Is Fabric Softener Bad for Septic Systems?


You already know that certain substances are bad for your septic system, which is why you make a conscious effort to keep your system functioning optimally. You follow the “no FOG” rule of keeping your drains free of fats, oils, and grease. You are careful about what your family flushes down the toilets, and you don’t do six loads of laundry in a row, so as not to overwhelm your septic tank.

These are all good ways to protect your septic system from damage and prevent backups, but if you’re using fabric softener for each load of laundry, you may be unknowingly disrupting the balance of bacteria in your tank. Here’s the truth about how fabric softener is affecting your septic system.


Fabric softener can have the same effect as cooking grease in your septic tank

You know not to pour cooking grease down your drain, but did you know that many fabric softeners are petroleum-based products? This thin layer of chemicals is what helps make your clothes feel softer, but it contains petroleum, as in oil.

Additionally, the most common fabric softening chemicals — quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats” — have antibacterial qualities. These quats can actually kill the good bacteria in your septic tank — the ones that break down waste and keep your system running smoothly.

Many popular fabric softener brands also contain:

  • Acids
  • Silicone-based antifoaming agents
  • Emulsion stabilizers
  • Fragrances
  • Colors


While you don’t have to understand exactly what these chemicals are, what you do need to know is that they’re harmful to your septic tank’s self-sufficient system and equilibrium.

Some of the most popular fragrances and colors are a mixture of untested, toxic chemicals that can wreak havoc on your system and the environment. Petroleum products can also be toxic to the natural microbes in septic systems.


Natural alternatives are better for you and your septic tank

We understand that you want clean, soft clothes — who doesn’t? But, it’s much safer for you, your septic system, and the environment, if you choose natural alternatives to commercial brand fabric softeners.

You can find recipes for homemade liquid fabric softeners online, or you can simply add a half-cup of distilled white vinegar to your laundry during your machine’s rinse cycle.

Alternatively, you can use natural wool or bamboo dryer balls to add fluff and softness to your clothes in the dryer instead of the washer. (That won’t harm your septic tank at all!)


Start with a professional inspection from Paradise Valley Septic

The best way to learn if your fabric softener has caused damage to your septic system is to schedule a septic tank inspection. The experienced professionals at Paradise Valley Septic are experts at evaluating your entire septic system and identifying any existing or potential problems.

We can also offer suggestions for updating all the products in your home that might be harmful to your septic system.

For the best residential and commercial septic service in the Phoenix area, give us a call to schedule an appointment or contact us online anytime.


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