Holy Crap! Our new house is on a septic tank. And, I guess there are all kinds of rules for what you can and can not put down the sinks and toilets, including what brands and kinds of toilet paper you can use. This launched me into a very involved research project where I got lost down one rabbit hole after another on the internet. Thankfully, I learned a few things about credible resources and research getting my Master’s degree at Columbia. I had absolutely no idea that researching the care and feeding of septic tanks would be among the applications for that knowledge.
To trust or not to trust:
- 1. Do not trust sites selling septic tank services as entirely credible resources. They have an agenda.
- 2. Do not trust Charmin’s research on how safe their toilet paper is for septic tanks. I don’t think they’re going to come out and unclog my septic tank when it’s clogged up with Charmin Ultra Soft.
- 3. The Environmental Protection Agency seems like a fairly trustworthy source. Their goal is that I don’t pollute the planet and use up an inordinate amount of natural resources. I can get behind that. They also made a friendly color info graphic in multiple languages. Nice.
Okay, here’s what the EPA says (boys are you listening?):
Protect and Inspect:
- Get your tank inspected by a reputable contractor every three years. Okay, someone is going to have to help me find a “reputable contractor.”
Think at the Sink:
- Don’t pour grease down the sink. I think that’s universally true, right? Check. We’re on it!
- No coffee grounds. I believe those are amazing for compost and gardens. Does this mean we should keep using those little K-cups because now they’re somehow better for the environment? Or, at least better for my septic system?
- No household chemicals. Ummm… so no cleaning house? No problem.
- Eliminate or limit the use of the garbage disposal. This is going to be a big change for me. I put EVERYTHING down the garbage disposal. I guess we really do need chickens, a pig, and a compost bin.
Don’t Overload the Commode: (Haha. The EPA is funny and can rhyme.)
- Don’t flush… ANYTHING except biodegradable toilet paper. They have a long and embarrassingly personal list of things you don’t want to put down the toilet. This includes random things like Q-tips, dental floss, and cat litter. Okay? So, we’ll just say NOTHING IN THE TOILET except crappy toilet paper. Sorry. Haha.
Shield Your Field: (What? I have a field?)
- Don’t park on your drain field. Great! Now, I have to learn what and where my drain field is. Anyone?
- Don’t plant, especially trees, on your drain field. Okay. Now, I’m afraid to plant trees anywhere.
Don’t Strain Your Drain:
- Don’t use your dishwasher, shower, washing machine, and toilet all at the same time. ROFL! I’m trying to figure out how I I would actually do that. But, okay. I get the point. Too much water all at once can over load the system. Check.
- Stagger the use of water generating appliances. I’m sure I will use this as an excuse to not do the dishes or the laundry. Steve will probably have some creative showering ideas for saving water. 😉
I did further research on chemicals and cleaning supplies. They don’t recommend that you quit cleaning your toilet and using laundry detergent; just use Seventh Generation and all that natural stuff instead of bleach, Comet, and All. Don’t forget I’m from California! I already use all that hippie, tree-hugger, good for the planet stuff, so we’re all good there.
Okay, now the real question: What kind of toilet paper should we use? The EPA does not have advice on that (in any language). Like I said, Charmin has all kinds of scientists and studies devoted to proving that their TP is safe for septic systems. I actually prefer Charmin, but I am very skeptical about their research.
Roto-Rooter will tell me how to run an experiment on different brands of TP, but they don’t make a flat out recommendation other than, “Have your septic tank serviced regularly.” After reading a bunch of comments and reviews and horror stories, I’m thinking about switching to Scott Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper.
My favorite article on the topic was at The Art of Doing Stuff, “The Only Toilet Paper You Should Ever Buy”
He likes to “sweat, swear, and do stuff.” My kind of people. And, he ran an actual experiment with photos. He’s convinced me (and my lady parts) that Cascade brand TP is worth a try.
I will, at some point, run an experiment with the boys and post photos. Photos of the toilet paper dissolving or not dissolving in mason jars of clean water, people. Get your heads out of the septic tank!
We’d love your thoughts and recommendations, too.