Maybe you recently moved into a home with a septic system, or you’re building a house that requires one, so you’re trying to bring your knowledge of these systems up to date. Or, maybe you accidentally dumped a bottle of hydrogen peroxide into your drain and wondered if you should be stressed about that.
Either way, you’re in the right place – we’re here to help! We did the research for you to provide the necessary information to lay your fears of hydrogen peroxide and septic systems to rest, so continue reading to learn more (spoiler: regular hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t harm your septic system)!
In This Article
How Do Septic Systems Work?
Septic systems are standard in rural areas, particularly homes without access to the city or town’s sewage system. So, to create an effective wastewater system, homeowners install septic systems.
These systems are relatively simple, with four main components: a pipe exiting your home, a septic tank, a drain field, and soil. The process starts when you flush a toilet (or use water) in your home. The wastewater from your home exits via the main drainage pipe, which leads to the septic tank.
The septic tank, a large, water-tight container made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene, is buried in the ground, out of sight. The sole purpose of this tank is to hold wastewater while it settles. Solid waste will sink to the bottom of the tank, forming a sludge, while the grease, oils, and fats rise to the top, creating a layer of scum.
The tank has compartments and a T-shaped outlet, which prevents the sludge and scum from escaping the tank and contaminating the surrounding environment. However, while this part of the wastewater is trapped in the tank, the liquid portion of the wastewater, called effluent, drains from the tank into the drain field.
The drain field is a shallow excavation area near the tank consisting of unsaturated soil. As pretreated wastewater exits the tank via a pipe system, it flows onto porous surfaces of the drain field and filters into the soil.
The soil soaks up the water, then treats and disperses it as it sinks deeper into the earth. As the wastewater sinks into the soil, bacteria and other microorganisms naturally remove harmful viruses, bacteria, and nutrients. These microorganisms are present in every component of your sewage system. Eventually, the treated water discharges to groundwater.
If the leach field becomes overwhelmed by too much effluent, it can flood, which may lead to sewage backup on the ground surface or in your home (usually in basement drains).
The process continues, with the tank filling, sludge sinking, grease and oil rising, and effluent filtering through the system. Eventually, the system requires pumping to remove sludge and grease buildup to keep the system functioning correctly.
Will Hydrogen Peroxide Harm A Septic Tank?
Hydrogen peroxide won’t wreak havoc on the finite balance of bacteria hard at work in your septic system. This is because septic systems utilize aerobic bacteria, which require plenty of oxygen to function properly.
Hydrogen peroxide incorporates oxygen, so it shouldn’t negatively affect your septic system. Its effects are the polar opposite of chlorine or bleach, which remove oxygen from the system and can cause problems.
Professionals may add hydrogen peroxide manually to septic systems, as it’s a safe way to manage unpleasant odors. Although septic experts utilize it to clean and manage the tank, they utilize a specifically diluted solution that is safe for use on septic tanks.
The concentration level is enough to remove disease-causing bacteria without killing the “good” bacteria that keep the system functioning correctly. However, in its pure form, hydrogen peroxide can be detrimental to your septic system and the environment around it. So, while you can safely use it in a septic system, it’s best to leave that project to the professionals.
What Should I Do If I Accidentally Dump Hydrogen Peroxide In My Drain?
Perhaps you were cleaning blood out of clothing or disinfecting a small wound on your hand but accidentally bumped the bottle of hydrogen peroxide, sending its contents down the drain. But since you have a septic system, you begin to worry, wondering if the peroxide will harm the system.
However, there’s no need to worry, as most hydrogen peroxide sold for clinical use has a 3% peroxide concentration. The solution is diluted enough that it shouldn’t cause any issues for your septic system. Call a septic expert immediately if you’re concerned about the system’s function or if it seems to be malfunctioning.
What Are Septic Tank Additives?
If you’re new to the ins and outs of septic tanks, you might hear a suggestion of incorporating certain additives into your new system. There’s a common misconception that these additives can reduce or eliminate the need for pumping and similar maintenance procedures. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as maintenance is essential, even if you use additives.
While incorporating additives can be good, it’s usually best to consult a professional before using any septic tank additive. This way, you can avoid accidentally adding something harmful to your septic system.
6 Things You Should Avoid Putting In Your Septic Tank
- Chemicals: This includes gasoline, oil, insect/weed killers, photographic chemicals, solvents, paint, and paint thinners. Since the effluent in a septic tank returns to the surrounding environment, pouring these into your drain can poison your septic tank and potentially threaten your water supply.
- Grainy items: Things like cat litter and coffee grounds can lead to buildup in your tank, causing issues with its function. On top of that, these products can clog your drains, so it’s best to dispose of them differently.
- Sanitary products: Things such as diapers, sanitary napkins, or tampons have no place in your septic system. They can clog your system and build up rapidly, causing issues for the entire tank.
- Non-biodegradable items: Aside from sanitary products, which may not be biodegradable, you should avoid putting things like cigarette butts, paper towels, plastics, and paper down your drains. These can build up and cause problems within the tank, potentially leading to more frequent pumping.
- Grease, fat, and oil: These items can clog your septic system (not to mention the drains in your home), leading to a blocked drain field and polluted surrounding soil.
- Disinfectants: Products like bleach and other harsh chemical cleaners should never go down your drain. These products are usually marketed as disinfectants, which kill bacteria. This creates a problem, as your septic tank requires good bacteria to function correctly, and if you pour something in the drain that kills them, the system’s function may slow or come to a screeching halt.
What Cleaners Are Safe For Septic Systems?
Since septic systems require careful consideration to avoid problems, it’s essential to evaluate what cleaners you use around the house and whether they’re safe for the system. Generally, the best cleaning products to use when you have a septic system are all-natural cleaners
For example, consider incorporating one of the following options:
- Ammonia, when used in moderation
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Lemon juice (great for disinfecting and deodorizing)
Or, if you prefer the convenience of a store-bought cleaner, look for these labels:
- Septic safe
- Non-chlorine, non-toxic, phosphate-free (often on laundry detergents)
Of course, you should still pay attention to the cleaner’s contents, even if it boasts one of the following labels. Why? Even if the product is labeled as water-based, it might contain other ingredients that could harm your septic system. So, proceed with caution and pay attention to labels!