Does your home have a septic system? If so, you’ve probably been curious whether it’s safe to install a garbage disposal. The simple answer is yes, but there are many precautions and preventative measures that a homeowner must take to ensure that the disposal does not disrupt proper septic functioning. Many of these steps prove to be too much hassle for the average homeowner. It’s up to you to make that decision for your own home.
Septic tanks work by separating floating matter (oils, grease) and solids from the wastewater that exits your home. Floating particles rise to the top, while solids sink to the bottom. As the layers of floating scum and sludge grow, the septic tank capacity decreases. Helpful bacteria will assist in decomposing some of the solid matter, but not all of it. This is why septic tanks must be pumped regularly.
When you use a garbage disposal with a septic tank, the ground up food particles contribute to the layer of solids that is deposited on the bottom of your septic tank. Regular use of a garbage disposal can drastically increase the amount of waste you are pumping into the septic tank. Natural bacteria can’t decompose the materials quickly enough, meaning your septic tank will need to be inspected more frequently and pumped as much as twice as often.
Homeowners must also be extra vigilant about what types of materials they put in the garbage disposal. Food waste is the only material that should ever be put down a garbage disposal. Fats and grease are problematic, as well as non-food items that often inadvertently end up in a garbage disposal--small toys, nuts and bolts, or kitchen utensils. These materials can cause a garbage disposal to malfunction, clog pipes on the way to the septic tank, or contribute to a septic tank backup.
Today, many manufacturers offer garbage disposal systems designed for use with septic systems. They often include solutions of enzymes or other chemicals to assist in the breakdown of compounds in the septic tank. There is no proof that these additives are useful, and in fact, they can be harmful to the delicate bacteria ecosystem in your septic tank.
The plumbing experts at Roto-Rooter believe that homeowners should exercise caution when considering using a garbage disposal with a septic tank system. While a disposal does represent a number of conveniences in the kitchen, the risks of disrupting a septic system can easily outweigh the benefits.
If you do decide to install a garbage disposal, read our garbage disposal installation guide. In addition to garbage disposal plumbing, explore other Roto-Rooter kitchen plumbing services when you call 800-768-6911 or book an appointment online.