Let’s Talk Poop

I’ve spent my whole life until now living in places that were hooked up to city sewage systems so I’ve never had a reason or desire to understand how a septic system works.  Living in cities we don’t think about this kind of s#!t … we pour it, dump it, flush it and forget about it.  Well, unless you live in Victoria where we’re reminded often that we are flushing our poop (among other things) into the ocean (though thankfully that’s now changing with a new raw sewage filtration plant at the mouth of the harbor).  

So, now that I watched a septic system being installed and I’ll be living with this thing, I want to understand how it works.  I want to understand how to maintain it and what actually happens down there underground, in the tank and in the field.

It was great having a chance to peer into the tank before it was mostly buried.  It looked spotlessly clean – it made me wonder about all the things you could use it for (before it gets used for what it is meant, of course).

A hot tub, a fish tank? As the installer was explaining all the parts to us, he proceeded to show me the filter that I will apparently need to pull up from time to time to hose it off … 

Um… to… WHAT? I have do that? Ha ha… you’re joking, right? Nope, no joking. I think I’ll hire someone to do it.  Going rural, I guess there’s a lot of that sort of thing I’ll have to get used to – cleaning out chicken coops will be another fun adventure … more poop… 

Maintaining a safe and clean septic system is a very important part about living unattached to the city sewerage system.

I did a bit of research and found a site that discussed the best toilet paper to use.  Don’t use anything too robust, they say, as it will likely sink to the bottom of the tank and build up over time – that definitely doesn’t sound good. 

This resource gives a good selection of TP to use and includes pros and cons – who knew there was so much to consider about TP? I mean, yah, I have my favourite types based on feel – nothing feels good about sand paper down there, or the kind that basically disintegrates in your hands while you’re using it, yuck.

Basically it’s good to remember that nothing goes down the toilet except for toilet paper – NOTHING – no Kleenex, paper towels, baby wipes, tampons, kitty litter etc.  Just the right kind of toilet paper. Those leftovers in the fridge that start to look like a weird biology experiment? No way, keep that stuff out of there.

Moving on to the kitchen sink? This will be hard for me; I can’t say I’ve been overly conscious about food stuff that I put down the sink … So, I’ll have to be better at remembering that nothing goes down except for water and soap.  That grease from the bacon pan? Either use paper towels to soak it up and wipe it down or better yet scoop it out when it’s hard and put it in an old tin can … Coffee grounds? Well, these are really good in the garden, especially around hydrangea bushes and things like blueberries that like the acidity.

Of course it goes without saying that chemicals should never ever go down the toilet or sink – that means no bleach! Bleach will kill off all of the good bacteria that the septic system needs to break down the waste and keep it running well. Not to mention you’ll be contaminating the soil and that’s a hazard for everyone and everything – think of the butterflies, birds, bees and bugs. Always dispose of chemicals properly!  

For cleaning, I really love the products you can purchase at Nezza Naturals in Victoria (they ship in Canada and US!).

Or make your own! It’s so simple – lately I’ve been sprinkling baking soda and vinegar in the bathroom sink and shower to clean off soap scum – it works really well.  Lemon juice is also really great to use and it smells so nice and fresh.  You can cut a lemon in half and rub the juice on whatever area you are cleaning, squeeze out the extra juice and add it to a spray bottle that has water in it. Spray the sink or other surfaces as a disinfectant. 

Tea Tree Oil is also a really great alternative to bleach. It’s got a natural fresh scent. Just add a few drops of the oil in warm water in a spray bottle and spray any surface that needs a bit of disinfectant.

Vinegar isn’t quite as pleasant in terms of scent but with its acidic properties it makes for a great cleaning product. Again just put into a spray bottle mixed with water and start cleaning.  You can also add a bit of vinegar to your laundry – it’ll help brighten your clothes and cut through any soap residue.  Try pouring a little bit in your machine next time you do a load (not too much – you don’t want to smell like a chip shop!)

I’ve never used it myself but I hear that Castile soap is a great alternative to bleach.  It’s made with olive oil – dilute it with water and use it to scrub bathrooms, dishes and floors. You can also add it to your laundry as a detergent by adding vinegar, and baking soda.

I’ll end this poopy post with a funny story shared to me by my septic system installer.  A customer called him up complaining of a blocked septic pipe.  He went to check it out and ended up having to use a long stick or tool to poke at an obstruction.  He poked and poked and then suddenly realized that the blockage was breaking up, and breaking up fast.  He had just enough time to turn and run before a poop geyser shot poop into the sky nearly covering him in s#@t. 

When he spoke to the home owner, he asked if they used dry laundry detergent – oh no said he, never … long pause … oh… except, a few years ago my wife decided she’d make her own so, yeah, I guess we did for a time.  

So final tip, do not use dry powder for dishwasher or laundry or you might just create a poop geyser of your own.

That’s it, that’s all I’m going to say about poop (for now… until I get chickens).