Woodworking and septic tanks

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Forum topic by thepurrsian posted 05-03-2018 03:39 PM 1608 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 635 days

05-03-2018 03:39 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shop chemicals and septic systems

Hi, this may seem a bit odd on a WW forum but, my question has to do with shop work and using and disposing of chemicals like cleaning brushes and using solvent and the sort and having a septic system. I’m moving to a new house with a shop, and I plan using it for a wood shop, and possibly down the road making a separate space for metal working. How do those of you in houses/ shops with septic systems deal with and clean and store used chemicals and stains and solvents such. I’d like to have a utility sink installed, but I know washing my hands or tools and things with solvent can wreak havoc on a system. Any tips and practices would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

21 replies so far

View Firewood's profile


1061 posts in 2245 days

#1 posted 05-03-2018 04:08 PM

Nothing shouldvgo into the septic system unless it came out of you. A septic system relys on bacteria to break down everything. Chemicals and solvents can disrupt that process. Not to mention they will end up in the ground water. Those chemicals and solvents should be stored and disposed of properly. It’s inconvenient but the right thing to do.

-- Mike - Waukesha, WI

View bondogaposis's profile


5613 posts in 2963 days

#2 posted 05-03-2018 04:15 PM

Yeah, you don’t want to put chemicals in your septic system. I allow solvents to evaporate then dispose of the containers in the trash. I try not to use brushes except disposable ones and I limit my use of solvents, whenever I can. For old varnishes and stains remove the lids and allow to harden outside then throw in trash.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View LittleShaver's profile


610 posts in 1231 days

#3 posted 05-03-2018 04:23 PM

I’ve never had a problem with small amounts going to my septic system. We certainly don’t dump chemicals down the drain, but “incidental” quantities from hand washing and residuals from brush cleaning have not caused us any issues. I am a hobbyist, so the quantities are small and infrequent. YMMV

-- Sawdust Maker

View thepurrsian's profile


6 posts in 635 days

#4 posted 05-03-2018 04:24 PM

Thanks for the replies. I know this might sound like facepalm question, but what about washing your hands and your clothes, we all get stuff on our clothes and hands from time to time, even with gloves and aprons. Is it enough to be a serious problem, I know it has to do with how often but I’m just being overly cautious i don’t want my hobby to cost me more than it should, I’m terms of spending a fortune on septic repair. Thanks again

View thepurrsian's profile


6 posts in 635 days

#5 posted 05-03-2018 04:25 PM

Thanks LittleShaver, I was typing up my reply before I saw yours. I appreciate all the input.

View RobHannon's profile


332 posts in 1142 days

#6 posted 05-03-2018 05:36 PM

My house is on septic and I have had no problem with the amounts that go down the drain. I dont pour sovlents down the drain, but rinsing brushes and containers after im done with the solvents normally does happen inside. Regular maintenance on the tank is the best thing to do.

View John Smith's profile (online now)

John Smith

2141 posts in 774 days

#7 posted 05-03-2018 06:00 PM

I would very VERY strongly suggest that you consult with your local septic tank company.
most latex paints and products are biodegradable these – some are not.
eventually, you will have to have it pumped out as a matter of regular maintenance.
but – if all the bacteria is killed off and can’t do its job, then your drain fields
may be compromised and then you are talking MEGA bucks to get it all back in sync.
Rid-X once a months is also highly recommended.


-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

View jmartel's profile


8703 posts in 2762 days

#8 posted 05-03-2018 06:00 PM

Even if you were on sewer you shouldn’t put solvents down the drain. Dispose of chemicals properly.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View MrUnix's profile


7602 posts in 2810 days

#9 posted 05-03-2018 06:06 PM

Just don’t dump solvents, grease or oils in the drain in bulk… whatever is on your clothes and stuff in the wash is fine. If you have a lot that needs to be disposed of, there should be a local recycling center that you can take it to. BTW – Rid-X is a waste of money IMO – the levels of bacteria in your septic system is self-regulating (just like in a compost pile) and adding more to the mix doesn’t do squat.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View LesB's profile


2321 posts in 4055 days

#10 posted 05-03-2018 07:31 PM

I fully agree with the last two comments. Just because you put it in the municipal sewer system doesn’t mean it won’t end up in and harming the environment eventually. For reasons I haven’t figures out it is apparently not a problem flushing automotive antifreeze in the the public sewer; the process must break it down some how. Otherwise take it to the recycle center. Rid-X and similar products are a waste of money. You replenish the bacteria every time you flush fecal matter into the tank. If you are having a tree root invasion in your system you can add copper sulfate which kills the roots. That is really only a temporary cure however.
If for some reason you think you may have “poisoned” the tank you could try adding something like Rid-X but in that situation it is better to pump the tank out and start over. A delay could “sour” your drain field which also contains natural bacteria that further cleans the waste water as it percolates into the ground.
The only things that goes in the septic system is human waste, laundry, dish, and bath water, and plain white toilet paper. Small amounts of vegetable matter from the garbage disposal is OK but large amounts will mean you have to get the tank pumped more often. Occasional small doses of things like bleach and similar toxic products can usually be absorbed by the system. Most septic tanks should be pumped out every 4 to 6 years but it varies with the load….number of people adding their byproducts.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Manitario's profile


2798 posts in 3494 days

#11 posted 05-03-2018 07:43 PM

I wash my hands and occasionally wash brushes (mostly use wipe on finishes or disposable brushes), but otherwise everything else gets collected and brought to a waste disposal site. If I clean a brush with solvent, it is over a bucket and the waste gets saved and brought to a disposal site.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View darthford's profile


612 posts in 2536 days

#12 posted 05-03-2018 08:42 PM

I have a modern septic system. Two tank pump system, 1000 gallons and 1200 gallons, it pumps out to the drain field in doses when needed. I do NOT have a garbage disposal that helps. I also don’t pour grease or oil from cooking down the drain. It gets the normal stuff from the dishwasher, clothes washer, and bathrooms. I occasionally clean/rinse stuff off in my garage utility sink but don’t pour quantities of stuff down that drain either and certainly not excess left over used solvents. I let them evaporate outdoors.

So just living in the house normally my septic is in fine shape. Just had my 2 year inspection a month back. We are allowed 20 inches of solids in my system before it must be pumped, mine only had 2 inches so its working quite well.

View thepurrsian's profile


6 posts in 635 days

#13 posted 05-03-2018 10:26 PM

Thank you all for the response. I should clarify, I had no intention of dumping anything in the drain and I’ve never done it in my current house, just concerned about the residual stuff. When I was in the navy, I worked on airplanes and was around a lot of hydraulic fluid and they warned people not wash their working uniforms at home if they have a septic system. I appreciate all the comments.

View Redoak49's profile


4359 posts in 2600 days

#14 posted 05-03-2018 10:35 PM

I keep old solvents and oil until they have a local day for disposing them. They do this a couple times a year.

I have a septic system and do not put any of these things down it.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5523 posts in 2921 days

#15 posted 05-03-2018 11:35 PM

I’m with firewood, Nothing should go into the septic system unless it came out of you, bath and dish water, easy on the cooking grease. In my opinion not even septic system additives. Get it pumped out once in a while. Even a perfectly working septic system will build sludge in the bottom over time. Pumping it out is the only way to get rid of the sludge. I don’t know where you live but where I live septic problems=big bucks. Do mess with mother nature she know how to do it.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

showing 1 through 15 of 21 replies

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