Septic Tank Service:  Are your “flushable” wipes ruining your septic tank?

Septic Tank Service: Are your “flushable” wipes ruining your septic tank?

Short Answer:

  • Wet wipes can clog and damage your septic system.
  • Even "septic safe" or "flushable" wet wipes are not always safe for septic systems.
  • There are wet wipe alternatives that are safe for your septic system and provide the same hygienic benefits as wipes.
  • Even toilet paper sprays nowadays make toilet paper more biodegradable and safe for your septic system.

Why do you need a septic tank service?

Septic system service is required for many different reasons, including tree roots, concrete deterioration, ground water pressure, and clogs from inappropriately flushed items. 

We reviewed the advice of several plumbing and septic tank service companies for two reasons:

  • Septic tank service companies are in the field fixing septic tank issues on a daily basis, and
  • Septic tank service companies are likely to give unbiased advice for preventing septic system issues because they actually benefit when your septic system breaks.

In other words, if a septic tank service company is telling you the best way to prevent them from taking your money, you might as well listen!

Septic tank service costs money

Do wet wipes cause problems in your septic system?

Plumbing and septic tank service companies were unanimous:  wet wipes cause problems in septic systems, even the "flushable" wipes. Flushable wipes do not dissolve in septic tanks and can damage your septic tank in the long run.  This plumbing company went so far as to say: 

"For people who use a septic tank, flushing wipes down the toilet is one of the worst things they can do to their home's plumbing."

You can see an example of what wipes can do to your home sewer pipes here.  When your pipes get clogged, sewage "will backup into the home, spilling sewage into the bathroom and creating a mess that smells terrible and costs hundreds or thousands of dollars to clean up."  This sort of damage applies to baby wipes, and “dissolvable” wipes. This is why we stress everyone to use “flushable” alternatives.

Why do wet wipes cause problems in your septic system?

We get so many questions like, "how to dissolve baby wipes in septic tanks," "are wet wipes bad for the septic tank," and so many more. In order to answer these questions, we consulted a septic tank service company.  This septic tank service company says that:

"[w]ipes have the potential to plug the sewer line between the house and tank and build up at the inlet of the septic tank and cause the septic to back up into the house. An accumulation of wipes in a septic tank will reduce its ability to remove solids from the water discharging to your leach area. If you have an aeration system, the wipes can and will build up on the air distribution equipment and cause failures."

Clogs are not the only issues.  Another septic tank service company went on to explain that:

"flushing chemicals, wipes, or other items into your septic tank can cause the waste eating bacteria to die, costing you expensive repairs of your septic system. . . .  Getting your septic tank inspected & pumped regularly is a must if you plan on using wipes."

This can lead to "emergency septic calls and repair and replacement bills," explains still another septic tank service company.   In short, wet wipes cause way more problems than people realize, here are some of our favorite products that help to keep your septic tank safe from those harmful wet wipes.

But aren’t some wipes “septic safe”?

The consensus is "no."  Many people trust brands like Charmin, Quilted Northern, Equate, Kleenex, Cottonelle, and Kirkland.  But really, all wipes risk the safety of your septic system (you can read this opinion from this septic tank service company, this other septic tank service company, as well as Consumer Reports

One company "recommends not using wipes.  If you have to, throw them away. The only material meant to enter your septic system is from you. There are some wipes on the market that are advertised as ‘septic safe.’  Before believing you can flush these wipes into your septic system, remember that flush-able does not mean that the wipe will break down. Still, if you want to use wipes, schedule your septic pumping regularly to ensure no damage occurs."

So what can you do?  There are wet wipe alternatives that provide the same comforts as wipes without the chemicals and clogged pipes.

Try this toilet paper spray.  It is sprayed onto regular, biodegradable toilet paper to moisten the toilet paper so that it functions like a wet wipe.  It has natural cleansing and moisturizing ingredients so that you leave feeling fresh.  But since toilet paper disintegrates after flushing, you aren’t also left with a hefty plumbing or septic tank service bill.

Toilet paper is tolerated by septic systems and sewer systems because it is made primarily of light cotton, causing a near instant disintegration when touching water.  Many wipes are made with plastic fibers to fortify them during use.  However, if they are strong when used, "they also stay strong when traveling through your septic system or sewer system.  So much so that often times it takes decades for wipes to break down, leaving microscopic plastic residue that can damage the environment and the healthy bacteria in your septic tank."

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Glad I read this . I just bought a home with a new septic tank . Had no clue about it until I read the article . Thanks


I had no idea that flushable wipes are not actually okay to put down into your septic tank. It makes sense that they wouldn’t be good because the wipes can’t break down. My wife didn’t know this and she bought those flushable wipes for our child who’s being potty trained. I’ll be sure to stop buying those and find a company to come and pump our septic tank.

Skyler Williams

I am glad that you mentioned some of the many reasons for septic system services such as tree roots, deterioration of concrete, water pressure, and the most common being clogs from items that should not be flushed. Cleaning a septic tank can be a bit difficult and there is a clog it is harder to see where it is and what is causing it. I agree with you that a professional septic cleaning service is experienced in this field and can get everything done efficiently. Thank you for talking about the need to clean your septic tank.

David Norriss

I thought it was interesting when you mentioned that flushing wipes and improper chemicals into a septic tank can cause important bacteria to die. There are so many different kinds of cleaning chemicals, I would imagine it can be hard for septic tank owners to know what kinds they can use. It would probably be a good idea for septic tank owners to consult with a professional before they damage their system, and then have to call a repair company.

Dennis Sanchez

It’s good to know that even wipes advertised as “flushable” can be unsafe for a septic tank. I recently moved into a house with a septic tank for the first time, and I want to be sure to take care of it properly. I will keep in mind to avoid flushing any type of pre-packaged wet wipe.

Liz Hudson

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