Let’s face it – not many inventions come handier to new parents than baby wipes. Whether you want to clean the little angel’s face, dirty hands, or body in general, baby wipes are second to none. It’s one invention that has saved parents lots of time and effort in keeping their newborns clean.
But again, baby wipes have their dark side, but you most of the time won’t notice that until they move down into your septic system. And so it happened – a few or a bunch of baby wipes somehow managed to find their way down the toilet drain into the septic tank. What next?
Can You Dissolve Baby Wipes in a Septic Tank?
No, you can’t dissolve baby wipes in a septic tank. Dissolving baby wipes in a septic tank can cause clogs and other forms of trouble to your septic tank. So yes, it’s generally not the best idea to dispose of baby wipes in your septic.
And just so you know, when I say that you “can’t” dissolve baby wipes in a septic tank, I actually mean that you shouldn’t. Of course, there’s a way out after you accidentally flush a few of these baby products down your septic.
Nevertheless, it’s generally not the easiest of routes. In fact, it’s a risky approach. That’s why we start by warning strongly against the deliberate dumping of baby wipes in the septic tanks.
So, assuming that you ignorantly (or accidentally) flushed down a couple of these wipes, what do you do? Now, once baby wipes get into your septic, dissolving them requires that you work with dangerous chemicals.
You might have come across some products claiming to help dissolve baby wipes. However, the majority of them don’t fulfill that promise. The good news? We still have a way to solve the issue of baby wipes in your septic tank!
So, what’s the magic product in this case?
Well, if you want to dissolve baby wipes in a septic tank, you need a sulfuric acid cleaner for the job. Anything bearing the name acid isn’t a product anyone wants to work closely with, but with no alternative route, you have no choice.
And as you might have thought, high care is a must when working with these acid-based cleaners. Be sure to have your protective gear in place even before you open that bottle. Cover your mouth, nose, eyes, and any other part that could get exposed to the product or its fumes.
In addition, have enough ventilation in the toilet. The acid element can produce dangerous fumes that could easily harm your health. That’s not what you want, so ensure an adequate flow of air.
One more thing, avoid mixing sulfuric-based cleaners with any other chemical. The acidic cleaner will react with other household products to produce something dangerous. So yes, don’t use it alongside any other product.
How Does a Septic Tank Work?
Before we get to know how a septic tank works, let’s begin by answering the most basic question – what is a septic tank?
For the sake of the uninitiated, a septic tank is a huge underground tank that holds and treats wastewater coming from the bathroom, kitchen, laundry, and other areas around the home before drainage.
In the most straightforward explanation, any wastewater coming from your home ends up in the septic tank. Regardless of the source, all the water running out of your home has one drainage pipe leading it to the septic.
A septic tank typically consists of two compartments. The tank can more often come in plastic or concrete construction, but iron, clay, and other materials are also available. About capacity, it ranges anywhere between 1000 gallons and 1500 gallons.
Now, speaking of how these underground tanks work, the concept is simple – after you flush your toilet, the wastewater flows down the piping into the first compartment of a septic tank.
At the septic tank, the incoming waste gets segregated into three layers.
The top layer is called scum, the middle liquid, and the one at the bottom sludge. Filtration here happens based on the weight of the waste.
The heaviest matter goes to the bottom, and that includes solid waste. The lighter stuff settles in the middle and top layer depending on weight. The lightest of all takes the uppermost part.
Now, the bottom part contains some good bacteria we call microbes. What these microorganisms do is that they eat the solid stuff up . As that happens, this waste degrades, becomes lighter, and moves to the top layer.
As more waste flows into the tank, it causes the water level to rise. That forces the top-most content into the second compartment through the baffle. Reaching the second chamber, further treatment happens.
Then, the filtered liquid wastewater, technically called effluent, leaves the second chamber through perforated pipes. These pipes slowly release the liquid into what professionals call drainfield or leach field. With time, the sand and soil will then get rid of any bad stuff inside this water – and that’s it!
Why Can’t You Flush Baby Wipes?
While microbes decompose incoming solid waste, these microorganisms can’t handle everything entering the tank. Some things won’t break up. Others take much time before they can degrade, and baby wipes are a case in point.
You see, it all goes back to how manufacturers make baby wipes. Baby wipes are a result of chemically bonded synthetic fibers. It’s from this process where they get their durability.
