Spring has sprung and it is time for a quick discussion on septic system health. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s easy to get a little cavalier — or, even lazy?? –about what things go down the drain or get flushed. To prevent a costly repair bill, here is a list of things NOT to flush. These items all clog or burn up the grinder.
- Abrasive debris such as sand
- Cat litter, kitty litter, or other fine gravel or clay products (such as aquarium bottom gravel – don’t clean your fish tank by dumping the gravel, sea shells, or other solid waste into a toilet)
- Caustic chemicals
- Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and should not be flushed into the septic system. And the filters on cigarette butts can clog and destroy septic pumps.
- Clay such as modeling clay or children’s play-doh® modeling compound
- Cloth strips or scraps, rag fragments
- Clothes dryer sheets the synthetic fabric from which dryer sheets are made will not break down in the septic tank. These items not only add to the solid waste in the septic tank, but a dryer sheet might clog the septic tank inlet at the baffle
- Coffee grounds – can enter and clog sewage pumps. Use these in the garden instead
- Condoms won’t clog a pipe but like some other debris, because they are of modest size and are quite flexible, but condoms are (usually) not biodegradable. So we listed condoms, or other latex products such as latex gloves above as “never flush”.
If your system uses a septic pump or grinder pump or sewage ejector pump, this material can clog the pump impeller and cause expensive pump damage or motor burnout.
- Cotton swabs (Q-tips®) have been known to clog a drain or two – not biodegradable, though trivial in volume. BUT if your system uses a septic pump or grinder pump or sewage ejector pump, this material can clog the pump impeller and cause expensive pump damage or motor burnout
- Dental floss – is not biodegradable, though trivial in volume, dental floss can enter and clog grinder pump and effluent pump mechanisms
- De-greasing solvents
- Diapers and similar items which are not biodegradable will simply clog a septic system and are very likely to clog building drains
- Explosive or flammable materials
- Glass or glass fragments
- Grease waste, cooking fat, lard, etc.
- Hair waste such as hair clippings
- Latex condoms, gloves, or similar products – we discuss condoms in septic systems further in the next section of this article.
- Oils such as lubricating oils
- Metal shavings, scraps, debris
- Mud, silt, sand, ashes
- Paper towels and facial tissues (Kleenex™) do not break down easily and should not be flushed into the septic system. Toilet paper breaks down quickly and should not be a problem in an ordinary septic tank system.
- Panty liners should never be flushed down a building drain
- Plastic bags or other plastic scrap or trash of any kind should never be flushed down a building drain, nor any other plastic scraps, fragments, or objects
- Sanitary napkins should never be flushed down a building drain
- Sticks, even toothpicks, can enter and clog sewage pump impeller assemblies
- String or cord – like dental floss above, can clog or bind grinder pump or sewage pump impeller assemblies leading to pump burnout.
- Tampons should not be flushed down a building drain. Wrap and place in the garbage instead
- Wipes such as baby wipes or cleaning or makeup removing wipes. Even if it is labelled “biodegradable” it is best tossed in trash
- Any other solid, semi-solid objects that do not dissolve readily in water
If you have any questions, or, you (or one of your children!) end up flushing any of this matter down your drain, please contact Alberta Septic & Excavating. Alberta Septic does repairs as well new installs and can offer expert, professional advice. Spring is the ideal time to tackle some of these yucky matters. Call or email today– we are booking up fast!
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