Are Your Toilet Cleaning Products Septic-Safe? What You Need To Know

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When preparing to purchase a home, you may run into some unfamiliar systems — some homes aren't attached to a city sewer system, for example. If this is the case, you may need to learn about a septic system before you purchase the house, so you understand what's required to properly care for this type of self-contained sewage system. Part of understanding the septic system is knowing what kinds of cleaning products you can use safely with your toilet.

Some chemicals may be too harsh for the ecosystem that lives inside a septic tank. It contains certain kinds of bacteria and microorganisms that are important for breaking down waste and organic matter. The wrong kinds of chemicals could kill off these bacteria, which makes it difficult for the septic system to break down the waste properly. If the microorganisms fail to safely break down the waste, it could end up being released into the leach field, which is a series of pipes that extend from the tank under the ground, slowly allowing the treated water to seep into the soil.

The improperly treated water from the septic system could eventually end up in the groundwater, carrying things like pathogens. This could contaminate the groundwater, leaving you in a dangerous situation, especially if you are supplied from a well. Make sure you understand exactly what cleaners you want to use before deploying any of your favorite toilet-cleaning hacks.

What are the most dangerous toilet cleaning products for a septic system?

The most dangerous cleaning products you can use on your toilet when you have a septic system are those that contain chlorine bleach. This chemical is toxic to many kinds of life, including bacteria. The bleach causes the proteins inside the bacteria to lose their ability to grow. These proteins eventually clump up, which kills the organism. Many people use bleach when cleaning the toilet bowl, but this is worth rethinking when you have a septic system. Of course, you should also avoid using antibacterial cleaners, too. The harm they can cause to bacteria is in the name, after all.

Hydrochloric acid is another common toilet cleaning product that works well but also can kill bacteria. This is a strong acid that is effective for eliminating the types of microorganisms you want to get rid of in the bathroom. However, these products cannot distinguish between the harmful bacteria that you have inside the toilet and any helpful microorganisms that may exist inside your septic tank. Check out the list of ingredients on the product label, as well as any cautionary warnings — if a product is unsafe for septic systems, it may be mentioned.

What kinds of toilet cleaning products are safe to use with a septic system?

If you want to use a commercially made toilet bowl cleaner, one of the safest to use with a septic system is the Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner, which is available at Amazon for about $5 per bottle. It uses a plant-based formula instead of any chlorine bleach. It includes certifications from the USDA and Leaping Bunny, and it's an EPA Safer Choice product. It does not have chlorine bleach, and it uses a biodegradable formula.

However, the safest products for your toilet and septic system are natural ingredients. You can make use of a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to clean this area without harming the bacteria in your septic system. Let a cup of vinegar sit overnight in the toilet bowl and then add half a cup of baking soda the next morning, along with two tablespoons of liquid dish soap (if you have some). Scrub the entire surface before flushing. This mixture can safely clean the tank as well as the bowl. It's important to consider toilet cleaning ingredients that are biodegradable and that will break down before the septic system releases them into the leach field. This DIY cleaner protects both the groundwater and the bacteria that exist in your tank.