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Living with a septic system is extremely common. But it can make shopping for laundry detergent and other household cleaners even more challenging than usual!
Not only do you have to account for your family’s needs and preferences. You also need to ensure your chosen laundry detergent won’t do harm to your septic system over time.
The best laundry detergents for septic systems feature biodegradable, plant-based cleansers and minimal chemical additives. For the best results, opt for a detergent that readily dissolves in water and measure each load carefully!
Detergents that are good for septic tanks and detergents that are good for the environment have a surprising amount in common! Let’s take a closer look at our favorite laundry detergents that are as sustainable as they are septic-safe:
Best Laundry Detergent for Septic Systems in 2023
Best Overall — ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent
ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent
This plant-powered liquid formula is free of all things that can harm a septic tank.
For a no-nonsense liquid detergent that is readily biodegradable and safe for sensitive skin, we recommend investing in a bottle of ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent.
This detergent comes in a variety of naturally-derived scents and is, of course, septic-approved. It’s also an EPA-certified Safer Choice product.
Although ECOS detergent is entirely safe for septic tanks, we’ve seen some reports of this formula being hit-or-miss when added to greywater. But anyone with a traditional septic system should have zero problems!
Best Detergent Pods — Dropps Detergent Pods
Dropps Detergent Pods
These dissolvable detergent pods are tough on dirt yet gentle on your septic system.
If you’re firmly on the detergent pod bandwagon, Dropps is a great brand that will keep your septic system healthy and your laundry clean.
Each pod is formulated primarily from plant-based ingredients that will dissolve easily in your septic tank. As long as you follow the usage directions, there’s no need to worry about Dropps laundry detergent clogging your system.
This isn’t the first time we’ve recommended Dropps laundry detergent — see our full review here. Aside from being septic-safe, this detergent stands out with multiple fragrance options, specialty formulas, and low-waste packaging!
Best Budget Option — Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
This economical laundry powder is made with just four septic-safe ingredients.
You don’t need to ditch powdered laundry detergent on a septic system altogether. Instead, consider switching to a natural formula like Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder.
With just four ingredients, there’s no questioning what is inside this laundry detergent. All ingredients — plant-based surfactants, washing soda, and sodium metasilicate — are deemed septic-safe.
This laundry powder is heavily concentrated. While this is great news for your wallet, be careful not to overload your washing machine (and, by extension, your septic tank) with too much detergent.
Best Free & Clear Formula — Biokleen Free & Clear Laundry Liquid
Biokleen Free & Clear Laundry Liquid
This hypoallergenic, fragrance-free concentrated liquid detergent is gentle on skin and septic tanks.
Laundry detergents formulated for sensitive skin also tend to be great options for septic tank owners! Biokleen Free & Clear Laundry Liquid is a safe and effective formula certified as an EPA Safer Choice.
This gentle detergent is made of a variety of plant-based cleansers and other natural ingredients. It’s free of all common ingredients that can harm septic systems without sacrificing cleaning power.
Like most laundry detergents sold today, this is a concentrated formula. Always measure out detergent to prevent excess surfactants from entering your septic tank.
Best for Greywater — Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder
Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder
Lightly fragranced laundry powder that won’t build up on your clothing, washing machine, or septic tank.
If you prefer a detergent with a bit of fragrance, Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder is a minimalist formula perfect for septic systems.
This mineral-based laundry detergent features five ingredients that deliver clean clothing without building up inside your washing machine or septic system. Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder has been tested for safe use in greywater and will not harm the soil.
You can choose from a variety of fragrances, including an Unscented version, for your family’s laundry needs. All Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder is scented using natural, septic-safe ingredients.
Best Low-Waste Liquid — Tide Eco-Box PurClean Liquid Detergent
Tide Eco-Box PurClean Liquid Detergent
Consume less plastic by switching to this plant-based liquid detergent from Tide.
Few brand names are as synonymous with doing laundry as Tide. Tide Eco-Box PurClean Liquid Detergent is a low-waste option for septic users.
