As we explained in our guide to how a septic system works, the key to buying septic-safe cleaning products for your home is to make sure that they do not contain the harsh chemicals that can kill the “good bacteria” that live in your septic tank. To properly, there needs to be a healthy ecosystem inside your septic system that allows the bacteria to live and break down the waste that goes into the tank (waste coming from your toilets as well as greywater from the kitchen sink, dishwasher, washing machine, shower, bath, etc).
Here are the chemicals that you want to avoid: chlorine (bleach), Methylisothiazolinone (antimicrobial), ammonia, alkyl dimethyl; benzyl ammonium chloride, sodium hypochlorite, sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid (found in some drain cleaners), antibacterial soaps (will kill good bacteria).
What is “Septic Safe”?
The “Septic Safe” label is an ongoing dilemma. The main problem with the term “Septic-safe” is that there really is no official government rating, regulation or industry standard that clearly defines what is or isn’t safe for a septic system. Similar to words like “Natural, “Green“, “Healthy” or “Eco-friendly“, brands use these terms freely in advertising, marketing, and packaging without having to prove it or meet any specific standards. Compared to an industry term like “Organic” where the USDA has a very specific set of rules and certification process needed.
Although there’s no official rating or certification for products in regards to being safe for septic tanks, there are some eco-friendly cleaning products:
Environmental Working Group (EWG): This is a non-profit that methodically tests household and cleaning supplies. The ratings indicate the relative level of concern posed by exposure to the ingredients in this product – not the product itself. The rating is on an A-F scale.
EcoCert®: environmentally friendly ingredients and production. Its “Natural detergent” label limits synthetic ingredients to 5% and from a very restrictive list.
Leaping Bunny Program: (Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). This is the gold standard in cruelty-free certification for personal care and household products companies and signifies animal-friendly products.
Are Tide Pods Septic Safe?
What about Tide Pods?
Ok, you obviously came here to learn if Tide Pods are safe for your septic system so we’ll cut to the chase but first wanted to give you enough info to make an informed decision.
What does the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Say?
They give tide pods a rating of F.
Last time we checked, EWG had rated 979 different laundry cleaning products and of that only 10.5 % had received an “A” rating.
Safer Alternatives To Tide Pods
If you really like the brand, Tide does sell a version of “Free & Gentle” pod that is marketed as Hypoallergenic and Dermatologist Tested, it doesn’t contain dyes and perfumes. That’s definitely a positive thing, although many of the ingredients used in this product are still frowned upon by EWG standards.
Other brands laundry pods with an A rating:
Since we started writing about toilets, bathrooms, and cleaning we’ve mentioned many times that we try to minimize the harsh and toxic chemicals that we bring into our house. Our ultimate goal is to minimize the number of harsh chemicals we have in our home.
While we are concerned with what ends up in our septic tank and how it could negatively affect it, the bigger and more important question is what kind of products are we spraying in the air (and breathing in), wiping across our kitchen and bathroom surfaces. How will these products affect our own long-term health and our kids, pets and guests? Another main concern is what potential hazardous chemical interactions could there be by mixing harsh cleaning supplies together.
For example, choline bleach is an amazingly powerful chemical cleaner. If you want your sheets to be back to the pristine white like the day you bought them, it will definitely do the trick. However, don’t mix that bleach with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) -you could end up with deadly chloroform and hydrochloric acid. If you accidentally mix that same bleach with vinegar (you wouldn’t be the first to think it’s a good combo) and you’ll end up with toxic chlorine gas that can give you chemical burns on your skin, eyes, and in high doses could kill you. Unfortunately, this type of accident happens thousands of times in the US every year.
So this leads me to ask: why have these harsh chemicals in the house at all? My grandmother had one of the cleanest houses I’ve ever seen. She lived on a farm with children dragging in muddy (and cow-dung caked) boots in and out of the house and she kept it cleaner than most houses using homemade cleaning products that she made out of simple ingredients. Granted, she was very hardworking and gave it more elbow grease than many modern families are used to but still, she did this without things like bleach, Drano, oven cleaners or other harsh chemicals that required a mask or gloves. She also didn’t have to worry about the potential hazards of mixing them.
If you are a DIY person, we’ve written about how you can make your own laundry detergent or homemade scouring powder with a few simple ingredients. However, we understand that not everyone wants to go back to the pioneer days and make all their own cleaning supplies from scratch. Because of that, we’ve put together a list of our favorite brands for non-toxic, eco-friendly and plant-based cleaning supplies. See the list here
DIY Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent
If you are more of a DIY person, here is a homemade soap you can make using natural ingredients for a fraction of the cost of store-bought detergent. This is a simple recipe. It makes up to 5 gallons of diluted liquid laundry detergent (the video shows a double batch being made). You can also use it concentrated and just use a smaller amount (as little as two tablespoons for a whole load of laundry so depending on how big your family, one batch could last months.
This recipe using a simple ratio is (1:1:1) One bar of soap (grated), 1 cup of Washing Soda, and 1 cup of Borax
EWG: This is a non-profit that methodically tests household and cleaning supplies The ratings indicate the relative level of concern posed by exposure to the ingredients in this product – not the product itself. We use it as a reliable source for the ingredients