Durability is good, and it’s one aspect that carries a lot of weight when acquiring any product or sometimes even service. But when it comes to baby wipes, durability comes with its downsides.
And yes, the main concern here is that durable baby wipes won’t easily break down after flushing. Unlike tissue that will fall apart into smaller pieces immediately after you flush it, baby wipes retain their shape for a long.
True, baby wipes will eventually degrade. But they will have to sit in your septic tank for a very long time before they can break up completely. They aren’t the kind of stuff that microbes chew up in a matter of hours, days, or weeks. The longer they stay in shape, the more baby wipes are likely to cause trouble for the septic system.
That label might read ‘flushable’, but that doesn’t mean you should get rid of them through your septic system. Baby wipes are technically flushable. As such, manufacturers can use that term for their products.
The occasional baby wiper isn’t likely to cause an issue. However, if sharing a sewer system with several other households also doing it, you can expect problems to arise.
What Happens When You Flush Baby Wipes?
After you flush baby wipes, they will at once go to the septic tank, like any other stuff. But as we’ve said, wipes remain in the septic tank for very long before decomposition, and that’s where the problem creeps in.
The first or the second time won’t cause issues for your septic tank. At times a couple of flushes won’t trigger problems. But as the wipes continue to pile up in your underground wastewater tank, issues are more likely to emerge with your septic system.
Now, as you can confirm, baby wipes aren’t for occasional use. Not with their versatility! You have to use them day in day out. As such, if flushing has been for quite a while, you’ve likely piled them up down there.
Baby wipes generally affect the efficiency of a septic tank. By accumulating in the tank, baby wipes take up space that would otherwise be for things meant to go into the septic tank. What that means is, the incoming matter doesn’t get ample room for proper decomposition.
At that point, two things are likely – overflow or/and flowback. Overflow contaminates the groundwater while flowback, just as the name suggests, forces the water up the plumbing system back inlet points, in this case, your toilet.
And with all that’s said, you should never think of flushing baby wipes down your toilet. You may not tell what’s happening down there, so perhaps it will only take single flushing of this kind to attract issues.
Items You Should Never Put in a Septic Tank
Other than baby wipes, we have a long list of items you shouldn’t put in your septic tank. These items include;
- Too much toilet paper
- Paper towel
- Feminine products
- Q-tips and other cotton products.
- Dental floss
- Kitty litter
- Oil, fat, or grease
- Cigarette butts
The list doesn’t end there. We have many other items that shouldn’t go into your septic tank. But from the few that I’ve listed, some come as a surprise to many. But take it or not, anything on that list can affect your septic system.
Take too much toilet paper as an example. As much as tissue easily dissolves in water, it’s not always the case. Large wads are hard to flush, so they can easily cause clogging, especially for thin pipes.
Let’s also consider bleach. It’s a product that has for ages served in cleaning toilets. However, this cleaner is way too harsh for your septic and will offset the bacterial balance in the tank. As such, we recommend that you use vinegar.
How To Remove Baby Wipes From the Septic Tank?
If you just flushed baby wipes but can see it, pull it out immediately. A pair of gloves (or at least a trash bag) will come in handy. It isn’t a pleasant step, I must say, but it will save you the cost of hiring a professional.
Toilet snake can also help, but that only comes in when there’s a clog. Some people use improvised mechanisms for the work, for instance, straightened wires. It still can work, but these wires can damage the pipes.
Where the baby wipes are in the septic tank, have a professional check the tank. It could be a pricy step, but it could turn cheaper depending on what awaits. But we recommend that you only take this precaution when you suspect the number of wipes in the tank could cause issues in the future.
Conclusion: Can You Dissolve Baby Wipes in a Septic Tank?
No. You should not dissolve baby wipes in the septic tank. In case, you accidentally drop them in the septic tank, you need to use sulfuric acid cleaner. It will successfully dissolve the baby wipes and prevent potential future clogs.
But BEWARE, sulfuric acid is dangerous. Just ensure that you have your goggles and other necessary protective gear on before you pour it down your toilet. And just so you know, the sulfuric acid element will react with metallic pipes.
Hence, if you have stainless steel or galvanized pipes, avoid using this acid. Instead, consider seeking professional help unless convinced that nothing serious will result from having those baby wipes in your septic.