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Clothes washing machines vs. the septic system: can we use a clothes washer or "washing machine" when a home is connected to a private septic system? What steps should be taken to protect the septic system from excessive water use or clothes lint or detergents? How to extend the life of a septic system.
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The volume of water from home washing machine use should not be a problem with a normal septic system in good working order.
As we discussed at Dishwashers, in some conditions you should avoid emptying washing machine discharge into the septic system:
Below we discuss steps you can take to minimize the possible effects of extra wastewater loads caused by washing machines, and then we discuss the effects of detergents and soaps when operating a clothes washer connected to a septic system or drywell.
The volume of detergent from a residential clothes washer entering the septic system is so low as to be very dilute when it enters the septic tank, dilute enough that it is not going to harm the septic tank bacteria at normal levels of residential dishwasher use.
Clothes washing machine detergents do not make a high level of suds inside the machine.They rely on surfactants, high water temperature, and time spent agitating the contents of the clothes washing machine to clean them.
However many if not most washing machine (and dishwasher) detergents contain phosphates or nonylphenol ethoxylate surfactants. Surfactants are what make detergents effective in lifting soil particles off of a surface (a dish in the dishwasher or a shirt in the washing machine). These chemicals may be serious contaminants of ground water and surface water in the environment.
A private septic system tank and drainfield can be protected from clogging due to excessive use of detergents. And even if a building's wastewater is carried to a public sewer there may be concerns with detergent clogging in the drain system. In the laundry room serving a residential apartment building such as shown in our photo (left, Bronx, NY), asking residents to follow these suggestions can help prevent sewer drain clogging.
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