Tips for the beach and bach this summer

If you're about to pack up the family and fur children and head away for the holidays, cleaning and laundry are probably the last things on your mind. But if you're lucky enough to have a bach or beach house to head to - here are a few suggestions for keeping those delicate wastewater systems shipshape.

Taking care of your septic tank

Septic tanks are usually underground systems for collecting sewage. They are living ecosystems that decompose waste through bacterial activity, and then allow water to drain away via a ‘soakaway'. While they're generally low maintenance and robust, their living ecosystem can be quite delicate.

Here are some simple things you can do to keep your system running efficiently over the summer:

Keep ‘nasties' out of your tank.

Avoid putting anything down the drain that your septic tank's good bacteria will struggle to break down. This includes paints, petrochemicals like oil and petrol, and non-biodegradable cleaning products, which can even kill some of the good bacteria. This may make it start to smell and does not work as efficiently, this may require you to seek professional help which can be costly.

Go natural with your hair and body care.

Ingredients like silicones and parabens - often used in haircare and products like body lotions are not great in your septic tank either. Summer holidays are a chance to take the ‘less is more' approach and use some simpler skincare, haircare and bodycare products.

Rethink your household cleaning products.

Disinfectants, ammonia-based floor cleaners and chlorine bleaches contain antimicrobial ingredients designed to kill germs, and this includes the beneficial bacteria in septic systems. Look for plant and mineral based alternatives for your dishes, cleaning and laundry that are specially formulated to be ‘septic safe'. These products are biodegradable, and will safely break down in the tank without affecting the bacteria.

Reduce your water consumption.

Using lots of water puts a strain on your tank. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce water consumption. Quick showers (set a timer on your phone and reward speedy family members). One full laundry load is better for your septic tank than several half loads. And if you have a dishwasher, make sure it's stacked efficiently before switching it on. If you wash dishes in the sink, use the same water to rinse your recycling, rather than sluicing it with clean water.

Get your septic tank serviced regularly.

For optimum efficiency you should have your tank serviced every 6-12 months, depending on the health and age of your tank.

Using your greywater

Reusing greywater is a great way to save money, extend the life of your septic tank and conserve precious water. It's also a valuable exercise to consider the volume of water and chemicals that go down the drain in a normal Aussie household.

Greywater is gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. With proper systems it can be safely reused on your garden, or to flush your toilet. Greywater may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and cleaning products, but is still a good source of irrigation water on thirsty summer gardens. Water from the toilet, from washing nappies or containing food waste is called blackwater, which is not safe to water your garden.

The easiest way to use greywater is to pipe it directly outside and use it to water ornamental plants or fruit trees. And don't use greywater directly on the edible parts of plants: instead, water the soil and let that filter out any impurities.

To get the best out of your grey water, make sure you're using biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning and personal care products. If you plan to use your greywater, it's vital to only use plant friendly products free from lots of salt, chlorine bleach and silicones when bathing, washing dishes or doing the laundry.

Greywater should be used right away - leaving it for more than a day will allow bacteria to multiply and cause the water to smell bad.

Even if you don't have systems in place to use your greywater, it's possible to collect water from your sink or bath to reuse on the garden. And the only piece of technology you need is a sturdy bucket.

Ecostore personal care and home cleaning products are plant and mineral based, biodegradable and safe for use with septic tanks and greywater systems.