Sunday, June 30, 2019

Hair do's and don'ts

Staying at various Airbnb's can be enlightening. This spring at an Airbnb on Whidbey Island (where most houses must rely on septic tanks) I got a steady view of the sign pictured here every time I used the commode.

Don't flush hair? It had never occurred to me doing so was somehow problematic. At the aero-stream web site, I found this explanation:

Hair is comprised of tough strings of proteins, somewhat similar to what fingernails are made up of. For a variety of complex reasons, these proteins are not as easily broken down by bacteria as organic waste is. They certainly are not even close to being broken down within the twenty four to forty eight hours they are held in the septic tank (the typical hold time in a septic tank for most septic systems).
As a result, hair survives pretty much intact for many months within the pipes, septic tank and drainfield of a septic system. Hair, in fact, can survive for hundreds of years if the environment is suitable. There are countless accounts of human remains being found in peat bogs that are hundreds of years old and the hair is still intact!
Apparently, pet hair is especially problematic, because it mats more easily than human hair.

The website Houzz has a conversational thread (albeit posted 10 years ago), on the hair-in-septic-tanks subject. One commenter had a suggestion for what you can do with all that unflushed hair. He related how his 83-year-old neighbor had a secret recipe for growing prize-winning roses. Galvanized nails and ... wait for it ... hair.
She said she went to the local barber college once a week and swept up the hair for the day, then brought it home. About once a month she would till up the soil around the base of the rose bush, then bury a wreath of human hair and a couple galvanized roofing nails. She swore that the hair provided protein and nitrogen and the galvanized nails provided zinc, and that was the only fertilizer she used aside from a little bit of dried cow manure in the spring.  ...  the local garden club had previously asked her not to compete any more because they wanted to give others a chance to win a prize. (posted by Lazypup at Houzz)
Meanwhile, Inspectapedia has an even longer list of things not to flush than my Whidbey Island Airbnb did. Dryer lint is included, in part due to its heavy hair content. Here's something you can do with dryer lint. Make lightweight, easy to store and backpack, firestarters.

  • Using an empty paper egg carton, place a wad of dryer lint in each egg nest. 
  • Recycle old candle stubs by lighting them and letting wax drip over the lint in the egg cup.
  • Once enough wax has coated the lint so its secured in the egg cup, move to the next.
  • When all the cups have been waxed over, tear the carton into 12 individual pieces. 
The next time you build a fire, place one of these lint egg cups in the middle of the kindling and light it. In moments, you'll have a healthy blaze going.