Look Before You Flush: Don’t Let These Items Go Down The Drain

The importance of maintaining a healthy septic system can't be stated enough. Unfortunately, countless homeowners jeopardize their septic system's health by flushing items that shouldn't find their way into a septic tank. Flushing these items can seem temptingly convenient, but you could end up learning a very expensive lesson on why you shouldn't.

Gloves, Condoms and Other Latex Products

Latex is a non-biodegradable material, which means it won't break down on its own. So when you flush a glove or a condom down the toilet, chances are it'll survive the trip and wind up floating along the septic tank's scum layer. In some cases, latex products can cause blockages as they go down the drain or even cause a blockage in the tank's drain field.

Latex products can also spell disaster if your septic system uses a grinder pump or sewage ejector pump. The material could get tangled up in the pump impeller, dragging the motor to a grinding halt, with permanent damage as a likely result.

Cat Litter

Most types of clumping cat litter contain sodium bentonite, a type of absorbent clay that swells to as much as 15 times its original size when exposed to moisture. As those granules grow in size, they could become heavy enough to settle to the bottom of your plumbing pipes and cause blockages that prove time-consuming and costly to fix.

Flushing cat litter down the toilet also exposes the surrounding waterways to Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite commonly found in cat feces. Exposure to the parasite could lead to toxoplasmosis, a disease that could cause serious health problems in those with weakened immune systems.

Most cat litter manufacturers recommend carefully bagging the cat litter clumps and disposing of them in the garbage. Some wheat and corn-based cat litters can be flushed, but it's usually safe to err on the side of caution and dispose of them in the garbage, as well.

Sanitary Napkins

Taboos surrounding sanitary napkin disposal often leads users to flush them down the toilet, largely to avoid embarrassment. But sending sanitary napkins into your septic system on a regular basis can have expensive long-term consequences.

Tampons and sanitary pads are often too fibrous for septic grinder pumps to handle. Instead, the fibers may become entangled in the impeller, causing the pump motor to overheat and burn out. In addition, sanitary napkins are bulky enough to become clogged in septic plumbing and they don't biodegrade as easily as household toilet tissue.

To avoid septic problems, all tampons and sanitary napkins should be carefully wrapped in paper and thrown in the garbage.

Cotton Swabs and Dental Floss

Thanks to their largely non-biodegradable nature, cotton swabs and dental floss can hang around long after they've been flushed. Both can easily become tangled within the impellers of septic pumps, causing those pumps to eventually fail. Cotton swabs and buds can also accumulate within the septic system and create drain field blockages.

It's tempting to toss your used dental floss or cotton swabs into the toilet, but these items should end up in your wastebasket instead.

Disposable Wipes

Pre-moistened wipes are often touted by their manufacturers as being "flushable" and "safe for septic systems," but unlike ordinary toilet tissue, these wipes don't break down quickly enough to avoid causing clogs in the septic system. It's a good idea to treat disposable wipes like any other non-flushable item – toss it in the nearest garbage bin, instead.

Keeping these items out of your toilet also means keeping your septic system out of harm's way. If you do suspect septic problems related to these items, it's a good idea to have a certified plumbing expert check and, if necessary, clean the septic tank. For more information, contact a local septic tank service, like Country Pump Out in Grande Prairie.