Flushable Wipes don’t belong in Septic Tanks
Flushable wipes will flush. However, flushable wipes will not decompose and do not belong in your septic system. If you, or someone you know, is flushing flushable wipes, please ask them to quit
Septic systems rely on anaerobic, without air, digestion. Much like the bacteria in your gut, a community of bacteria are at the core of your septic tank. These bacteria live a happy life [we like to believe the bacteria are happy in their work] within your septic tank digesting your waste. However, these bacteria cannot eat everything we throw at them; examples of items these bacteria cannot eat include, but are not limited to:
- Socks (surprisingly common)
- Plastic products
- Children’s toys (apparently not all plastic army men survive aquatic training)
- Feminine hygiene products
- Flushable wipes (rags in disguise!)
Items which cannot be digested by these bacteria remain in your onsite waste management system [septic tank or drain field] and will remain within your system until they are pumped.
We will address other non-biodegradable items in later posts, but let’s get back to flushable[!] wipes.
Flushable wipes can interfere with your septic tank, and potentially, your drain field. A modern septic tank, like the one shown in the pictures below, will likely catch most of the flushable wipes in its first chamber, modern septic tanks typically have at least two chambers, where the flushable wipes will form a wet brick. The flushable wipes are lighter than water, and will float to the top of your tank. This floating brick of flushable wipes lowers the amount of effluent your septic tank can hold and is fighting for space with FOG, fats oils and grease, which needs to float to the top of your septic tank for proper functioning.
If your septic tank is older, it may only have one large chamber and no filter on the outlet. In these systems, a wet brick of flushable wipes at the top of your tank is your least-bad outcome. Potential worse outcomes include flushable wipes entering your drain field or clogging your T-outlet immediately before the drain field. Either of these problems can stop your plumbing from flowing and potentially lead to costly repairs.
So, what should you do with your flushable wipes? Flushable wipes belong in the garbage. We understand this may be off putting, but one thing is for sure; flushable wipes should not go down the drain.
Article about Flushable Wipes in the Sewer
Trust us, if flushable wipes are causing problems for your local sewage treatment plant the same flushable wipes are definitely going to cause problems for your onsite waste management system. As the article explains:
- Flushable wipes do not break up when flushed
- Flushable wipes do not readily decompose
- Flushable wipes do clog up plumbing
Flushable Wipes in a Septic System