If you have a septic system on your property like we do, you’re probably looking for cleaning products that are septic-safe.
Harsh, toxic chemicals can actually kill the “healthy bacteria” that thrive inside your septic system and naturally break down the waste inside the tank. Many commercial toilet bowl cleaners contain bleach and some even are made with hydrochloric acid. While the acid does effectively dissolve the calcium carbonate deposits in the water it’s also a harmful chemical that can contaminate well water and kill off the bacteria in your septic system.
Some experts have confirmed that a modest amount of chlorine bleach will kill off the good bacteria in your tank. However, in the marketing of Clorox® Toilet Bowl Cleaner and other products the company claims that bleach is safe to use in septic systems.
With all this confusing marketing it’s hard for consumers to really know what to products to buy that will actually clean their bathroom but at the same time not do harm to the natural balance of their waste disposal systems.
The best toilet cleaners for septic tanks are ones made from natural and plant-based ingredients since they are biodegradable and use cleaning agents that easily break down (which is why we also recommend using septic-safe laundry detergent).
You can make your own cleaner at home just as my grandmother did with a few simple and natural ingredients, many of which you may already have around the house.
DIY Septic Safe toilet cleaner
Here is the easiest cleaner I know how to make that actually works:
- ½ cup baking soda
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon tea tree essential oil
Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle, spray the inside of the bowl and wait for several minutes before scrubbing the entire inside of the bowl with a toilet brush.
If you want something more heavy duty to get out stains on the bowl you can substitute borax for the baking soda
- ¾ cup borax
- 1 cup white vinegar
- Add 15-20 drops of essential oil. You can use tea tree oil again and also mix in a fragrant pure lemon oil or lavender to give it a fresh smell.
If the toilet is really duty or has stubborn stains, you can spray this on and leave it for several hours or even overnight before scrubbing.
If you’ve never used tea tree oil for household cleaning, here are some of the reasons to start.
If you don’t want to bother making your own cleaning products, there are several commercial products available that are plant-based and safe to use, like this Toilet Bowl Cleaner by Eco-Me.
If you’re not a fan of peppermint scent, you may prefer the pine-fresh scent of this Ecover Toilet Cleaner.
All of the toilet cleaners on our list below are plant-based and biodegradable. None of the cleaners on our list contain and bleach, ammonia, phosphates or petroleum-based chemicals. They all rate highly on 3rd party environmental safety tests.
Here are a few products to consider using if you have a septic tank system:
Our Top Picks for Septic-Safe Toilet Bowl Cleaners
1. Ecover Toilet Cleaner:
This toilet bowl cleaner from Ecover removes tough stains while de-calcifying and freshening the toilet. It is powerful and hygienic while being eco-friendly. The reasons why it is suitable for use with a septic system are that it is produced with plant based ingredients, it is easily biodegraded, it has a very low impact on aquatic life.
The ingredients in this cleaner, including the surfactants (active ingredient that does the actual cleaning), are all plant-based which makes it a safe choice for your septic system tank.
Ecover’s packaging is also friendly on the environment. The bottles are 75% Plantplastic® and 25% post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR). Plantplastic® is a proprietary plant-sourced plastic made from sustainably harvested sugarcane. Ecover cleaning products are not tested on animals.
The bottle are completely recyclable, and can be recycled in most city curbside recycling programs along with your other containers and newspapers. This makes the Ecover Toilet Cleaner very suitable for use with a septic system.
2. Eco-Me Natural Powerful Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Eco-me is a family business that was founded in 2006, when the founder’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 35. This set the family off on a mission to create a line of cleaning products that were safe to use while still cleaning the house as good or better than the harsh chemicals that fill the cleaning cupboard.
The result of their research and effort is this septic-safe toilet cleaner. It has a pleasant mint scent and comes in a convenient 32 ounce bottle.
All of Eco-Me products are made following the Natural Products Association (NPA) guidelines and do NOT use any of the following chemicals.:
- No Petro-Chemicals
- No Sulfates
- No Synthetic Fragrances
- No Colorants or Harmful Preservatives
Eco-me products use plant based and food grade. All of their products are made in the USA. They have been rated FOOD-GRADE & PLANT-BASED INGREDIENTS * STEAM DISTILLED PLANT ESSENTIAL OILS
Rated #1 by Whole Foods Eco Scale for premium ingredients. Top rated by EWG.org
Eco-me Toilet Cleaner Ingredients:
Water, Coco Glucoside (Plant-derived soap), Decyl Glucoside (Plant-derived Soap), Capryl Capryl Glucoside (Plant-derived Solubilizer), Leuconostoc (Radish Root Antimicrobial), Xanthan Gum, Natural Plant Essential Oils, Glyceryl Caprylate Caprate (Vegetable-derived Thickener), Potassium Sorbate (Food-grade Preservative)
The one main complaint that would prevent us from recommending this toilet cleaner is if you dislike or have an allergy to mint (or peppermint). Many people find the scent rather strong, while it’s pleasing and “fresh-smelling” others may find it overpowering. If you do not like the smell of mint this is not the product for you, go with the pine scented Ecover (reviewed above) or maybe the next one on the list (Green Works) that has a fresh spring fragrance.
