Septic Systems and Drain Cleaners
Do you need to buy drain cleaners in order to unclog your bathroom sink, or perhaps cleanout your shower? Or maybe you just heard that it’s dangerous not to use these chemicals when cleaning out your septic system. Some people think they are fine to use, but others warn against it because of potential damage to the septic systems. Who is right? It turns out, research says both sides are correct in some respects. On one hand, if used in moderation drain cleaners can be safe for a septic tank; on the other hand using too much can damage or even destroy your tank entirely. This article will explain what drain cleaners do and why they work, how they affect septic systems, and finally how much is too much.
First, let’s look at what drain cleaners actually do. To put it simply, they dissolve organic materials in your pipes. Over time these organic materials build up and begin to clog the inside of your drains. In most cases, this will cause a nasty backup that is difficult or even impossible to clean up without chemical intervention. These cleaners are typically bleach-based products containing sodium hypochlorite as their active ingredient. They work by eating away at the gunk clogging your pipes until it dissolves completely, allowing water to flow freely once more.
All drain cleaners have some kind of chlorine compound as their active ingredient—that being said not all disinfectants for killing germs or cleaning surfaces contain sodium hypochlorite. Some cleaners use other chemicals, such as sulfuric acid or hydrogen peroxide to dissolve the gunk in your pipes. These are less common but can still be very effective at cleaning out a clogged pipe.
The only issue with any of these chemicals is that they do not discriminate about what they clean—they remove organic materials from inside the pipes and this includes, among other things, the bacteria responsible for breaking down waste in a septic tank. Depending on how much drain cleaner you use and how long it stays inside your system you may need anywhere from 5-20 days for these helpful little bugs to return to normal levels. In some cases when too much drain cleaner has been used there will simply be too little bacteria to compensate.
This is where drain cleaner safety becomes an issue, particularly for those with septic systems. Using too much drain cleaner can cause damage to your tank by removing beneficial bacteria essential for the breakdown of water waste. As a result, if you use excessive amounts of drain cleaner or use it too frequently this could lead to clogs that will not go away on their own and could eventually cause major problems.
The bottom line is that using any type of drain cleaners should be done in moderation—if you think there might be a problem try plugging sink or tub drains first before taking drastic measures with harsh chemicals. If this does not work consider calling a plumber instead of turning to harsh chemical treatments as a first resort. Remember that too much of a good thing can be bad—and drain cleaners are no exception to this rule. If you find that drain cleaners are affecting your septic system please contact us today.