Septic Tank Service: Are your “flushable” wipes the problem?

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.

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!

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.  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."

Why do wet wipes cause problems in your septic system?

Many different reasons.  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

But aren’t some wipes “septic safe”?

The consensus is "no."  No wipes are truly safe for 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."


1 comment

  • I’m grateful for the tip of using toilet paper spray as an alternative to wet wipes to avoid septic tank clogging. I’ve been flushing wet wipes in the toilet because of the misconception that they’re septic safe. It’s great to know that toilet paper spray has natural cleansing and moisturizing ingredients so that you leave feeling fresh. I’ll share this information with colleagues so they will avoid flushing wet wipes down the toilet. Thanks for the tips! http://www.southernsanitarysystems.com/septic-systems

    Margaux Ford

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