If you live anywhere that doesn’t have access to public sewer systems, you’ll need a septic system if you want to enjoy a normal, flushable toilet experience in your home.
Septic systems have been around for a long time, and the mechanics by which they work are well understood.
Unfortunately not too many septic system owners read the fine print and the owner’s guide concerning what can go into their system along with waste.
Choosing the wrong toilet paper can lead to costly or even disastrous septic system malfunctions, including slow flushing, clogs, backups and it disruption of the microorganisms that help to break down waste in the system.
To help prevent you from making that mistake, I’m bringing you a list of seven of the worst toilet papers that you should never put in your septic system, along with some better alternatives.
The Worst Standard Toilet Paper for Your Septic Tank
These are standard toilet papers that you can buy at virtually any department or grocery store. Just because they are, or are sold as toilet paper does not mean they are safe for a septic system!
1. Extra-Soft Toilet Paper
One of the nicest varieties of toilet paper around, extra soft toilet paper is sadly not a good call if you own a septic system.
You would think that because this paper is so feathery soft that it would break down quickly, but you’d be wrong.
Toilet papers of this type are invariably heavily processed beyond common paper, and many of them have a variety of chemical agents added to them to improve feel.
This is sort of a double whammy for your septic system, because these toilet papers tend to be slower dissolving than others, and they also introduce chemicals to the tank that disrupt the beneficial microorganisms inside over time.
2. Extra-Strong Toilet Paper
Extra strong toilet paper shares the opposite side of the coin with extra soft toilet paper: it might not feel as nice, but it can do just as much damage as the extra soft stuff. But the reason it does it is easier to understand.
This toilet paper is made stronger, typically using thicker, longer and tougher fibers to help prevent the ever unpleasant breakthrough when you are taking care of business.
This is certainly good assurance for us, but it’s one of the last things you should be putting in your septic tank.
Toilet paper of this type noticeably it leads to quicker backups over time, and it slows the breakdown of waste in the tank.
3. Quilted Toilet Paper
Quilted toilet paper is a lot like the extra-soft stuff, but it’s just made in a slightly different way. It’s manufactured to be extra fluffy, and that means it has a tendency to swell up when soaked with water.
It can easily cause clogs in the pipes, and can do just as much damage in your septic tank.
It is one of the leading causes of backups in smaller or poorly maintained tanks, and is a type of toilet paper you should avoid using if you want your septic system to remain functional.
Note that some brands of TP don’t advertise as quilted, but if you examine them closely you will see that they are. Don’t trust them!
4. Colored Toilet Paper
Colored toilet paper isn’t popular anymore compared to decades past, but you’ll still see it every now and then, and it remains popular in other countries.
Wherever you find it, don’t use this stuff if you’re home is connected to a septic tank.
This type of TP relies on dyes and other chemicals to give it that cheerful color, and as the toilet paper slowly breaks down it will release these chemicals into the septic tank environment.
This naturally leads to disruption of the septic tank ecology responsible for breaking down waste, and in some cases, it can cause catastrophic damage.
The result is a rapid build-up of waste with more of the same and more toilet paper arriving all the time.
5. Scented Toilet Paper
Just like the colored toilet paper above, the scented stuff is always heavily treated with chemicals, and none of them are okay for your septic tank.
In fact, many of them aren’t okay for you, so you shouldn’t be wiping with this stuff regardless!
Typically, the chemicals in scented toilet paper are highly volatile and will rapidly begin altering the environment in the septic tank, leading to collapse of microorganism colonies and greatly reduced performance.
6. 3-Ply Toilet Paper
3ply, or triple strength, toilet paper is seen as the gold standard of assurance when wiping after you do your business, but only because it is way, way thicker than normal toilet paper.
Compared to the standard stuff, in essence you are merely putting three times the TP into your tank with every flush.
That means it will take three times as long to break down, overall, and also create three times the total amount of material in the mixture of the tank.
The result is chaos, and though many septic tank owners report no issues with a carefully chosen 3-ply paper, you’re better off with something else.
7. “Flushable” Wipes
Far and away the very worst thing you can put in your toilet tank are so-called “flushable” wipes.
I put the quotes in there because these stupid wipes are the worst scam that has ever been perpetrated on an unknowing public, and they have caused countless millions of dollars in damages to municipalities.
These wipes simply do not break down, or at least they do not break down on a time scale that makes them okay to flush into septic or sewer systems alike.
They will invariably cause major clogs and backups in short order. Never use them!
The Worst TP Alternatives for Your Septic Tank
There are a couple of other items that are regularly flushed down the toilet that aren’t truly toilet paper, but I am including them here for completeness…
When people run out of toilet paper, one of the first things they will reach for is a disposable tissue, or Kleenex. It makes sense, because they look almost identical and are basically the same, right?
No, not at all, and even though tissues are so thin they seem almost ephemeral, they do not break down in water quickly.
What’s worse, many of them are treated with lotions and other chemicals designed to soothe irritated noses, and all of that will start disrupting the septic tank as described above.
A few in an emergency won’t hurt, but don’t make a habit of it.
2. Baby Wipes
For our purposes, baby wipes are identical to flushable wipes above, only baby wipes aren’t even pretending to be flushable.
Most have a big warning label or symbol right on the package, so if you do decide to flush these that’s on you – don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Best Toilet Paper for Your Septic Tank
If you care about the longevity and functionality of your septic tank, these are the toilet papers you should be using.
1. Biodegradable Toilet Paper
Biodegradable toilet papers don’t look or feel very good compared to most of the stuff you find in the TP aisle, but they will break down very quickly in your septic tank, and that’s what you want.
Sadly, they tend to be a little bit more expensive but this is a small price to pay.
2. RV-safe Toilet Paper
The waste storage tank on even the largest RV is far, far smaller than a residential septic tank.
Accordingly, specialized RV safe toilet paper is designed to break down extremely rapidly even in minimal water. This makes it another safe choice for your septic tank.
3. Bamboo Toilet Paper
Bamboo toilet paper is becoming a popular, trendy option because of its sustainability, and compared to regular toilet paper, it breaks down quicker while still offering a nice feel and good performance.
It is septic safe, but it has one major downside: it is pretty pricey!
How Can You Dissolve Toilet Paper in Your Septic Tank?
If you fear your septic tank is being overloaded with substandard paper, you have it several products to choose from that can help you free up some room.
Rid-X is one of the most popular and well known products, and works well while being septic safe.
Look around in the plumbing section of a hardware store, or the home cleaning section of a grocery.
How Can You Test TP for Dissolvability?
Easily enough. Ideally, any toilet paper you put in your septic tank should readily dissolve in water alone. To test it, get a large, clear plastic container and fill it with common tap water.
Add three or four sheets of toilet paper, or however much you usually use when you go, agitate it for about 30 seconds and then observe to see how quickly the paper dissolves.
This might happen over days, but by observing the process you’ll know for sure how dissolvable any TP really is.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.