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Bleach is one of the most commonly used cleaning products found in most homes. Most people give little thought about whether or not they should actually be using it. Bleach is not only affordable, but it is highly effective. Yet, if you have a septic system and are putting bleach down your drains, it may be doing more harm than good.

Your tank’s ability to function efficiently and how long your system will last directly affects the liquids you allow in. Many homeowners are not well-informed about what liquids should and shouldn’t be allowed to go down their drains.

Continue reading to find out why too much bleach can be harmful to your septic tank system, and what amount is actually safe to use in your system, as well as ways to manage your bleach usage.


Can I Use Bleach If I Have a Septic System? 

The answer to this question is yes and no. Chlorine does more than restore your whites and getting out tough stains; it also acts as a sanitizer. Sanitizers are designed to eliminate bacteria and viruses — including in your septic tank. Bacteria in your septic tank need to thrive in order for the system to operate correctly. But misuse and overuse of Bleach may be killing them off.

Bleach can be diluted and still be effective at cleaning. Using a small amount of bleach diluted with water every so often should not disrupt your septic system. However, using a natural cleaning solution with lemon juice or vinegar can help you keep your home clean and your septic system safe.

Adding 3/4 cup (or less) of bleach to a load of laundry is not going to damage your septic system. The bleach becomes less potent as it does the job of removing stains and dirt from a load of soiled clothing. So, most of the bleach has dissipated by the time the water drains out of the washing machine and into the septic system.

A large amount of bleach can kill the bacteria in your septic tank. The role of this bacteria is to break down the solid waste that travels into the tank. If the bacteria are not there to break down the solid waste, it causes a clog that is likely to lead to a serious backup. In short, bacteria play an essential part in the workings of your septic tank.


Bleach and the Laundry

Bleach can turn stained whites into their sparkling new looking selves. Using bleach comes at a cost to your septic system though. Small amounts in a large load of laundry have less of an impact on your septic system. The bleach dilutes in a large amount of water, making it less potent.

Things to avoid when using bleach in the laundry are:

  • Running multiple white loads back-to-back.
  • Using more bleach than recommended.

Bleach used in your laundry, no matter how diluted, will accumulate so be careful not to overuse it.


Bleach and Bathrooms

Cleaning the bathroom or toilets is a chore enjoyed by nobody. It is one of the reasons the most popular cleaning accessories for bathrooms are clip-on discs that hang on the side of the toilet bowl and release chlorine into the bowl with every flush.

While they are great for keeping the inside of the toilet sparkling clean between scrub downs, they can also harm your septic system. Depending on how often the toilet is flushed and the water capacity of the tank, that little rush of chlorine is killing off the bacteria quicker than you realize.

When it comes to cleaning the shower, a good scrubbing without bleach is the safest way to get rid of soap buildup. Spraying the tiles with straight bleach can hurt your septic system. Look for the same product, minus the bleach or with low concentration levels. These alternate products will give you the same shine with little effort without the harmful effects on your septic system.


Bleach and the Kitchen

Your septic tank only works as well as it does because of the bacteria living within it. These bacteria break down the solid waste into tiny particles that are easily rinsed out into the drain field, along with water. While the bacterial population can generally withstand the occasional douse of bleach or disinfectants, constantly using these harsh chemicals in your kitchen can decrease the bacterial population significantly, slowing down the rate at which your tank empties.

So, if you are a heavy bleach user, it may be time to change your ways. There’s really no reason to use gallons of bleach in your kitchen anyways. Just a tablespoon in a gallon of water is enough to sanitize your surfaces, and that amount is generally safe for your septic tank, too. Also watch your use of drain cleaners, which are even more harmful to septic bacteria. Remove drain clogs with a plunger and hot water whenever possible.


Which Household Items Contain Bleach?

When it comes to bleach in your septic tank, moderation is the name of the game. So we wanted to keep you on the lookout for other household items that could contain bleach, and you should keep in mind if you have a septic system.

Here is the chemical information for Bleach. So be on the lookout for items containing sodium hypochlorite, or any of its synonyms like hypochlorite, hypochlorite sodium, and Sodium oxychloride.

As you may have guessed, laundry detergent is not the only household cleaning item that contains bleach. Additional household cleaners with bleach include:

  • Sanitizing solutions
  • Toilet cleaning solutions
  • Drain cleaning solutions
  • Floor cleaning solutions


How Much Bleach is Safe for a Septic System?

Above we mentioned that using bleach in a septic system in moderation is actually ok. But you are probably wondering what moderation exactly means. So, let’s take a closer look at exactly how much bleach is safe for your septic system and what is too much bleach for your septic.

When looking at using bleach in your septic tank, a moderate amount is described as about 3/4 of a cup per wash of laundry on the Clorox site itself. At that amount, most of the hydrochloride will be used up in the wash as it reacts to the dirt and germs in the wash turning into salt and water.  The remaining bleach in the water will react to the items in the pipes on the way to the septic tank, turning to mostly salt and water before entering the septic tank.


Bleach Alternatives for Homes with Septic Systems

There are many good alternatives to bleach for keeping your sinks and toilet clean. The chlorine component in bleach is what harms your septic system. Therefore, look for chlorine-free cleaners.

Many chlorine-free products use formulas that release hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine. Other bleach alternatives include baking soda, tea tree oil, lemon juice, and vinegar.

Bleach alternates include:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Tea Tree Oil


How Does Bleach Affect Your Septic System?

A natural ecosystem in your septic tank breaks down wastewater that flows down the drains using bacteria. The good bacteria break down substances like soap, organic waste, and contaminants that are flushed through your household’s plumbing system. Without these microbes, the sludge will accumulate, leading to potential health hazards, unpleasant odors, and more money for you to waste on septic pumping.


How to Add Good Bacteria That Bleach Has Destroyed

Although bleach effectively destroys germs, it can also ruin your septic system. Bleach kills both good and bad bacteria. If the good bacteria are destroyed, your tank will not be able to break down waste effectively. As a result, your septic system will become clogged with waste. The harsh consequences of excess bleach include waste backup in your home, unpleasant smells, and a squishy compound.

If you have been flushing excess amounts of bleach down your drains, you will need to start from scratch. Adding good bacteria to your tank may help mitigate the negative consequences. Using septic tank enzymes is one of the most effective ways to boost the microorganisms in your septic tank. They increase the number of microbes in the tank, helping with waste decomposition.


Keeping Your Septic Tank Healthy

To keep your septic tank healthy, you need to keep the “good” bacteria in it. Harsh detergents, bleach, and chemical drain cleaners kill the good bacteria in your septic tank. One way to add good bacteria to your septic system is to flush a packet of brewer’s dry yeast down one toilet on the bottom floor of your home one time per month. Try using biodegradable and “septic safe” cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda.

At West Coast Sanitation, we know that you do not have time to deal with septic problems. One of the ways you can maintain this balance and keep your septic system working like it should is to have your tank pumped regularly. Please give us a call at (951) 780-5922 right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.