Septic Systems - Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets

dryer sheets

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, sometimes tossing a dryer sheet into the toilet is just easier. Or using fabric softener in the washing cycle. And yet, it is. Fabric softeners, like many other household cleaners and chemicals, can have nasty effects on your septic system. It is a two-fold issue.

  • Chemicals in the fabric softener attack your septic system as well as interfere with the tank’s physical functioning.
  • The quats, chloride salts, are used in fabric softener and sulfate salts are used in dryer sheets. Both are troublesome for your septic system. They are not only antibacterial, allowing them to kill off the good bacteria in your system’s tank, but they also contain nitrogen.
  • Nitrogen runoff, whether from agriculture, landscaping, or septic systems, is the leading contributing factor to harmful algae blooms that are a growing problem impacting groundwater.

Fabric softeners or dryer sheets are also petroleum-based, as in oil-based. Using a fabric softener into the washing machine is just like pouring and grease down the drain. Fabric softeners add to the layer of scum floating on the surface of your tank’s effluent.  When the scum layer becomes too thick, it will be able to flow into your drain field, potentially causing damaging clogs or possibly a system failure. Fabric softeners also contain emulsifiers which is to prevent the oils and chemicals from separating in the bottle. The issue becomes, when these emulsifiers find their way into your septic tank, they interfere with the tank’s natural settling process, preventing the solids from settling to the bottom and the oils and grease from rising to the top. This means solids will be suspended in the effluent that flows out into the drain field, which isn’t designed to handle solids. Clogs can occur.

Softeners are great for keeping your clothes soft, it can wreak havoc on the good bacteria that does all the work inside your septic tank.  If you have used fabric softener with your septic system, keep an eye out for signs of septic system failure.

Signs of septic problems:

·       Lush, green grass above or around your system.

·        Foul odors in and outside your home.

·        Gurgling drains.


If any of these signs occur, call the professionals at Tri-County Septic.

There are ways to have your clothes lint and static-free without the harmful chemicals of fabric sheets and fabric softeners. Alternatives include:

·       Add a half cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle.

·       Make your own dryer balls using foil.

·       Purchase wool or silicon dryer balls.

·       There are reusable dryer sheets.

·       Baking soda, a half-cup mixed with water, added to the final cycle.

If there is a particular scent or essential oil you enjoy, these can be added to the vinegar, baking soda, or to the dryer balls, usually about ten drops.

Protecting your septic system needs to be a priority for its health and productivity.  Tri-County Septic can answer all your questions about keeping your septic system and drain field healthy for years to come.