Everyday Items That Could Cause Major Issues to Your Septic Systems

A septic system means you’re in charge of a mini wastewater treatment facility in your backyard. 

This system is designed primarily to handle human waste and toilet paper. 

However, many people need to realize that flushing or washing down certain everyday items can lead to significant problems, potentially resulting in costly repairs or even a full system replacement. 

What Causes Major Issues to Your Septic Systems?

Flushing the Wrong Things

One of the most common culprits for septic system issues is flushing the wrong items down the toilet. 

Septic systems are designed to handle human waste and toilet paper only. 

When other items like baby wipes (even if they say “flushable”), feminine hygiene products, paper towels, or cotton swabs are flushed, they don’t break down in the tank. 

Instead, they accumulate and can lead to clogs and backups.

Pouring Grease Down the Drain

It might seem easy to pour cooking oils or grease down the kitchen sink, but this can cause major issues for your septic system. 

Grease can harden within your plumbing and the septic tank, creating blockages that are tough and often expensive to remove.

Using Too Many Chemicals

While household cleaners are essential for hygiene, too much can kill the good bacteria in your septic tank. 

These bacteria are necessary because they help break down the solids in the tank. 

Without them, the tank fills up quicker and needs more frequent (and costly) pumping. 

Use chemicals sparingly to keep your septic system healthy, and opt for septic-safe products when available.

Overloading the System with Water

Septic systems can handle only so much water at a time. 

The water must be absorbed and filtered naturally into the ground through a drain field. 

Too much water–from laundry, showers, toilets, and sinks–can quickly flood the system. 

This can stop the breakdown of waste, leading to sewage backups and a failed drain field.

Not Pumping Regularly

Every septic tank needs periodic emptying or pumping. 

If not, solids will fill the tank and spill into the drain field, which is only meant to handle water. 

This could lead to a system failure and costly repairs. 

Most households need to pump their tank every three to five years, but the frequency can vary depending on the size of the tank and household usage.

Ignoring Maintenance

Regular maintenance checks are critical to catching issues before they turn serious. 

This includes inspecting the tank, checking for leaks, and ensuring the drain field isn’t soggy or smelling bad. 

Septic system issues can become significantly worse and more expensive if not caught early.

Planting Trees Near the System

Root intrusion from trees and shrubs can cause huge problems for septic systems. 

Roots naturally seek out water sources, including leaky septic pipes. 

Once they invade the pipes, they can cause blockages and damage. 

It’s recommended that plants with large root systems be kept far away from septic system components.

Driving or Parking on the Drain Field

The weight of vehicles can compact the soil in your drain field or damage the pipes. 

Compacted soil cannot absorb and evaporate water effectively, leading to inefficiencies or failures. Therefore, heavy vehicles should always be kept away from this area.

Everyday Items That Causes Major Issues to Septic Systems

Cooking Grease and Oils

Truck to clean septic

Pouring grease and oils down your kitchen sink seems innocent enough, especially if you’re used to running hot water after it to clear the pipes. 

However, once these substances cool down, they solidify and can clog your septic system’s pipes. 

Worse still, they can interfere with the breakdown process in your septic tank, leading to backups and odors that nobody wants to deal with.

Non-Biodegradable Items

What do wipes (yes, even those labeled as flushable), feminine hygiene products, condoms, and dental floss have in common? 

They’re all non-biodegradable. 

This means they don’t break down naturally over time. 

When flushed down the toilet, these items can cause blockages in your septic system’s pipes and tank, leading to backups and potentially significant damage.

Household Chemicals

Household cleaners, solvents, paints, and other chemicals can wreak havoc on your septic system. 

They kill the beneficial bacteria in your septic tank that help break down waste. 

Without these bacteria, your septic system can’t function correctly, leading to system failures and pollution of local waterways. 

Using septic-safe products and disposing of hazardous chemicals at designated drop-off locations is better.


Flushing old or unused medications might seem like a safe disposal method, but it harms your septic system and the environment. 

Medications, like household chemicals, can kill the bacteria in your septic tank. 

However, they can also end up in groundwater and local water bodies, posing a threat to wildlife and potentially coming back into our drinking water.

Excessive Toilet Paper

While your septic system is designed to handle human waste and toilet paper, too much of the latter can be problematic. 

Excessive amounts of toilet paper can clog the system, especially if it’s not septic-safe or biodegradable. 

This doesn’t mean you need to skimp—just be mindful of the type and amount you’re using.

Kitty Litter

Cats are beloved family members, but their litter should never enter your septic system. 

Even if labeled as flushable, Kitty litter can absorb moisture and expand, leading to blockages in your pipes and septic system. 

Always dispose of kitty litter in the trash.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds might seem harmless, but flushing them down the sink or toilet can damage the septic system. 

They don’t break down easily and can accumulate, eventually causing blockages in pipes and filters. 

It’s best to throw them in the trash or add them to your compost pile if you have one.

