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Dedicated septic systems are the popular alternative drainage system for plenty of homes, especially those situated in the rural or remote areas that do not have access to centralized sewage piping. In a nutshell, on-site septic systems bring waste and water from a home or facility into a septic tank which is inhabited by essential bacteria that help to break down waste and separate the solid waste matter from water.
These tanks use perforated pipes to release the processed wastewater (or effluent) into a patch of soil called the drainfield. The drainfield is responsible for naturally cleaning the effluent with the help of different layers of rock and sediment and allows it to return to the groundwater systems. Septic systems, truly, are an environmentally-friendly option for property owners in the treatment and disposal of sewage. If your property relies on a dedicated septic system, it is also important to be conscious about what you wash down the drains, including your soaps and cleaning agents, like body washes.
What soaps are best if you have a septic system? Remember that your septic tank, while it separates solid waste from liquid waste, does not filter out chemicals or toxins, and these substances can go directly back into the environment. This is why it is vital to use natural products that won’t add to the volume of synthetic chemicals already negatively impacting the environment. If you have a septic system, it is always best to use products made with organic, biodegradable ingredients that will break down naturally, as opposed to artificial, possibly toxic, chemicals which can build up and do harm. Products that are safe to use with septic systems would indicate “septic-safe” on its labels. These products are usually natural and biodegradable and will properly break down within the tank without negatively affecting the essential bacteria working inside it.
Undoubtedly, if you own a septic system, you need to be conscious of the products that you are allowing into it. Many regular products contain ingredients that are harmful to septic systems. Such products may encourage the growth of algae, kill the helpful bacteria, or have chemicals that can damage the structure and shorten the functional lifespan of the entire system.
To ensure that you only use products that will safely pass through your septic system and into the environment, it helps to look for a third-party certification such as by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ecocert, or The Environmental Working Group. This way, you can be sure that the products you choose are actually better for the environment and aren’t simply making unsubstantiated baseless “green” claims for branding purposes.
Relatedly, many products that end up in a septic system are formulated with scent. This includes hand soaps, shampoos, body washes, and other cleaning product types. The chemicals used to create these scents, (ex. lemon, strawberry, or pine) are generally safe to use in a septic system. BUT (and this needs your strict attention) antibacterial soaps or agents can kill the good bacteria in your septic tank. In other words, when shopping for a body wash, it’s okay to go for scented but steer clear of antibacterial kinds. Also, find one that’s phosphate-free. Phosphorous has the potential to damage the structure of your tank. It can likewise bleed through your drainfield and into natural water sources, killing both animal and plant life. Also, stay away from products that contain ammonia or bleach. Both ammonia and bleach can be damaging to your pipes and septic tank, compromising the overall lifespan of your system.
We’ve read up and made a list of top consumer-popular, septic-safe, environmentally-friendly body washes that would be ideal to use if you live in a home that relies on a septic system.
This organic unscented body wash from Vermont Soap features a new formula and is still one of the mildest gel soap products you could find in the market. Vermont Soap Organic Unscented Body Wash is made with organic aloe vera and shea butter, sunflower, jojoba, coconut and olive oils – formulated to keep skin silky and smooth. It is great for everyday use and it won’t dry up your skin.
PRO: Vermont Soap Organic Unscented Body Wash is a gentle, moisturizing, non-irritating, non-drying formulation great for sensitive skin. Made with 95% organic ingredients of natural oils and extracts, it is vegan and biodegradable.
CON: This unscented variant does not really leave even a faint smell of “freshly clean”. If you are looking for a “clean scent” after washing, you may want to try the other scented variants.
Sensitive Skin Body Wash by Tree to Tub is a paraben-free body wash that leaves skin feeling clean and fresh without irritation. Made with organic healing botanicals that nourish, hydrate, and heal, even the most delicate of skins are left soft without residue. It is free from toxins, SLS, parabens, silicone, DEA/MEA, gluten and artificial fragrance. Sensitive Skin Body Wash is dermatologist-recommended, which means is gentle and safe, even for babies.
