Tips for Maintaining a Septic Tank

Your septic tank is an essential component of your home’s waste management system.

Keeping your septic tank in optimal shape is an essential part of home maintenance and helps ensure the proper functioning of your entire septic system and prevents problems like backups and flooding. There are several components to proper septic tank care including daily use practices, periodic maintenance tasks and accessory and environmental support. Paying close attention to each of these areas collectively can help you ensure your septic system runs well and lasts for many safe, healthy and comfortable years in your home.

Most septic tank maintenance tasks you can perform on your own to save money, but some may require the aid of a professional septic tank cleaner and repair professional. Make sure any septic service technician you hire is properly trained, licensed and insured. If anything goes wrong during or due to improperly performed septic tank maintenance, you want to make sure you do not have to pay for it yourself.

Daily Use Practices

Part of maintaining your septic tank is simply using it properly on a consistent basis. The less you overexert your septic system or strain your septic tank, the less risk you have of causing a problem requiring an expensive repair and cause days of inconvenience. The following are some simple preventative maintenance tips you can do in your daily use of your septic tank:

  • Laundry and water use – Spread out your laundry loads across several days of the week rather than doing it all at once. Use biodegradable, low-suds, low-phosphate detergents and fabric softener sheets rather than liquids.
  • Water softeners – Some water softeners may be septic system friendly, if they properly backwash according to water usage. Nevertheless, their discharges may damage certain elements of your system tank, so use with caution. Timer operated water softener systems, however, should be avoided altogether, as they are not efficient and could cause septic backups.
  • Garbage disposals – When your local regulatory authority allows you to use garbage disposals with your septic tank, you may do so. Be advised, doing so could cause solids to be removed from the septic tank more frequently. Even if you do choose to use a garbage disposal, whenever you have large quantities of food to dispose, consider disposing of it in the trash instead.
  • Fats and greases – Avoid sending grease, oils and fats down the drain. They could clog or overload your septic system or keep the bacteria from completely breaking the waste material down.
  • Cleansers – When you clean your home, be sure to use biodegradable cleaners and disinfectants, such as citric acid. Avoid letting toxic compounds like ammonia get into your septic tank. Only use drain cleaners to unclog pipes as a last resort.
  • Medicines – Avoid throwing medications down the drain or flushing them down the toilet. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can contain products harmful to your septic tank. Antibiotics, in particular, could impede effectiveness.

Maintenance Tasks

A combination of proper daily use of your septic tank with some simple periodic maintenance tasks can help prevent most serious septic tank problems. Those maintenance tasks are all most effective when recorded in a single place. Keeping a record of your septic tank maintenance is the first and foremost of septic maintenance task you can perform. With all the unit’s service records, keep copies of every system plan and drawing and lists of all installed equipment. From here, the maintenance tasks should be recorded in your record book as you perform them. Include the following tasks in your record book:

  • Intakes and outlets – Check all vents and intakes to make sure they remain free of debris, like snow and leaves. Check them as well for unusual odors, and, if you notice any, report them to your septic service provider immediately.
  • Sludge removal – Contact your septic service provider to check for you whether your septic tank needs to be pumped of biosolids. In your service agreement should be a recommendation of how often you will want to have this happen to ensure optimal function and lifespan of your septic.
  • Downspouts – Inspect all downspouts to make sure they are not clogged and are all still pointed away from the septic tank. Make sure water has not collected anywhere on or around the house and, if it has, divert it away from the septic tank or leach field, or drain field.
  • Septic tank enzymes and additives – Only add septic tank enzymes or additives to your system if your septic service provider advises it or gives their approval. Many providers will tell you the system’s wastewater contains all the bacteria it needs to operate. Others may advocate the benefits of these products. If you do use such products, however, use them only as directed. Improper or excessive use of even potentially beneficial enzymes and additives can be harmful.

Accessory and Environmental Support

Accessories are pieces that attach to or extend from your septic tank. The environment of your septic involves the conditions of the site, including underground and the surface yard, where the septic tank is located. Weather is often a factor affecting the condition of your septic tank’s accessories and environment, as is activity and usage around the site. The presence of a pool, garden or playset nearby could produce additional maintenance concerns beyond the following common ones:

  • Fixtures – Inspect all the fixtures on your septic tank and system to make sure the many gallons of water pumped into your wastewater system do not leak out anywhere. Detecting a leak early can prevent it from spreading and causing greater damage to both the system and the surrounding environment.
  • Drains – Make sure all floor drains coming out of workrooms and garages are diverted away from the septic tank. Avoid letting compounds like saw dust, gasoline and petroleum-based oils get into your septic system.
  • Landscaping and traffic – Make sure your septic tank still remains clear of paths and roadways. Make sure no tree roots have encroached on the drain field or breached the septic tank. Pull up any new trees or deep-rooted plants that seem to have taken root.

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