If you take care of your septic system, it should not give you problems. Follow these steps to keep your septic system in good working order.

1. Mastering the tank’s operation

1. Understand your septic tank.

  • In a septic tank, solid waste settles to the bottom and scum rises to the top. Excess liquid goes out to the drain field, either by gravity or with a septic pump. If your system has a filter (typically located in the outlet tee) learn how to clean and care for it. If you have a pump system, with an alarm, periodically test the alarm box for function. Bacteria break down the solids in the tank but they need to be pumped out periodically.

Care for a Septic System

2. Conserving water

1. Conserve water.

  • Your septic tank can only handle so much water at a time. The tank needs time to separate the solids and liquids and send the liquids to the drain field.
  • Check for running toilets and leaky faucets.
  • Consider installing low flow or high efficiency toilets.
  • Make sure you choose the right load size when doing laundry. Washing a small load on the large load setting wastes water.
  • Spread out laundry use. Instead of doing all your laundry on one day, spread it out to allow time for your septic tank to recover.

3. Protecting the tank

1. Keep heavy things away from your tank.

  • Do not put anything heavy on the ground over your tank or drain field like a shed, parked car or RV, cement, asphalt, or above ground pool. This can damage the tank and pipes, compromise the effectiveness of the drain field, and is in violation of the law in most, if not all, jurisdictions.

2. Don’t flush or pour down the drain anything non-biodegradable or chemicals. These things can clog the tank and drain field and chemicals can kill bacteria that helps break down solids.

  • Dental floss
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Cigarette butts
  • Cat litter
  • Kleenex
  • Cotton swabs
  • Coffee grounds
  • Paper towels
  • Condoms
  • Household chemicals
  • Gasoline
  • Grease (no bacon fat, no oils, etc.)
  • Paint
  • Bleach.

3. Avoid garbage disposals.

  • If you have a septic tank, don’t install a garbage disposal.
  • If you have a garbage disposal, use it sparingly. A garbage disposal can clog the drain field and leads to more waste water.
  • If you do have a garbage disposal, you will need to get your septic tank pumped more regularly ideally every year.

4. Put a liter of spoiled buttermilk down the toilet and flush it once every few months. Great bacteria!

5. Use septic-safe products:

  • Use environmentally soaps as much as possible. For example, dish soap, or hand soap.
  • Use septic-safe toilet paper and septic-safe wet ones.
  • Put “RID” down septic (flush in toilet) every few months, if possible.

6. Provide good maintenance around the tank:

  • Cut down all large trees and shrubs near tank and drain (leach field). Keep it clear of roots; the roots of trees can damage pipes and the tank. Be especially careful of trees with aggressive roots such as willow trees.
  • If the leach field is near to rain fall-off from roof line, make sure you have gutters installed so it doesn’t overload the field.

4. Cleaning out the tank

1. Get the tank pumped.

  • Getting your septic tank pumped usually runs around $200-$300 but can vary by region. Also if they have to dig to find your tank, they will charge more.
  • How often you need your tank pumped depends on the size of your tank and the number of people in your household, usually every 1-5 years.
  • Garbage disposal use increases the frequency you will need your tank pumped.
  • If you have a 1,000 gallon (3,785.4 L) tank and four people in your household with no garbage disposal, you should get your tank pumped every 2-3 years. With only 2 people in your household you can wait 4-5 years.
  • When you get your tank pumped, they should also inspect it to make sure it’s in good working order.

2. After minimizing the amount of grey water (wash water) that enters the system, filter all washing machine water with a high tech washing machine lint trap filter. Enough tiny non-biodegradable fibers enter your septic system each year to carpet your living room.

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