If you have a septic system with a septic tank, you may feel like you are alone in your plumbing problems, but in North America about a quarter of the population relies on these systems. Inside your house all the fixtures may look the same and work the same as in a house with a connection to main sewage pipes, but the similarities end there. Rather than going to a large-scale sewage plant, everything you flush or put down your drains goes to your personal septic tank. This tank is filled with anaerobic bacteria to break down solids, but not all solids can be broken down. Eventually, you’ll need to call a plumber to have your tank pumped. Fortunately, by watching what solids you put down your drain, you can go much longer between pumping.
There’s a big difference between a trash can and a drain. Things like paper towels, napkins, dental floss, and diapers are not made to dissolve in water, so they will just sit in your tank. If you have any piece of trash, and you have the option of sticking it in a trash can or down a drain, always choose the trash can. Whatever time or convenience you might gain by flushing trash will quickly be lost when your tank fills up. Even some products that are labeled as “flushable” can fill up a septic tank quickly.
You may think that liquids are safe to put down a drain, but some liquids contain chemicals that can interfere with the breaking down of solids in your tank. This certainly includes things like poisons, pesticides, and herbicides, but also includes seemingly innocent items like paints and varnish. If you aren’t sure what’s in the bottle, play it safe and don’t put it down the drain.
It is hard to cook great food in your kitchen without the help of some fats. Whether you’re using butter, lard, or vegetable oil, they are all classified as fats. They are often used in baking, but they are also used for frying. When you’re done frying with oil, fat, or grease, you have some amount left over. While it may be a liquid while warm, fats can congeal or turn into solids once they’ve gone down the drain. They can block up pipes, and lead to reduced efficiency in your septic tank. Instead, take your left over fats, pour them into a lidded container, and throw them out with the trash.
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