PRO: This sulfate-free body wash is perfectly pH-balanced, making it ideal for sensitive skin, whether dry or oily.
CON: If you are expecting rich lather, this formulated-for-sensitive-skin body wash may not be your best bet.
From the dermatologist-recommended skincare brand for over 65 years, Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash with Coconut Scent and Soothing Oat is suitable for daily use. It gently cleanses and removes dirt and impurities while effectively relieving dry, itchy skin. The body wash’ unique formula is enriched with soothing oat that helps nourish without disrupting skin’s natural moisture, leaving it soft, smooth and healthy-looking.
PRO: Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash is ideal for sensitive skin as it is fragrance-free, allergy-tested, soap-free, dye-free, and dermatologist-tested.
CON: A few consumers have signified disappointment with the scent of the product, saying it is hardly the “coconut scent” as indicated on the label. This particular variant is said to have “missed the mark”, unlike all the other Aveeno products.
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Body Wash is a dermatologist-tested moisturizing body wash that leaves skin feeling soft, smooth, and refreshed. It is made with aroma-therapeutic, plant-derived aloe vera gel, essential oils, flaxseed oil, and other carefully-chosen ingredients that make it gentle even on sensitive skin.
PRO: Clean Day Body Wash from Mrs. Meyer’s is multi-use: it can be used as a body wash or as a rich, moisturizing hand soap. You can also use it to wash delicate clothing.
CON: The new lavender-scent formulation was not as pleasant to loyal users as was the original lavender scent.
You might now know this yet, but you can remove impurities with the gentle deep-cleansing action of charcoal derived from bamboo. This is Renpure Detoxifying Charcoal Body Wash’ main ingredient, that’s why it helps detox skin and remove dead skin cells while clarifying and moisturizing your skin, too. It features a refreshing blended scent of plant-derived essences like mint leaves, wild fern and violets. Renpure’s carefully-sourced ingredients such as tea tree oil, coconut, mint, argan, manuka honey, lemon sage, and bamboo create nourishing, safe formulas for the brand’s body and hair care products. Renpure Plant-Based Beauty Detoxifying Charcoal Clarifying +body wash contains zero sulfates, parabens, dyes, gluten, phthalates, propylene or glycol.
PRO: Renpure is a brand with a purpose. Renpure’s partnership with the Salvation Army provides essential personal care items to homeless shelters.
CON: A few users find the scent a little too overwhelming. Others say you might need to use more of it to get the rich lather you might want out of a body wash.
The Right to Shower Joy Sulfate-Free Body Wash is crafted to be fair, wholesome, and good-for-all with its skin-moisturizing and soothing formula. Joy moisturizing body wash is made with the bright scent of tangerine and honeysuckle, leaving both your body and mind feeling refreshed and renewed. It is made with certified organic aloe vera, and this sulfate-free body wash can be used as a body soap, hand soap, shampoo, and face wash by everyone. It contains no parabens or phthalates.
PRO: The Right to Shower makes 100% vegan body washes, none of which is tested on animals. Their products are packaged in 100% recycled bottles.
CON: The smell is nice, but may be a bit too strong for sensitive users.
Live Clean Coconut Milk Moisturizing Body Wash is a natural body wash that gently cleanses, hydrates, and restores moisture balance to skin. Live Clean is made with organic botanical blends like coconut milk and organic apricot extract, enriched with vitamins E and B that deeply care for skin and improve over-all softness and beauty. Made with 97% plant-derived vegetarian formula, Live Clean Coconut Milk Moisturizing Body Wash is petrolatum-free, SLS-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, and phosphate-free. With all its natural ingredients, Live Clean is as good on the earth as it is for the body.
PRO: Live Clean did an amazing job with this product. It has a creamy and smooth texture, as well as a light scent that leaves you feeling pampered. Best of all, Live Clean Coconut Milk Moisturizing Body Wash is affordable, compared to products in its class.