Unlike other Tide formulas, this detergent features plant-based cleansers and is certified as Bio-Based by the USDA. Your septic system will have no problem breaking down the ingredients in this detergent!
What makes this liquid detergent special is the packaging. It comes in a cardboard box (the detergent is stored in a plastic bag inside) for 50% less plastic than typical Tide bottles.
How To Choose The Best Laundry Detergent For Septic Tank
One of the most important things to consider when it comes to your go-to laundry detergent is whether or not the ingredients inside can be broken down by your septic system.
Septic tanks are very, very good at breaking down biological materials. But they’re terrible at dissolving plastics and other non-biodegradable substances!
As you may or may not already know, a surprising number of laundry detergents contain ingredients derived from petroleum and similar sources. While these particles tend to be invisible to the naked eye, they will build up in your septic tank over the course of hundreds of loads of laundry.
Liquid vs Powder
For many years, the common advice for septic users has been to avoid powdered detergents whenever possible. This is because powdered detergents often contain non-biodegradable materials that can clog or coat the inside of a septic tank (the end result is a bit like pouring clumping cat litter down your drains!).
Of course, there are benefits to using powdered laundry detergents versus liquid ones. For example, powdered formulas tend to be more affordable than alternatives.
Here’s the good news: Most all-natural detergent powders are considered much safer than older formulas that contained things like clay and polymers. So you can confidently use powdered detergent for your laundry that is labeled as biodegradable and septic-safe!
What About Laundry Detergent Pods?
Liquid and powder detergents are far from the only types available on today’s market. Many families reach for ultra-convenient pods when it comes to doing the laundry.
Detergent pods are generally made up of a liquid contained in a dissolvable film pouch. Some pods, such as Dropps laundry detergent, are filled with a powder instead.
Detergent pods are generally deemed safe to use as long as the ingredients are appropriate for septic systems in general. Just be sure not to use too many pods at once and opt for products made with biodegradable ingredients whenever possible!
Suds and Surfactants
Few things are as satisfying as a lathering soap. But many surfactants, the ingredients most often responsible for those bubbles, can build up in your septic tank over time.
Low-sudsing detergents made with plant-based cleansers are typically the safest choice for septic systems.
Avoid Antibacterial Formulas
Like a backyard compost pile, septic tanks rely on beneficial bacteria to break down and process biological waste. Flushing antibacterial products — including specialty laundry detergents — down your pipes can spell disaster for your septic system’s microbes.
Measure with Care
Too much detergent of any kind can throw your septic tank off balance. Using too much detergent per load can also damage your clothing and lower your washing machine’s efficiency.
Be wary of using concentrated formulas or dissolvable pods that cannot be easily adjusted to your laundry needs. Always follow the measuring guidelines of your chosen detergent to avoid overuse!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is all laundry detergent safe for septic systems?
Yes and no. If you’re in a pinch, you can use pretty much any detergent on the market without fear of harming your septic tank. For long-term health, however, not all laundry detergents are safe for septic systems. Using the wrong detergent for your everyday laundry needs could increase the risk of clogs, leaks, and other costly septic-related issues.
Are laundry detergent sheets safe for septic systems?
Yes, most (if not all) dissolvable detergent sheets are safe for septic tanks. We know from past reviews that both Earth Breeze and Tru Earth sheets are septic-safe!
Before using other brands of laundry detergent sheets in your own washer, we recommend checking with the manufacturer to ensure they truly are septic-safe.
Can you use fabric softener with a septic tank?
Most plumbing and septic professionals advise against using fabric softener. Many common ingredients in fabric softener can build up in a standard septic tank, causing nasty clogs or decreasing the system’s overall capacity.
For a septic-safe fabric softener, consider using a 100% biodegradable formula or switching to reusable dryer balls to remove wrinkles and static.
Are scented detergents safe for septic systems?
Yes, scented laundry detergents and other household cleaners are considered safe for septic systems! For the best results, opt for products scented using essential oils or other natural ingredients.
Last update on 2023-09-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API