When you move to a rural home with a septic tank, you must be more cautious about how you use your private home sewage treatment system compared with a municipal system. One aspect involves the laundry, as waste water from the washing machine goes into the septic tank and out to the drain field. Certain strategies will help you avoid more frequent septic tank cleaning than would otherwise be necessary, as well as other system problems.
Use Liquid Detergent Instead of Powder
Some cheap powder detergents contain fillers that don't dissolve and can build up in the tank.
Another common problem involves using powder that has solidified into clumps because it wasn't stored properly. Powder grains dissolve easily in wash water, but clumps do not. Even little ones may simply travel through the system into the tank, where they accumulate on the bottom.
If you really prefer powder, use a high-quality brand name version. Store it in a sealed container so it doesn't solidify due to dampness. Use the smallest amount that gets your laundry clean.
Go Easy on the Bleach
Septic systems need healthy bacteria to work properly. Those bacteria break down the waste material flushed into the tank. Bleach is a disinfectant, so it kills bacteria. Nevertheless, it's OK to use a little bleach once every week or so. The septic system isn't so fragile that it can't handle a minimal amount of bleach to brighten up sheets and eliminate any mildew odors in towels and washcloths.
Avoid Liquid Fabric Softener
Liquid fabric softener contains ingredients that can create clogs in the drain field. Switch to vinegar instead, or use dryer sheets.
Divide the Laundry Over Several Days
It may be inconvenient, but the septic system can better handle a smaller influx of laundry waste water over several days instead of water from all the loads in one day. Flooding the tank can push solid materials into the drain field. Consider that on a day you normally would consider "laundry day," households residents are probably still using the usual amount of water for bathing too.
If you must do many loads on one day, try to wait a few hours between each load. It gives the system time to recover.
Filter the Wash Water
Lint comes loose from fabric during washing, and hair that is caught on the fabric does as well. Without a filter or drain trap, these materials can be sent down the drain. Because they are so light, they tend to float in the tank and may travel to the drain field. That can clog parts of the soil bed. Eventually, the field may function poorly and develop standing water on top. You would need to have the drain lines cleaned or the soil fractured by having air pumped into it.
Heavier pieces of lint, such as material from rugs, accumulate in the tank. They also can snag on tree roots that have grown into the sewer pipe in the yard that leads from the house to the tank, eventually causing a sewer backup. Those pipes are typically constructed from concrete or clay, and they develop small cracks over time -- just as sewer pipes going to a municipal system do.
If your washing machine rinse water goes to a wash tub drain, install a drain trap there. If not, attach an inline filter to your washing machine drain hose, or have a handyman or plumber do it. As with the drain trap, you'll need to clean the inline filter regularly.
With all these strategies, you'll benefit the health and longevity of your septic system. Contact a septic tank cleaning service like AAA Pumping Service if you have any questions about doing laundry or any other tasks that involve water going to the septic tank.