For screen reader problems with this website, please call905-768-10309 0 5 7 6 8 1 0 3 0Standard carrier rates apply to texts.

Summer Cottage Prep: Septic Safe Appliance Use

by BrandSource Canada

Warmer weather is here and for many Canadians that means packing up the family vehicle and heading into the wild to our cabins, cottages, and campgrounds. This means a change in routines, it means entire days spent wearing flips flops and bathing suits, it means food on the grill, and marshmallows over the fire at night.  But it also means changes to our appliance use.  Why? Because many rural, cottage, and lakefront properties are on a septic system and if they aren’t cared for properly, you could be in for a stinky mess.

We’ve got some great tips on how you can keep your septic system working properly, without sacrificing your favourite appliances (like the cottage dishwasher!). With septic systems being the largest polluter to our beautiful lakes, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind on your next trip north.


  • To maximize efficiency, only run your dishwasher when it’s full.
  • Avoid the use of rinse aids (they kill the good bacteria), use lemon juice instead.
  • It takes only ONE load of dishes using a regular detergent to kill ALL the good bacteria in your system for up to 70 hours – instead use septic friendly products (look for a statement on the front of the package stating no bleach & no phosphates).

Washing Machine:

  • Use washing soda or oxygen bleach instead of chlorine bleach.
  • Use phosphate free detergents.
  • Use peroxide stain removers.
  • Wait for laundry load to finish before draining a bath or taking a shower.

Using washing soda or oxygen bleach in your laundry will not only whiten and brighten your clothes, but also help to keep the septic system healthy.

Sinks, Tubs, Toilets, and Showers:

  • Avoid use of all antibacterial products (like antibacterial hand soap).
  • Use low-flow shower heads & keep your showers short to reduce water usage.
  • Use non-phosphate cleaning products.
  • Use one cup baking soda followed by three cups boiling water (plus one cup vinegar if needed) for unclogging drains, instead of commercial products.
  • Limit how often you flush (many cottages often have a little sign above the toilet, “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown let it drown – now you know why!:))
  • Make sure you’re using septic safe toilet paper. Not all toilet paper is septic safe and can often be the cause of unnecessary clogs.
    • To test if your paper is septic safe: Get a clear bottle or jar. Put in two cups of water and 4-5 sheets of your toilet paper. Give it a shake. If the paper disintegrates and is suspended in the water it is safe for your system. If it clumps, it’s not.

In General:

  • Bacon is good. Bacon grease down the drain is bad. Never put cooking grease down the drains; in your septic system it is likely to solidify and clog pipes. You might also look at installing a grease interceptor between the kitchen sink and the septic tank.
  • Basically, if it didn’t come out of your body (naturally), don’t put it into your septic system. This means no cigarette butts, paper towels, sanitary tampons, condoms, disposable diapers, anything plastic or other similar non-biodegradables should go into a septic tank system. Dispose of them in the regular garbage.
  • Because septic systems use water to work properly, sending too much in at one time can cause trouble. Ideally, don’t use your washer and your dishwasher at the same time and limit how many loads of laundry you do in a day to two (ideally one).
  • Oil, gasoline, paint thinners, solvents, photographic chemicals, weed or insect killers, as well as some drugs, can poison your septic system and possibly threaten water supplies for your whole neighbourhood or lake -- never put them down your drains.

Now you can keep using your favourite appliances AND keep your septic system working properly, it’s win win!

Further links & Resources: