How to Care for Your Septic Tank

Household septic tanks need to be properly maintained in order to keep functioning appropriately. Here are some maintenance tips we recommend!

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Understand Your Septic Tank

In a septic tank, the scum rises to the top while solid sediment settles on the bottom. The excess liquid is then pumped out to the drain field, sometimes by gravity, sometimes by a septic pump. If your septic system has a filter (which is normally located in the outlet tee), you need to know how to clean and care for it. If you have a pump system equipped with an alarm, you should periodically test the alarm to make sure it’s functioning properly. While the bacteria breaks down the solids in the tank, they still need to be flushed out periodically.

Protect the Tank

  1. Keep heavy things away from your tank. Parking a car or RV, building a shed, pouring asphalt or cement, or placing an above-ground pool over your tank or drain field can cause serious damage to the tank and the pipes. This results in compromised effectiveness of the drain field and is in violation of the law in almost every jurisdiction.
  2. Don’t flush or pour chemicals or anything that isn’t biodegradable down the drain. Doing this can cause clogs in the tank and drain field. Chemicals can kill the bacteria that break solids down. Here are a few items to avoid tossing down the drain:
    • Bleach
    • Cat Litter
    • Cigarette Butts
    • Condoms
    • Cotton Swabs
    • Dental Floss
    • Diapers
    • Feminine Hygiene Products
    • Gasoline
    • Grease (such as Bacon Fat, Oils, Etc.)
    • Ground Coffee
    • Household Chemicals
    • Tissues
    • Paint
    • Paper Towels
  3. Avoid Garbage Disposals. If you have a garbage disposal, use it sparingly. A garbage disposal can cause clogs in the drain field and lead to even more water waste. If you happen to have a garbage disposal, you will need to get your septic tank pumped more regularly every year.
  4. Flush a liter of buttermilk down the toilet once every couple of months. It’s great bacteria for your septic system!
  5. Use septic-safe products, such as environmentally safe soaps, as much as possible. Use septic-safe toilet paper and septic-safe wet wipes. Flush “RID” down the toilets every few months if possible.

Conserve Water

  • Your septic tank is equipped to handle only so much water at a time. You need to allow your tank time to separate the solids and the liquid, and be able to send the liquids to the drain field.
  • Check for leaking faucets and running toilets.
  • Consider having low-flow or high-efficiency toilets installed.
  • Make sure that you put your washing machine on the right load size. Washing a smaller load on the large load setting wastes water.
  • Spread out laundry days. While it might feel more productive to get it all done in one day, spreading it out allows time for your septic tank to refill.

Fix Leaks & Drips

Often times leaks are caused by faulty water supply connectors. Consider making a temporary fix while you contact a plumber.

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