CON: A few users found its coconut smell as being a little on the artificial side rather than natural.
Love Beauty and Planet Majestic Moisture Body Wash enriched with shea butter and sandalwood is a moisturizing body wash that provides hydration and indulgent skin care. Helps maintain skin’s moisture barrier and protects your skin from dryness. It is paraben-free, silicone-free, sulfate-free, phthalate-free, and cruelty-free.
PRO: Every Love Beauty & Planet body wash bottle is made with 100% recycled plastic and is completely recyclable.
CON: It moisturizes well, but some users find the scent a little too chemical or synthetic.
Jason Natural Body Wash and Shower Gel is a pure and gentle body cleanser that also nourishes the skin. It is infused with pro-vitamin B5, sparkling lemongrass extract, and orange peel, Jason Natural Body Wash in Citrus is a gentle body wash that moisturizes and hydrates skin while leaving skin feeling soft, smooth, and energized. Jason’s biodegradable formula contains no parabens, harsh sulfates, phthalates or petrolatum. It is also not tested on animals.
PRO: Jason Natural Body Wash and Shower Gels are made with natural soap agents that effectively clean yet do not strip skin of moisture. Many users love the scent on Jason Natural Body Wash in Citrus.
CON: Packaging may not be sturdy enough to withstand the stress of shipping.
The unique enriching formula of The Nourisher Body Wash by ApotheCARE Essentials gently cleanses the skin, leaving it soft and smooth. Inspired by nature and infused with potent ingredients, ApotheCARE Essentials’ paraben-free body wash is also dye-free and has sulfate-free cleansers. This vanilla-scented body wash is infused with natural argan oil from Morocco, cold-pressed sweet almonds and hand-pollinated vanilla. The Nourisher moisturizing body wash removes impurities while leaving concentrated hydration for even very dry skin.
PRO: ApotheCARE Essentials scientists are known to have in-depth knowledge of traditional apothecary wisdom and cutting-edge modern science, simultaneously. ApotheCARE Essentials have a line for different skin types, and unique ingredients for each variant is selected with precision to match the skin type it is made for.
CON: Not all users care much for the scent of The Nourisher from ApotheCARE Essentials. Some say it does not smell as enticing as natural vanilla, contrary to what’s indicated on the label.
What Harms your Septic Tank
Below is a quick list of substances which can be harmful to your septic tank as they can disrupt the natural processes inside it or contribute in physical corrosion.
Anti-bacterial cleansers and disinfectants. Anti-bacterial and disinfecting cleaning agents are necessary for most domestic applications. Said formulations are designed to sterilize items and surfaces. However, such substances will kill the beneficial bacteria that are crucial in septic tank function.
Chlorine Bleach. Excessive bleach can kill or disrupt the bacterial colony inside the septic tank. Furthermore, it is toxic to aquatic life. If your septic tank is located near a body of natural water system, there is a high likelihood that bleach from your wastewater is directly released into the groundwater through your septic system.
Chemical Drain Cleaners. Unclogging your drains using substances like artificial drain cleaners will possibly kill the bacteria inside the septic tank and may spell expensive repairs. If you must use a chemical drain cleaner, make sure to opt for septic-safe drain cleaners that are made with environmentally-friendly ingredients will not contain corrosive and toxic elements.
Methylisothiazolinone. Methylisothiazolinone is a synthetic chemical typically present in consumer products because of its anti-microbial properties. Most often, methylisothiazolinone is applied to cleaning products as a synthetic preservative. Know, though, that this is not only a common allergen, but several studies have shown that it is also toxic to marine life. Avoid cleaning products that include this on the ingredients list.