Starch-rich and Fibrous Food Scraps

Foods like potato peels, rice, and pasta expand with water and, like kitty litter, can create blockages in your pipes and septic system. 

Similarly, fibrous vegetables like celery and pumpkin can pose problems as they don’t break down easily. 

A good rule of thumb is to compost or toss these items in the trash rather than rinsing them down the sink.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Septic System

A septic system is like a private sewage treatment facility buried in your yard. 

It is crucial for managing waste in homes not connected to municipal sewer lines. 

Given its importance, keeping it in good working order is vital so that it doesn’t cause inconvenience, become a health hazard, or require expensive repairs. 

Here are some practical tips to help you maintain a healthy septic system.

Understand Your Septic System

First things first, get to know your system. 

Septic systems typically include a tank, drain, or soil absorption field. 

Wastewater flows from your home into the tank, where solids settle at the bottom. 

The liquid effluent then flows out into the drain field for further treatment by the soil.

Regular Inspections and Pumping

maintenance guy

Your septic tank should be inspected by a professional at least every three years, and the tank typically needs pumping every three to five years. 

However, the actual frequency will depend on the size of your tank, the number of people living in your home, and your water usage habits.

Watch What You Flush

Be careful about what you flush down the toilet. 

Human waste and toilet paper should be the only things going down there. 

Items like wipes (even those labeled as flushable), feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, and other foreign objects should always be thrown in the trash.

Be Drain-Wise

You have to think about more than the toilet. 

Your sinks and showers also lead to the septic system. 

Grease, coffee grounds, chemicals, medications, and paint can damage the system and should not be disposed of in the drain. 

Use a drain catcher to catch hairs in the shower, and never pour cooking oil or grease down the sink.

Go Easy with Household Chemicals

Overusing household chemicals can kill the important bacteria in your septic tank and harm your system. 

Try to use cleaning products in moderation and look for septic-safe labels. 

Natural cleaning methods, such as baking soda and vinegar, can be effective alternatives for many tasks.

Conserve Water

Reducing your water usage can greatly benefit your septic system by preventing it from overloading. 

Fix leaks, install low-flow fixtures, and spread out laundry days. 

The less water you use, the less water enters the septic system, allowing it to process waste more efficiently.

Landscaping with Care

The area above your drain field is crucial for the final treatment of your septic system’s effluent. 

Avoid planting trees nearby since roots can damage the pipes. 

Similarly, don’t drive or park heavy vehicles on top of the septic tank or drain field, as it can compact the soil and damage the system.

Keep the Drain Field Clear

Keep the drain field clear from structures like sheds or pools, and avoid covering it with concrete or asphalt. 

Oxygen is needed to treat the effluent effectively. 

The grass is the best cover for your drain field as it helps with evaporation and nutrient uptake.

Proper Waste Disposal

Garbage disposals can increase the amount of solids in your septic tank, requiring more frequent pumping. 

Composting kitchen scraps is a better alternative. Similarly, hazardous wastes like paints, solvents, and chemicals need proper disposal outside your household.

Be Mindful of Laundry

Spread out your laundry throughout the week to avoid overloading the system on a single day. 

Additionally, use septic-safe laundry detergents, ideally liquid, which tend to be less harsh on the system than powders.

Look Out for Warning Signs

Pay attention to signs that your septic system isn’t working properly, such as patches of greener grass over the drain field, slow drains, water backing up in the house, or a foul smell outside near the tank or drain field. 

If you notice any of these, call a professional immediately.

Educate Your Family

Ensure everyone in your household understands what should and shouldn’t go down drains and toilets. 

Children should be taught not to flush toys or other objects, and guests should be informed about the sensitive nature of their septic system.

Keep a Maintenance Record

cleaning with pipes

Keep detailed records of repairs, pumping, inspections, and other maintenance activities. 

This will help you keep track of the schedule and inform repair technicians about past issues.

Don’t Use Additives

Avoid using septic tank additives that claim to enhance the functioning of your system. 

Most systems do not need these additives; in some cases, they may do more harm than good.


Your septic system is more delicate than you might think. 

Mindfulness about what you pour down the drain or flush can go a long way in preventing significant problems and expenses. 

Stick to the basics of human waste and toilet paper, use septic-safe products, and opt for the trash can over the toilet when in doubt. 

Keeping these everyday items out of your system will help ensure it runs smoothly for years.

Discovering how everyday items can impact your septic system is essential in protecting your home from costly repairs. 

At Microbialogic, we understand the importance of a healthy septic system, so we offer a range of safe and natural bacterial products designed to keep your system running smoothly. 

Whether you’re managing a residential septic tank or larger outdoor recreational sites, our RTB 700 Series products are formulated to reduce odors and digest solids so you can worry less about maintenance. 

Explore our collection of septic treatment products and grease trap treatments today at Microbialogic. 

Feel free to contact us for personalized advice and solutions that can help extend the life of your septic system. Your peace of mind is just a click away.

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