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Ken's Plumbing | Blog

Don't Ignore These Septic Tank Care Tips: Do's & Don'ts

Posted by Ken Flournoy on Feb 15, 2018 11:16:34 AM

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Does your home have a septic tank? If so, you’re not alone—nearly one in five American households uses a septic system instead of connecting to a city sewer system, and it’s especially common in rural areas.


Relying on a septic tank means you’ll have to take a little more care of what you put down your drains, plus make time to do some regular maintenance to prevent problems down the road.

How Does A Septic Tank Work & Why Is Proper Septic Tank Care So Important?

A septic tank is essentially an underground storage container that keeps solid wastes until they break down naturally. This processed water (effluent) is then able to escape the tank and filter through the soil in your yard, where nature breaks it down further.

Properly maintaining the condition of the septic tank is critical to ensure its functionality and prevent costly repairs. Neglecting maintenance can lead to clogs, backups, and potential damage to the tank or drain field, disrupting the natural breakdown process and risking environmental contamination. Regular maintenance helps optimize the system's efficiency, prolong its lifespan, and minimize the impact on your property and the surrounding environment.

Here’s how to properly maintain your septic system:

Septic Tank Maintenance — The Do’s

Minimize Wastewater 

This item is at the top of the list as a general preventative septic tank maintenance practice. Reducing the amount of wastewater entering the septic system can prolong its lifespan and improve efficiency. To achieve this:

  • Implement water-saving measures, like installing low-flow fixtures.
  • Fix leaks promptly.
  • Conserve water (for instance, don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing vegetables)
  • Take shorter showers vs. longer baths.
  • Run full loads of laundry and dishes.

Pumt it

It’s important to have a professional pump out your septic tank every 3-5 years to remove any solid waste that has built up at the bottom of the tank and hasn’t been composted. 

If you’ve just moved into a new home with a septic tank, it might be worth getting it pumped now so that you can start with a clean slate.

Keep oils, fats, and greases out of your drain

Fats, oils, and grease can cause havocs in regular plumbing systems, and are even more catastrophic to septic tanks as they can form a level of scum that floats on the top of your tank. When that level gets out of hand, it can overwhelm the tank and leech out with the effluent into your lawn. 

Maintain Access to the Septic Tank Cover

Make sure the septic tank's lid or cover is easily accessible at all times. This will allow for convenient inspections, pumping services, and system condition monitoring. Quickly accessing and checking the tank can help identify potential issues early.

Septic Tank Maintenance — The Don’ts

Don’t block the septic tank or drain field

Avoid placing heavy weights (such as vehicles or playground equipment for kids) above the septic tank, as they can limit system life and cause damage. This also applies to tree or shrub deep roots over or near the drain field, as they may clog and damage drain lines. If you are still looking for an esthetic touch-up, you can plant grass or flowers, but don’t fertilize, water, or burn them.

Don’t let antibacterial substances down any drain in your home

While not all bacteria are beneficial, certain types of "good" bacteria in your septic system are essential, as they aid in breaking down and digesting solid waste materials. If you pour bacteria-killing bleach down your drain, it will continue to kill bacteria after it reaches your septic tank, compromising your tank’s function and potentially contaminating your community’s water. Hence, be careful flushing antibacterial substances, especially the following:

  • Bleach (or cleaners containing bleach)
  • Lysol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Any cleaner advertising its ability to kill bacteria
  • Chlorine (such as from a pool or hot tub)
  • Paints and solvents
  • Pesticides
  • Medications
  • Automotive fluids, such as motor oil or anti-freeze
  • Nail polish or polish remover

If you’re reading this too late, you may be able to repair the damage using a special septic tank enzyme formula, such as ENDURE.

Don’t flush the following problematic items down your toilet or garbage disposal

Many things people put down their drains that seem innocent (even if labeled “flushable!”), can cause plumbing problems. This is especially true if you have a septic system, which can more easily get clogged. Avoid putting any of these things down any drain in your home:

Don’t let water into the septic tank

Do not let water sources like roof drains, house footing drains, or sump pumps flow toward the septic system or onto the ground above it. Excessive water flow into or around the system can overload it, leading to backups or premature failure.

Scheduling Your Septic Tank Inspection Should Be Your First Priority

When it comes to septic tanks, what you don’t know CAN hurt you—or at least leave you with an unpleasant mess on your hands. It’s far better to detect problems early than to try to repair major damage. That’s why it’s wise to schedule a yearly septic tank inspection.

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Topics: Toilets, Drains & Sewers