The Best Dishwasher Detergent for Septic Systems


When you have a septic system, it’s extra-important to be mindful of what goes down the drain. This includes everything from laundry detergent to dish soap — and even toilet paper. But if you also have a dishwasher, it’s worth thinking about what kind of dish detergent you’re using, too.

Besides, it can be easy to toss in your favorite dishwasher soap and call it a day. This is especially likely if you’re used to washing dishes by hand or don’t use your dishwasher often. Regardless, in order to treat your septic well, choosing the best dishwasher detergent for septic systems is key.



Dishwashers, like washing machines, tend to use a lot of water. But when it comes to septic issues, this often isn’t the problem. Typically, the detergent is the one to blame.

For starters, dishwasher detergents labeled as “anti-bacterial” are bad news. They can kill your tank’s good bacteria, which are responsible for breaking down solid waste. This prevents your septic tank from filling up too quickly.

But without enough bacteria, solid waste will build up. The result? Back-ups, unpleasant odors, and a damaged drainfield.

Additionally, some dishwasher detergents have phosphates, which can kill the enzymes and bacteria in your tank. Phosphates are chemicals that help remove food and grime from your dishes. Unfortunately, these chemicals can seriously threaten the health of your septic system.
Phosphates are also toxic for the environment. After passing through a septic system, they linger in wastewater and enter natural bodies of water. Here, the phosphates feed harmful algae, which significantly decrease oxygen levels in the water. As a result, marine life (like fish) cannot survive.

In the United States, phosphates have been banned from laundry detergent. However, they’re still used in other types of household soaps – including dishwasher detergent. Only a handful of states have banned the use of phosphates in dishwasher soap.



When buying a dishwasher detergent, choose products that are:

  • Phosphate-free
  • Non-antibacterial
  • Eco-friendly
  • Biodegradable

Typically, a detergent that checks all these boxes will be labeled with these terms. They might also be called “septic-safe,” but it’s still wise to check the packaging and fine print.



In addition to choosing the right dishwasher detergent, there are other things you can do to protect your septic system while using the dishwasher:

  • Use the dishwasher when you aren’t doing laundry or using the shower. This can severely overload your septic tank. Instead, spread out your major water usage throughout the week or day.
  • Upgrade your dishwasher, if necessary. Older models tend to be less efficient than newer ones.
  • Always run the dishwasher with a full load. This way, you can make the most out of the water and energy.



Using the right dishwasher detergent for your septic system is the best thing you can do. Not only does it extend the life of your system, but it protects the environment as well.

For specific questions related to your septic, contact us at (480) 351-1725. One of our expert septic technicians will be happy to assist you.


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