Rene M. from Mahomet, IL emailed me several weeks ago with some questions and I promised her I'd answer them.
Here's what Rene sent to me:
"Reading through today's newsletter, you mention dishwashers and septic systems. Are they compatible? I have some friends who say they can never have a dishwasher in their house because they heard using one would negatively affect their septic system.
Might hooking a dishwasher to a dry well be an alternative solution to draining to a septic system, given there is not a lot of food/detergent/water produced per dishwasher cycle and is likely run only once per 24 hours as is the case in our household of six? Is Stain Solver septic safe?"
Rene, these are all great questions! Let's charge through them.
Dishwashers and septic systems are compatible. Your friends received some bad advice from someone or someplace. Healthy septic systems can consume and digest the food waste a dishwasher puts into the septic tank.
The key is to scrape off large food particles into a garbage can and wipe off grease from plates, bowls, etc. with old newspaper before you load them into the dishwasher. Put those greasy newspapers in the garbage as well.
I would not hook a dishwasher to a dry well. For starters, it could become a health hazard. There's a good chance your local plumbing code will not allow it.
There's no need to do this and it can become problematic for a future homeowner who might not realize the drain line enters into the dry well. In periods of wet weather, the dry well will not be dry. It will be completely filled with water. What happens to the gray water at that point? That's a rhetorical question.
Stain Solver is a magical additive for septic systems. Anyone who has a septic system should add it every other week. That's what I do. I add one-half cup to my septic system every 14 days.
Here's why. I'm a master plumber and have installed septic systems as well as aerated septic systems. I've also toured massive municipal sewage plants.
Have you ever thought how large sewage plants work? They don't have massive leach fields. The waste that finally makes it to a sewage plant is usually a very thin watery puree by the time it makes it to the plant. The sewer plant allows the waste to settle to get the worst solids to go to the bottom of giant holding tanks.
That waste is then pumped to a system that adds AIR to the wastewater. The oxygen in the air ACCELERATES the breakdown of the waste. The bacteria in the waste THRIVES in the presence of oxygen. Once the wastewater has been aerated for a given amount of time, it's released back into a local river or stream. Seriously, that's the basics of how a municipal sewage system works.
In a septic tank, oxygen is pushed out of the tank because the breakdown of the waste creates methane gas. The septic tank becomes anaerobic - meaning there's no or limited oxygen in the tank. The bacteria in the tank struggles to break down the waste.
Years ago, and you still may be able to install these in certain areas, you could install a miniature sewage plant at your home. I've done it. These systems were designed for houses on smaller lots that could not support a larger leach field. They're called jet aeration systems. If you're a boater, you might appreciate this.
When installing a jet aeration system, you first installed a regular septic tank. In the first chamber of the tank you'd find a propeller attached to a hollow shaft. This shaft extended up to an electric motor that was outside of the tank. This motor would not only spin the propeller down in the tank, it also injected outside AIR into the septic tank through the hollow shaft. Think of this as a household blender on steroids.
Remember, there was NO LEACH FIELD attached to this tank. Why? The addition of the air into the system helped to break down a vast majority of the waste in the swirling water. Yes, the air from outside that contains oxygen being blended into the septic waste water was all that was happening.
When you sent five gallons of waste water into the jet aeration septic tank, five gallons of treated water would come out the other end of the tank. It was CLEAR and it passed through a sand filter then a chlorine tablet to further purify it. The pipe then just dumped out onto the ground! The water was pure enough to drink, although I never tried it.
Where is all this going? It's all about AIR or oxygen. If you add oxygen to a traditional septic system, the beneficial bacteria in the tank THRIVES and does a faster and better job of breaking down the waste.
What do you think it costs to rebuild a leach field? Thousands and thousands of dollars. You can avoid this if you follow all the above advice and pour one-half cup of Stain Solver into your toilet every other week. Flush the toilet TWICE in a row to ensure the Stain Solver makes it into the tank.
Rene, I hope this clears up some of your plumbing questions.