Here at BooneyLiving.com we’re all about living out in the country and off the grid. This means that the likelihood of being connected to the city sewage system is pretty slim for most of us. While alternative sewage treatment systems such as composting toilets are “slowly” gaining favor in some parts of the world, most of us will have to make due with a standard below ground septic system.
If these systems aren’t properly maintained, they can stop functioning properly which could lead to costly repairs or the need to have your septic tanks pumped more often. If you don’t have your septic system pumped at regular intervals, it may be possible for toilet paper and other solids to make their way into your drainfield and clog it up. This could result in a very costly repair bill!
Many of us who are following the off the grid path have heard that only special septic system safe toilet paper should be used. I decided to do a bit of research and find out if there is any truth to this belief that you need to use special toilet paper in septic systems or if it’s just an old wives tale. Strangely enough, I wasn’t able to find much “real research” on the matter but I did find one source of seemingly credible information which was InspectAPedia®. This site advertises itself as a “Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair”.
The folks at InspectAPedia® have written that “ordinary toilet tissue does not appear harm ordinary septic tank and drainfield systems”. Therefore, based on their report, we aren’t buying special septic tank toilet paper for our system since they claim that regular toilet paper won’t hurt the system. That being said, I believe that there are other issues than just the ability of the toilet paper to break down that should be considered.
What Happens to Septic System Safe Toilet Paper When You Flush?
When you flush any kind of toilet paper down your toilet, it makes a short journey to your septic tank. This is where it should live out the remainder of its life if your system is functioning properly. Ideally, solids like toilet paper and feces should stay inside the tank and water should flow into your drainfield. Solids don’t just magically disintegrate in your tank and disappear. Over time, they will accumulate in your septic system tank. That is until you eventually have it pumped out by a pumping company. The issue then is how much space does the toilet paper that you are using take up in your tank and how fast does it dissolve in water. The bulkier it is, the more space it will take up and the more often you’ll need to have your tank pumped.
Keep in mind that your septic tank collects and stores water, human waste, and toilet paper. There aren’t any grinders or agitators in the tank to break this mixture down. The dissolving of solids is left solely in the hands of the water and the bacteria in the tank. If you overwhelm the colony of bacteria that call your septic tank home by filling it up faster than they are able to dissolve things, your tank will fill up faster than you would like it to resulting in additional maintenance expenses for you to pay.
If the toilet paper you are using is of the triple ply super deluxe quilted variety, it stands to reason that this paper will be more bulky and consequently use up more space in your septic tank. All septic tanks need to be pumped from time to time but if you can take precautions that result in your tank filling up slower, you shouldn’t have to have this done as often.
How To Test Your Favorite Brand of Toilet Paper
If you’re the scientific type, you can do an easy test to learn about how quickly your favorite brand of toilet paper dissolves and how bulky it is. It makes sense to me that the best toilet paper for septic systems would be a brand that dissolves quickly in water and takes up as little space as possible after it has dissolved. Testing various brands of toilet paper with the method described below may help you choose the right brand for your septic system.
- Place a few sheets of your favorite brand of toilet paper into a clear glass.
- Now place a few sheets of toilet paper that is advertised to be “septic system safe” in another clear glass.
- Next get your stopwatch out and be ready to start it.
- Then fill each glass up with water and start the timer.
- Pay close attention to a couple of things. One is how long it takes the paper to dissolve in the water. The other is how much space the remaining toilet paper takes up in the glass after you have given it plenty of time to dissolve and you have poured the water from the glass.
If your favorite brand doesn’t dissolve in the water and you pour the water out and the paper is still mostly intact and quite bulky, you probably shouldn’t use that toilet paper in your septic tank or you could find yourself having to call the pumping company more often than you would like.
Other Factors to Consider
Choosing the best toilet paper for septic tanks isn’t only about how fast it will break down. In my opinion it’s about making responsible decisions for the earth as well. I’m not talking about what happens after the paper is in the septic tank. I’m talking about what happens long before that. I’ve read that some of the nice and fluffy toilet paper brands that is about as thick as a blanket could contain virgin wood pulp. This means that new trees have to be cut down just so we can have the luxury of a comfy feeling toilet tissue.
Instead of worrying about what happens after the paper is flushed when buying toilet paper for septic tanks you may want to consider whether or not the product is made from recycled paper products. Personally, I would prefer to use recycled products in my home.
Another issue to consider is that if more of us use toilet paper for septic systems that is made from recycled paper, this may send the message to the manufacturers that using recycled paper in their manufacturing process is important to us as consumers. This may lead to them placing less of an emphasis on the triple quilted super soft products and more of an emphasis on being responsible with the raw materials that they use.
Additionally, we’ve chosen not to use toilet paper that contains dye’s or perfumes as it seems to me that these chemicals may leech into our drianfield and then into the ground water supply.
Ultimately, the decisions about what brand of toilet paper you should buy for your septic system is up to you. If you’ll sleep better knowing that you are using a brand that is advertised as being septic system safe and biodegradable, then by all means, buy that kind. As for me and my family, we have made the decision to use single ply paper that is made from recycled paper products. We don’t personally look for a brand that is labeled as being septic system safe or biodegradable.
The next time someone asks you, “what toilet paper is best for septic tanks?” you can tell them to read this article! Hopefully you’ve found it helpful and they will too.
Note: I’m not a septic system expert! The opinions presented in this article are based upon what I was able to learn by reading various articles on the Internet. As a result, I’ve made my own personal decision about what toilet paper to use in my septic system. You shouldn’t take what you read in this article as advice from an expert. You alone are responsible for the proper care and maintenance of your system. You may want to consult with a septic system professional to determine what brand of toilet paper they suggest using for your particular system.
If you’re still curious about how you can take care of your septic system, please consider reading this article: Be Nice To Your Septic System and It Will Be Nice To You.