3. Green Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner:
The Green Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner is a cleaner that gives a powerful cleaning performance coupled with the fact that it is made with naturally derived and plant based ingredients, which is one of the reasons it is quite ideal for use with a septic system.
It is very effective at cleaning that it can cut through the most stubborn of stains. This powerful formula is known to remove rust, mineral deposits, and hard water stains without leaving any residue or harsh chemical fumes.
Once applied to the toilet bowl, the thick gel coats the entire bowl like a nylon cover and starts its action by cutting right through the dirt and leaving the toilet fresh and clean. Its angles spout is designed so as to reach places like underneath the rim making it easier to clean. The cleaner does not contain chlorine bleach and stills cleans extremely well.
Greenworks is made by the Clorox company so if you are use to using their products, this is their non-chlorine and non-toxic toilet cleaning option that consists of 99% all-natural ingredients.
Several readers have asked If Comet cleaning power is safe to use with a septic system? (click to find out what we discovered).
4. Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner
This natural toilet bowl cleaner comes in a pleasant Emerald Cypress and Fir Scent: the Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner is made with a formula that consists mainly of plant ingredients that attack stubborn stains found on the toilet bowl, and leaves it sparkly clean in a flash.
The Emerald Cypress and Fir Scent is made totally from essential oils and botanical extracts, which make it suitable for use with a septic system while maintaining its powerful cleaning action with a pleasant smell. It cleans effectively without producing harsh residue fumes that are toxic to health. It is biodegradable and septic-safe.
It does not contain chlorine bleach nor synthetic fragrances and dyes that might be harsh to both the user and the toilet bowl. And as expected with products by Seventh Generation, the company uses sustainable production to minimize the impact on the environment.
Its flip cap is designed so as to effectively reach spots that are hard to reach like up under the toilet bowl rim.
The cleaner is a very effective, non-chlorine, non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning product that is safe for use with a septic system.
5. Better Life Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner
This plant based toilet bowl cleaner by Better Life is designed to be squirted under the rim and left for 5-10 minutes before brushing and then flushing the toilet to rinse. The product is free from the following chemicals making it a safe option for your septic system and for maintaining a toxic free home in general.
As mentioned with the Eco-me, the one issue with this cleaner may be the fragrance (Tea Tree and Peppermint). If you don’t like the minty smell, you may want to go with the Green Work “fresh scent”.
- Synthetic fragrances
- Petroleum solvents
- Petro-chemical solvents
The Better Life company was founded by two dads that wanted to make safe cleaning supplies for a toxic-free home. You may be familiar with the company already as millions saw them on Shark Tank when they pitched their cleaning supply company. The pitch ended with a somewhat shocking effect where one of the founders (Kevin Tibbs), sprayed their What-EVER! all purpose cleaner into his mouth!
The stunt (and the products) convinced the judges and they ended up landing a huge deal with one of the “sharks”. Since then the company has had huge growth and now sells a wide variety of household cleaning supplies that are non-toxic and also septic safe.
Scene from Shark Tank:
Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a toilet bowl cleaner, and bathroom cleaning supplies in general, if you have a septic system.
First, some tips that can help:
- Avoiding pouring large amounts of cleaning products or household chemicals down your drain at the same time.
- Compost coffee grounds and food scraps rather than putting it down the drain.
- If you use a garbage disposal, consider installing one that is designed for septic systems.
- When putting cleaning products down the drain, dilute with plenty of water and/or flush with additional water.
- Use single ply toilet paper that is specifically designed for septic and RV toilets and breaks down easier than standard toilet paper.
- Use non-chlorine, non-ammonia, non-antibacterial, non-toxic and bio-degradable cleaning products.
- Use septic safe laundry detergent.
- Avoid putting solvents and solvent-based products or garden chemicals such as pesticides down the drain.
- Do not flush dog poop or cat litter into your septic tank.
- Contact your local recycling center or waste disposal center to find the closest drop-off location for toxic products.
As we mentioned in our article about how a septic system works, in a properly functioning system, the tank needs to have a healthy balance of bacteria to break down the solids inside the tank.
Large amounts of harsh chemicals can upset the balance of the tank and kill off the “good bacteria” that is working to process your household waste. Therefore it’s recommended that whenever possible you use bio-degradable cleaning products and avoid ammonia, anti-bacterial and chlorine based products.
While we do not use any enzymes, many people do use them to maintain the healthy balance of bacteria in their septic tank, you can also see how to make an easy DIY septic system activator here.
Purchasing the right toilet cleaner that does not have negative impacts on the septic system is not difficult. All the user has to consider is its ingredient to determine whether it is biodegradable or not.
Toilet cleaners made from plant materials are usually the ideal cleaners that are suitable for septic systems because they are non-toxic and easily biodegradable. In the long run, these will help maintain the balance in your tank and make it work more efficiently lessening the frequency that you have to get it pumped.