Is Fabric Softener Safe for Septic Systems?

Is Fabric Softener Safe for Septic Systems
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It’s frustrating when you find problems with the septic system but fail to detect the main culprit.  After thinking about it widely, you might suspect fabric softener is the culprit here. 

Now the question comes to your mind:

Is Fabric Softener Safe for Septic Systems?

No, fabric softener isn’t safe for the septic system. The ingredients of fabric softener can have devastating effects on the septic system. For example, petroleum products can create layers of scum in the system. Again fragrance, enzymes, and additives kill good bacteria and microbes in the septic tank. 

Here I’ve mentioned only 2 impacts, but there are more. Below I’ll be describing them one by one. So, keep reading.

5 Negative Effects of Fabric Softener on the Septic System 

In this segment, I’ll be adding 5 negative impacts of fabric softener on the septic tank. Before that, a quick glance table for you to understand the impact if you’re in a hurry.

IngredientsEffects
Petroleum productsCreate a layer of scum
FragranceToxic to natural microbes
Quaternary Ammonium CompoundsBreak down the good bacteria and microbes
Enzymes and additivesKill good bacteria

Now it’s time to show you every effect with proper explanation. So, let’s read on. 

You can also read: How to Add Fabric Softener to Washer That Locks

Formation of a Layer of Scum in the Septic Tank

Fabric softener generally contains petroleum products which is the main culprit for this negative impact. They are made up of oil and help to soften the cloth. During the process, they leave a  waxy-like substance that can solidify at a lower temperature.

As a result, a layer of scum gets created at the top of the septic tank. Another thing is this waxy-like substance doesn’t break in the water. The only solution to this problem is pumping. 

Septic tank Bolduc
Septic tank Bolduc.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Kill the Septic System Microbe/Good Bacteria

Different properties of fabric softeners can potentially harm the good bacteria in a septic system. These ingredients include fragrances, enzymes, quaternary ammonium compounds, and other chemicals. They can alter the pH balance of the system and disrupt the natural process of breaking down organic matter. 

Below I’ll be discussing them in detail.

1. Fragrance

Among the following properties, fragrance has a highly bad impact on the system. The fragrance includes ingredients like synthetic masks and phthalates. Both of them are suspected as hormone disruptors. Some types of fragrances and colors are created as a mixture of untested, toxic chemicals. They can be highly harmful to our environment and wreak havoc on your system, and they also can be toxic to the natural microbes in the septic system. 

2. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds

Another property of fabric softeners is quaternary ammonium compounds. They are cationic surfactants having disinfectant properties. When you rinse out clothes with fabric softeners, it’ll disinfect your clothes but kill off the microbe of the septic system that breaks down the waste. 

3. Enzymes and Additives

Some fabric softeners contain enzymes or other additives that are designed to break down stains and odors. However, these enzymes can also break down the natural bacteria in a septic system. Moreover, they are responsible for disrupting the balance and potentially leading to issues with the system.

Interfere the Septic Tank’s Physical Function

The above-mentioned 2 properties of fabric softener; are quaternary ammonium compounds. And petroleum products can attack the septic tank’s ecosystem. They can also interfere with the tank’s physical functioning. 

Clog the Filter in the Septic System

Fabric softeners can also leave a film or residue on clothing and linens.  And they can clog the filters in a septic system. This can lead to reduced efficiency and potentially even system failure.

Reduce The Space 

Fabric softeners are also responsible for sludge buildup in a septic tank. This can reduce the 

amount of space available for solid waste and increase the risk of clogs and other issues.

What If You’ve Been Using Fabric Softener for a Long Time?

As you know, using fabric softeners isn’t safe for septic tanks. You should be worried about the harm already caused by it. No worries, here I’ll add a solution to this problem.

First, I think the problem shouldn’t be highly dangerous if there are no major issues. In that case, you can inspect the septic tank and solve the problems one by one. Let’s see how to do a septic inspection. 

  • Locate your septic tank and drain field. The septic tank is usually buried underground and may be located near your home or business or in a separate area on your property. The drain field is usually located away from your home or business.
  • Now, Check the tank and lid for signs of damage or deterioration. The septic tank is generally made of concrete or fiberglass. Plus it should be in good condition with no cracks or holes. The lid should also be in good condition and properly secured to the tank.
  • Next, inspect the surrounding area for any signs of standing water or wet areas. These may indicate that the septic system is not functioning properly or that there is a blockage in the drain field.
  • After that, check for any foul odors near the septic tank or drain field. This may indicate that there is a problem with the septic system, such as a clogged drain or an overflowing tank.
  • Follow the recommendations of the septic contractor. If you can identify any issue during the inspection, it’s important to follow the contractor’s recommendations for repairs or maintenance. 

This is the step-by-step guide. However, it should be easily doable if you’re not a professional. So, I suggest contacting a professional to check the septic tank.

Bonus Tip: Have your septic system professionally inspected by a licensed septic contractor. This should be done every 3-5 years or more frequently if you notice any issues or if your septic system is old or in disrepair.

3 Best Alternatives to Fabric Softeners

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Gain Fabric Softener Original Scent, Proctor and Gamble 9/… | Flickr

To get rid of the problem with a septic tank, you will have to use alternatives to fabric softeners. 

The natural alternatives to fabric softeners are vinegar and baking soda. And dryer balls are also another great alternative having fewer chemicals. Let’s learn about them a bit more

  • Wool dryer balls: If you’re looking for a chemical-free alternative to fabric softener, then go for wool dryer balls. They’re made from wool and are a more natural option. They help to fluff up clothes and reduce static and can also be scented with essential oils.
  • White vinegar: The best natural alternative to fabric softener is white vinegar. Adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle can help to soften clothes and remove any leftover detergent or fabric softener residue. It’s also a natural alternative to synthetic fragrances.
  • Baking soda: Similar to vinegar, adding a cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle can help to soften clothes and remove odors. It can also act as a natural deodorant for clothes.

Among them, I think the wool dryer balls will work the best and cause no harm to the septic system.

Final Verdict

By now, you should understand that using fabric softeners isn’t safe for a septic tank. I have added different reasons why it’s not safe.

So, it would be best to avoid using any products in a septic system that could potentially harm the bacteria or disrupt the natural balance.

Using a natural, septic-safe fabric softener or simply using vinegar as a natural fabric softener alternative may be a safer option for households with a septic system.

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