Laundry Disinfectants and Your Septic System

KID Laundry hero in front of washing machine
KID Laundry hero in front of washing machine

As people search for ways to limit the spread of illness, they often turn to disinfecting and sanitizing products that are designed to kill pathogens on contact. Laundry disinfectants became hugely popular at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the demand for them continues to this day, as COVID and cold and flu season rages on. But when it comes to using laundry disinfectants with your septic system, they may be doing more harm than good.

Read on to learn more.

What are laundry disinfectants?

Laundry disinfectants are detergents and pre-treatments designed to sanitize or disinfect your laundry by killing illness-causing bacteria and viruses on your clothing. These can include additives used during the wash cycle or pre-treatments and sprays used outside of the washing machine. According to the EPA, sanitizing products reduce certain bacteria on fabrics by 99.9% while disinfectants kill bacteria and viruses.

How effective/necessary are they?

While the appeal of disinfecting agents is understandable, especially now, the truth is laundry disinfectants are only effective against certain bacteria and viruses that may be present on your laundry. These include:

  • Klebsiella pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia, meningitis, and various gastrointestinal illnesses
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Salmonella and E. coli
  • Proteus mirabilis, which can cause urinary tract infections

Though effective against some seriously noxious bacteria, laundry disinfectants have not been shown effective at eliminating many illness-causing bacteria and viruses, including the flu, common cold, or COVID-19. However, the good news is that these pathogens are neutralized during your machine’s regular wash cycle.

Laundry Handling Tips

Woman Doing Laundry with gloves to protect against COVID

When it comes to handling laundry of a loved one who is sick, you want to be careful to ensure proper handling that will thoroughly sanitize their clothes while also protecting yourself from catching the illness. When washing the laundry of somebody who has a bacterial or viral infection, be sure to wash their laundry separately from the rest of the family. Wear gloves when handling their laundry and be careful to disinfect hampers and baskets where their dirty laundry was stored. Using standard laundry detergent, wash their clothes in warm or hot water, as appropriate. Laundry disinfectants are not needed to rid the laundry of pathogens.

Are laundry disinfectants septic-safe?

In addition to being unnecessary for ridding your household’s laundry of disease-causing illnesses, laundry disinfectants also pose significant risks for the bacteria within your septic system. As you can imagine, products designed to kill bacteria will keep doing their job once they reach your septic system, attacking the bacteria that work to break down the solids within your system. A properly functioning septic system depends on a healthy ecosystem of bacteria to break down the solids and eliminate pathogens from your household wastewater. Using laundry disinfectants can destroy or damage this ecosystem and interfere with your system’s ability to effectively and completely treat your household wastewater. This can cause a myriad of problems, including sewage backing up into your home, septic overflow, or whole system failure.

Supeck Septic is Your Trusted Septic Provider!

As Northeast Ohio’s largest septic provider, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding routine and emergency septic care. Supeck Septic has been providing exceptional customer care for more than 52 years and is a licensed O&M Service Provider for all systems currently used in Ohio. Contact us today to schedule your next service visit!

Related Articles

The Lowdown on Fabric Softener and Your Septic System

How COVID-19 Affects Your Septic System

Pathogens & Your Septic System: Is Your Groundwater Safe?