once you know how they're set up most of the how to live with one will be common sense. For example, it's just a box with pipes containing holes leading out of them. When the box gets full you have to have it cleaned out and start over.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

There is a bit of a change in routine. No tampons down the drains (this one takes some time to get use to). In fact, nothing down the toilet but toilet paper. Usually 1 ply toilet paper is best and breaks down the quickest. No harsh chemicals. Bleach is ok every now and then, but I try to stay away from all cleaners with bleach if I can (sometimes you just have to use it). You want to stick with liquid laundry detergents for the most part- there's less filler/additives. Also, try to spread out your laundry and washing to several days instead of doing it all on one day. If you can, eventually switch to a front loader or other water saving washing machine. If you have a garbage disposal, then you never want to put raw foods down. These take longer to break down and sometimes don't at all.
I use Barkeeper's Friend for most of my toilet, sink, and tub cleaning. It is safe for septic systems, has no phosphorus, etc. If you go their website, you can print off a coupon.
Your best bet for information is to contact your county. They will have information available for you on caring for your septic system.
Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

We have our 'serviced' for a certain amount of money every April. They come out, inspect it, replace anything that needs replacing, etc. I'm sure it's not mandatory, but we've been in the house for 5 years and never had any issue with it. We have not had it cleaned out and were told we do not need to yet. I'm not sure at what point we'll need to but that is one of the things they will let us know!



answers from Binghamton on

You should never flush tampons even in non-septic systems. It clogs and creates problems further down the line.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions