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are water softeners bad for septic systems

by Mr. Barrett Schuster MD Published 2 years ago Updated 1 year ago
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Water softener discharges do harm septic systems -- And the problem is easy to solve. Contrary to what some people say, water softener backwash poses a problem, not only to septic tanks and drainfields, but also to advanced treatment systems.Aug 9, 2007

Does a water softener ruin your septic system?

Poorly operating water softeners can produce too much brine waste when regenerating more than necessary, which in some cases may cause problems to arise with older septic systems. If the water softener is releasing too much salt and water, this could have a negative effect on your septic system’s function. Should water softener drain into septic?

Can the water softener discharge damage my septic system?

Water softener discharges do harm septic systems -- And the problem is easy to solve. Contrary to what some people say, water softener backwash poses a problem, not only to septic tanks and drainfields, but also to advanced treatment systems. When the water softener resin is backwashed two or three times a week, concentrated brine enters the wastewater stream as a slug of 38 to 112 gallons each backwash cycle.

Does your water softener need repair?

Water softeners usually require very minimal maintenance on the user’s end. However, if you wish your system to go on to function properly and at maximum performance for a long period, then you may need to do a little more than simply pouring fresh salt into your brine tank every so often.

Do water softeners affect septic system health?

Research shows that not only does an efficient, well operating water softener have no negative effect on septic systems but the water softener has a potential to aid it. How a septic system works. Understanding the components of a septic system is helpful in order to understand any potential effects your water softener can have on it.

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Do water softeners affect septic systems?

Poorly operating water softeners can produce too much brine waste when regenerating more than necessary, which in some cases may cause problems to arise with older septic systems. If the water softener is releasing too much salt and water, this could have a negative effect on your septic system's function.

Are salt based water softeners bad for septic systems?

Septic tanks are designed to allow solids to sink to the bottom so that clear effluent can flow out to the drainfield. The high concentration of salt brine from the water softener interferes with this process, which can ultimately allow solids to flow out to the drainfield and cause failure by clogging the pipes.

Does salt hurt septic systems?

The extra salt in backwash might also lead to the deterioration of concrete septic tanks. Regenerated backwash and softened water increase the sodium chloride levels in the septic tanks. Increased salinity in the septic tank messes up the pH levels and this may kill the helpful bacteria in the tank.

What is most harmful to a septic system?

Don't Put Anything Non-Biodegradable in Your Septic System Disposable diapers. Paper towels. Plastics. Sanitary napkins or tampons.

Where should I drain my water softener?

A softener drain line must not be connected directly to the waste system, but must be emptied into a laundry tray, floor drain, or properly trapped special outlet, preserving an air gap of at least two times the diameter of the drain line, but in no case less than 1-1/2″ above the top of the receptacle used.

Can water softener drain into sump?

Discharging the water softener into a sump pump may clog the pump. Sump pumps above with plastic housing and above the level of the sump pit will work. But, if it is discharged into a sump pit, it can work without clogging.

What will ruin a septic system?

Once a septic system is damaged, it can lead to some serious (and expensive) issues. Soap, detergent, clorox, bleach and other products can harm your septic system and disrupt the environment. A lot of products can cause algae to grow, kill good bacteria and shorten the life of the septic tank.

Is Dawn dish soap safe for septic systems?

A: Yes it is. I have used Dawn ever since it first came out and have never had one septic issue and I use Dawn for cleaning and spot cleaning a lot of stuff. Also, it's safe to use in animals and birds who wind up getting covered in petroleum so you should feel comfortable using it as well. Good luck!

What is the most common cause of septic system failure?

Most septic systems malfunction because of inappropriate design or poor maintenance. Some soil-based systems (those with a drain field) are installed at sites with inadequate or inappropriate soils, excessive slopes, or high ground water tables.

What breaks down toilet paper in septic tanks?

Best Septic Tank Maintenance Product A great product is Septic Blast, which will eliminate the organic matter inside your tank. It contains beneficial enzymes that will break down toilet paper, hair and more without damaging your pipes or your septic system.

Is Ridex good for septic tanks?

Yes, the average recommended time between septic tank pumpings is 2–3 years, depending on the rate of sediment build-up, family size, and other factors. Used regularly, RID-X® helps break down the solid waste in your septic tank. This may slow the accumulation of solid waste in the tank.

How do I keep my septic system healthy?

DO...Regularly inspect and maintain your septic system. ... Pump your septic tank as needed. ... Keep your septic tank lids closed and secured. ... Be water-wise. ... Direct water from land and roof drains away from the drainfield. ... Landscape with love. ... Keep septic tank lids easily accessible.

Is sodium chloride safe for septic systems?

A lack of or excessive amounts of salt will kill the beneficial bacteria in the septic tank. Therefore, excess salt concentrations in septic tank effluent can have a detrimental effect on the sewage treatment capabilities of the septic system.

Where do I drain my water softener backwash?

The best way to discharge water softener backwash is to simply connect the brine tank drain line to your local sewage system. Failing that, consider constructing your own drainage system, either with an old septic tank, a dry well, or a septic or French drain.

Can you use a water softener with a sewage treatment plant?

Most reputable sewage treatment plant and septic tank manufacturers will not allow the regenerant from water softeners to be discharged into their tanks and their warranties are null and void if this happens.

Is calcium chloride safe for septic systems?

Liquid calcium chloride is often used as a water clarifying agent and drainage aid in water or septic tank treatments. This naturally occurring salt brine is preferred over barium, strontium and magnesium electrolytes in waste treatments.

What happens when wastewater leaves your home?

The lower level is denser waste that can also be called sludge, while the top layer is less dense waste that is traditionally called scum. While in the septic tank the two layers are treated and decompose thanks to naturally occurring bacteria. Eventually, as more wastewater leaves the home and the septic tank fills, it discharges the treated waste into a drain field. That is the simple analysis of septic systems.

Does Martin Water Conditioning have a water softener?

At Martin Water Conditioning we offer high-quality, efficient water softeners that won’t only help soften your water but improve your septic system as well. If interested, visit our site and request a free water test. We would love to serve you!

Can a water softener be used on a septic system?

Many universities and water researchers have tested the effects of water softeners on septic systems. Most of them agree that water softeners have no negative impact on septic systems, and some argue that efficient water softeners may actually be beneficial.

What is a septic tank softener?

A softener provides you with soft water, which helps enhance the life of your plumbing , appliances, laundry, and crockery. It also provides you with soft water to have a refreshing bath while keeping you safe from dandruff and skin allergies. A septic tank will help you dispose of the waste materials. Be mindful of what you are sending down your ...

What happens if you don't have a septic tank?

Without a septic tank, the main lines will be flooded, and there is also a possibility of spills in your home’s drainage system. The solid/heavier waste settles down at the bottom while the lighter waste floats on the top and the liquid waste. Human waste contains bacteria that decompose the waste, reduce solids, and organics.

How can the regeneration water load be reduced?

Although regeneration wastewater will not impact your softener much, you can employ the following tips to make sure everything is safe for your septic tank.

How much water can a water softener dispel?

The discharge water from a softener is high in salt content. A softener can dispel around 50-100 gallons of water on every backwash cycle. This amount of water can put a heavy load on the septic tank.

How to save salt water in the long run?

Get a softener that regenerates based on need and not on routine. Such machines are a bit costly but help you save salt and water in the long run.

What is a septic tank?

A septic tank is a very useful part of your home. It is an underground chamber, made of concrete, fiberglass or plastic. The domestic waste of your whole house enters this chamber through the plumbing pipe and is left there for decomposition before it passes to the main drainage line of the city. Without a septic tank, the main lines will be ...

What are the two types of water softeners?

There are two types of water softeners: salt-based and salt-free water softeners. Here we will only discuss the working of a salt-based water softener as it has a concern with the septic tank.

Why use a water softener for a septic system?

One myth associated with a water softener and a septic system is that the sodium in softened waste reduces the effectiveness of the bacteria your septic system needs. Although studies conducted by the University of Wisconsin have found this to be untrue.

Why is it important to have a high performance water softener?

Why it is it necessary to have a high performance water softener. It is important to understand how the quality of a water softener can influence a septic system. The discussion of a water softener and a septic system is on-going in part due to extremely inefficient softeners that remain in use.

How does a water softener work?

Please visit our “How a Water Softener Works” article for a more in depth description. Water softeners remove hard minerals from your water that may be causing build up in your plumbing and appliances, dry hair and skin, stained laundry, spotty glassware , and more household headaches. Most water softeners consist a media tank, and the brine tank. The media tank holds the resin that removes nuisance minerals so soft water can be distributed throughout the home. The water softener’s brine tank stores salt and will add water as needed to dissolve the salt into the brine solution. The brine (salt water) is used to clean the resin, knocking off the hardness minerals it gathered and sending them to the drain, so the unit is ready to remove more minerals.

What is the purpose of brine in a water softener?

The water softener’s brine tank stores salt and will add water as needed to dissolve the salt into the brine solution. The brine (salt water) is used to clean the resin, knocking off the hardness minerals it gathered and sending them to the drain, so the unit is ready to remove more minerals.

What is a W.E.T. water softener?

Water softeners that are equipped with W.E.T. (Water Efficient Technology) can also ensure a water softener is advantageous to your septic system. Systems with W.E.T. use only the amount of salt and water it needs and nothing more, ensuring your household waste is never excessive.

What is a septic system?

A conventional septic system consists of a septic tank, a distribution box, and a drainfield, all connected by pipes. Wastewater travels through pipes from the home to the septic tank where the solids (sludge) go to the bottom of the tank and lighter material float to the top (scum layer).

Can a septic tank overflow from a water softener?

The small amount of wastewater produced by the regeneration process, discharged to your septic tank is sometimes misconceived as disruptive. One concern with water softeners and septic systems is that the amount and flow rate of the brine discharge can overflow a septic tank and back up the drain field. A study commissioned in 2012 by the Water Quality Research Foundation , reported that brine discharge from well operated water softeners (50 gallons per regeneration) showed no overflow. The discharge was no more or less than that of any other household water using appliance.

Why use soft water in a septic system?

There are other advantages that are directly related to the use of ion exchange softened water when the hardness minerals calcium and magnesium are removed by softening. The homeowner uses less soap -- studies have indicated as much as 50% to 75% less. There is also less biodegradable products discharged into the system which relieves the loading on the system. It is a known fact that many homeowners do not maintain a septic system properly; not pumping the system at proper intervals allows detergent solids, as well as other solids, to be carried over into the drainage area causing clogging. Also, by having soft water or stain-free water available, the homeowner's fabrics are cleaner, and the amount of water used can be reduced. This reduces the loading on the septic system a great deal.

Can water softener discharges affect septic systems?

It is not true that water softener regeneration discharges pose a problem to septic systems or to the leach field. Studies have shown that water softener regeneration wastes not only do not interfere with the septic tank system drain field soil percolation, but, actually could, because of the polyvalent water hardness cations in the regeneration discharges, improve soil percolation particularly in fine-textured soils.

Does sodium help septic system?

The addition of sodium to a septic system by use of soft water actually has beneficial effects on the digestion of wastes by bacteria. The volume of wastes from water softeners (about 50 gallons per regeneration) are added to the septic tank slowly and are not of sufficient volume to cause any deleterious hydraulic load problems. In fact, they are lower in volume and rate of addition than wastes from automatic washers. And the calcium and magnesium in softener regeneration wastes contribute to good air and water movement (improved soil percolation) through the septic system drainage field.

Why is a septic tank deteriorating?

Hasty deterioration of septic tanks, especially the concrete ones, due to the high salt concentration in the backwash.

How many water softeners are there in the US?

As per the US EPA estimates, there are around 10 million water softeners installed in the US. There are also over 26 million septic systems in current homes, with 40% of these being in new homes.

What does less salinity mean in a septic system?

Less salinity in the septic means a reduced effect on the anaerobic bacteria. This, on the other hand, allows the bacteria to properly do its intended work – digestion of the organic waste.

What metals are removed from water softeners?

Water softeners also get rid of various metals from the water, such as Iron, Mercury, Lead, Barium, etc.

Is clay soil good for a septic system?

The septic system’s absorption area shouldn’t contain high levels of clay soil. The hydraulic conductivity of clay soils is relatively low, thus not the best quality for a leach field.

Do water softeners affect septic systems?

However, newer studies have come out to dispute these findings. They claim that, in reality, water softeners have effects on septic systems. Earlier research mistakenly used aerobic bacteria instead of aerobic ones, leading to some misguiding findings.

Can you backwash brine from a septic tank?

With the help of a professional, you can redirect your backwash brine from the septic tank. This is if you want to prevent any failures in your septic system.

How does backwashing affect septic systems?

Regenerated backwash and softened water increase the sodium chloride levels in the septic tanks. Increased salinity in the septic tank messes up the pH levels and this may kill the helpful bacteria in the tank. Some studies found out that less cellulose was digested in homes that used water softeners. This can be attributed to the fact that the increased salinity as a result of the backwash induces some form of metabolic shock in the septic tank bacteria. Since the Bactria’s function in the system is to digest organic waste, killing or reducing the number of bacteria leads to non-effective wastewater treatment.

How does a water softener work?

To solve all these problems, water softeners are used to transform the groundwater from hard to soft. Water softeners mainly remove magnesium and calcium from the water through a process of ion exchange with sodium . Sodium chloride is usually added to the water softener to give it a source of sodium ions. This process helps to eliminate the problem ...

Why is water considered hard water?

Water that has high amounts of magnesium and calcium is termed as hard water. Since groundwater usually has lots of dissolved minerals, it falls in the category of hard water. Hard water is undesirable in the home because of the numerous problems it causes. For starters, hard water can cause scales in household appliances as well as in the plumbing. Additionally, the high concentration of magnesium, calcium and other minerals in hard water makes soap less effective. This means that more soap and detergent will have to be used for cleaning. The reaction of soap with magnesium and calcium leads to the formation of scum and this scum can make garments to lose their brightness. To solve all these problems, water softeners are used to transform the groundwater from hard to soft.

Why is cellulose less digested in water softeners?

This can be attributed to the fact that the increased salinity as a result of the backwash induces some form of metabolic shock in the septic tank bacteria.

Does potassium chloride help with septic tank?

Even though potassium chloride is a costlier option, it can help to reduce the amount of sodium that goes into the septic tank. it also helps to ensure that members of your household don’t consume excessive amounts of sodium.

Can you use old water softeners in a septic tank?

Use newer water softeners. Generally speaking, older water softeners are not as efficient as the newer varieties. The new ones tend to reduce the amount of Sodom chloride used so you won’t have to deal with excessive salinity in the septic tank.

Do water softeners harm septic systems?

Some of these studies, like the ones that were done by the University of Wisconsin and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) concluded that water softeners do not pose a significant threat to septic systems. That was then but a couple of decades later, some new studies found that the water softeners could actually have some negative ...

What is the purpose of water softener?

Water softeners use ion exchange to remove minerals from hard water. As water passes through the softener tank, the positively charged minerals in the water (calcium, magnesium, iron, and sodium) attach to the negatively charged resin in the tank. The minerals in your hard water stay behind, while softened water is distributed throughout your home.

How much brine does a water softener use?

During the regeneration process, the average water softener uses between 50 to 150 gallons of brine solution to clean the resin in the softener tank. This poses two significant problems for your septic system.

Why do septic tanks sink to the bottom?

Septic tanks are designed to allow solids to sink to the bottom so that clear effluent can flow out to the drainfield. The high concentration of salt brine from the water softener interferes with this process, which can ultimately allow solids to flow out to the drainfield and cause failure by clogging the pipes.

Does salt corrode concrete?

Second, salt is a naturally corrosive element. Just as it contributes to erosion and spalling in concrete roadways, driveways, or sidewalks, the salt in the regeneration brine can also corrode your concrete septic tank. This can significantly shorten the life of your septic tank.

Does salt water sludge in a septic tank?

Because of this, the salt water from the softener rapidly sinks to the bottom of your septic tank, sometimes lifting the sludge and allowing it to become suspended in the effluent within your tank. In fact, septic tanks that receive softener brine often have no distinct layers of sludge, scum, and effluent. Septic tanks are designed ...

Does salt water affect septic systems?

The Effects of Salt on Your Septic Tank. Flushing excessive water into your septic tank has the potential to overwhelm the system, but salt water, in particular, poses two significant threats to your septic system. First, salt water is significantly heavier than the fresh water you typically flush into the septic tank.

Can a water softener be used on a septic system?

This allows you to enjoy the benefits of softened water while completely avoiding the negative impact the water softener will have on your septic system. If your water softener currently discharges to your septic system, it is important you let your septic provider know and that you take steps to redirect the softener brine as soon as possible.

How Hard Water Affects Septic Systems

Part of our focus here is to make the connection between hard water and septic systems.

Only Regenerating Based on Water Flow

Large volumes of backwash need to be limited by only regenerating based on water flow. As such, you may have to set your water softener to do just that; only regenerating based on water flow.

Using Newer Water Softeners

As mentioned earlier, there are newer water softener designs that are much more efficient. Efficiency is seen in the limited volume of sodium chloride being used.

Avoiding Clay In Leach Field

The condition of your drain field is highly important. You need your leach field to be in perfect condition to ensure proper filtration and enhance its hydraulic conductivity.

Using Potassium Chloride

Apart from sodium chloride, potassium chloride can be used in its place.

Installing Larger Tanks

When buying a septic tank, it’s important to take into consideration your hard water treatment needs. In this case, you’ll need a higher size to account for the hydraulic load that accompanies the water softening process.

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