How the Soaps You Use May Be Affecting Your Septic System
Septic tanks require a delicate balance of bacteria and enzymes so that waste is effectively broken down. Aside from taking care that this bacterial action in the septic tank is not disrupted, it is essential to submit your septic tank to regular care and maintenance to keep it healthy and in good working order. Furthermore, it pays for every property owner to be aware that the soaps they use may be disrupting the delicate processes in septic systems.
Everything from washing machine detergents, dishwashing soaps, toilet bowl cleaners, sink or bathtub sprays, to hand soaps may contribute to the demise of helpful bacteria in the septic tank. This is why it is always good practice to stick to septic-safe products for all your cleaning and washing applications.
The first step to maintaining your septic system is to pay close attention to the ingredients contained in the products that you allow down your drains. Many products contain ingredients that may be encouraging algae growth and/or killing the essential bacteria, thereby shortening your septic tank’s (and the rest of the system’s) useful life.
Septic systems, just like ordinary pipes, can clog up. Powdered detergents, especially when used excessively, can clog your septic system and, worse, cause blockage to drains. Laundry detergents in powder form typically contain additives such as sodium and fillers that don’t completely break down. When these substances enter your drain pipes and septic tank, they can settle to the sides and accumulate over time. Soon enough, you will have a clog that requires professional assistance to extract. Liquid detergents have much fewer supplemental and filler ingredients and they will dissolve fully. You will find some products available in the market that do not disturb the enzyme balance in your septic tank and drainfield. Do take the time to read labels carefully.
Phosphorous is a common ingredient typically found in most, if not all, types of detergents. This is because phosphorous helps clean AND remove grime. Flushing phosphates into your septic tank is likewise harmful to the bacteria and enzymes that should be thriving inside your tank. These organisms are vital in the decomposition of waste. Phosphates can filter through your septic drainfield, as well, eventually entering the surrounding soil, and transferring into nearby water bodies. Phosphates in water systems can kill fish, plants, and other wildlife and perpetuate algae blooms. Detergent manufacturers do not usually list the amount of phosphate added into their products. Your safest bet when buying detergents (or any kind of soap or cleanser, for that matter), to pick those that are phosphate-free.
A lot of us are attracted to cleaning products labeled as “anti-bacterial”. However, anti-bacterial soap is formulated to, obviously, kill bacteria. While this may be ideal for cleaning inside the house, it can be disastrous for your septic system. By its very nature, anti-bacterial soaps will also kill off the helpful bacteria that should be thriving inside your septic tank. These microbes are essential in the digestion and breakdown of solid waste inside the septic tank, while they eliminate harmful pathogens from effluent in the drainfield. While a single use of anti-bacterial soap or cleanser has little to no effect on your septic, using anti-bacterial products on a regular basis will certainly harm the bacteria living in your septic system and diminish their effectivity.
One of the best ways to ensure you are using septic-safe laundry, dishwashing, and personal care soaps are to reference the US EPA’s list of Safer Choice products. Non-chlorine, non-ammonia, non-antibacterial, non-toxic, and biodegradable cleaning products may not only be better for members of your family as well as the environment, but these will also reduce potentially harmful cleaning agents ending up in your septic system. Ensuring your septic tank’s health can certainly extend its useful lifespan, not to mention helping you save money and worry.
It is always important to remember that septic systems are NOT designed to protect the environment (especially, groundwater) from the chemicals in certain household products. Some of these cleaning products may pose a significant risk to human health and the environment because of harsh and toxic ingredients. Besides that, if these products are allowed into a septic system, the essential bacteria and enzymes that are instrumental in waste decomposition are compromised. This results to inadequate digestion of waste and elimination of pathogens found in effluent, thus the risk of groundwater pollution is heightened. In order to keep your septic system in good working conditions, the first step you can take is to limit, if not do away with, your use of anti-bacterial cleaners. Septic experts likewise recommend that you use the least toxic household cleansers you can find and that you avoid products containing phosphates. Using septic-safe products like body washes, soaps, and cleaning agents can prevent expensive repairs and avoid serious health problems all around.