Fabric Softeners & Septic Systems

Ekaete Bailey

Septic systems are a critical part of your home and fabric softener can endanger the proper functioning of your septic system. Costly repairs can be avoided when consumers understand the ramifications of using liquid fabric softener.

Fabric softener may damage your septic tank

Septic Systems

Due to a lack of understanding and a lack of maintenance, many homeowners find their septic systems failing. One of the substances that causes failure in the septic system is liquid fabric softener. According to the Owner’s Manual for Ohio Onsite Wastewater Systems, fabric softeners should not be used in liquid form; however, dryer sheets are allowable. Depending on the size of your home, septic system replacement can range in cost and complexity.

Plugged Soil

More often than not, the problems with septic systems arise when the soil bed (the area outside the home that catches the septic materials that flow from the septic system) becomes clogged. Fabric softener used in washing machines has been shown to plug the soil in septic systems, causing breakdown and eventual failure.


Washing machine filters can sometimes help to prevent excess fabric softener residue, lint and other particles from entering the septic system. All of these substances, including perfumed bleaches, have the potential to clog the system. One of the best solutions is to switch to dryer sheets. Dryer sheets work similarly to liquid fabric softeners, adding softness and fresh-smelling fragrances to your clothing.


Monitor your washes. Doing an excessive load of laundry at one time can overwhelm your septic system. Choose to do your laundry regularly rather than periodically. Doing one to two loads per day, rather than 15 once a week, will spare your septic system stress and strain.

Possible Contamination

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), advises that fabric softeners should not be used at all, recommending instead using plain chlorine bleach if necessary. Damaged septic systems have the potential to contaminate household water supplies. The EPA recommends flushing your septic system every five years to avoid malfunction.