The holidays are a time to gather with family and friends. It is a time for cooking and baking, and visiting with loved ones. But between excessive use of sinks, dishwashers, toilets and showers, your septic system can quickly become overworked and lead to malfunction.
Parties and house guests will cause increased usage of toilets and sinks and can overload an unmaintained septic system. If you are hosting a large group, have your septic tank pumped well before guests arrive. If you do a lot of entertaining, you will need to have your septic system pumped more often.
Can your septic system handle the extra flushes and water usage? Avoid needing emergency septic tank maintenance by following these tips on how to maintain your septic system for the holiday season.
Understanding the Size of Your Tank
Your septic system was designed and sized to support a certain number of people based on the number of bedrooms in your home. Typically, your septic tank size is based on 1.5+ people per bedroom. So a 4 bedroom house will accommodate 6 people. We calculate an average expected water usage from each person in the household and select an appropriate tank size to accommodate your family’s water consumption and plumbing needs.
We also take other factors into consideration, such as whether or not your kitchen has a garbage disposal, your bathroom has a Jacuzzi tub, or you regularly have more people living with you or staying at your house.
Septic Tank and Holidays
When you use a lot more water than normal, your septic tank is churned up more than usual. This causes the solids and sludge to exit the tank before they have a chance to float to the top or fall to the bottom. If you have not pumped your tank in a while, you have a greater chance of churning up the solids that should stay in your tank. Once the grease and sludge leave your tank they can cause harm to your drain field.
Drain Field and Holidays
The drain field is the next component that is affected by extra holiday guests. The main issue is the sludge and grease that can potentially exit the tank. These will clog up the soil in your drain field causing it to lose its ability to drain. Over time, the accumulation of sludge and grease will keep your drain field from draining entirely and the sewage will start to come up onto the ground. The water usage by itself can create problems with the drain field. The drain field needs time to rest so that the water can drain and the bacteria in the drain field can eat away at the sludge. Even if you pump your tank after the holidays you can help your drain field by giving it time to rest while the tanks are filling back up.
Extra people results in increased water usage at the sink and extra flushes in the bathrooms. If you overwhelm your septic tank with a larger-than-normal volume in a short period of time, you could end up maxing out your drainfield capacity. What does this mean for you and your guests? Potentially, backed up toilets and an overflowing drainfield.
This certainly does not mean you should cancel your plans to host a holiday gathering this season. However, it does mean that if you want to avoid plumbing disasters, you should take these steps to minimize the shock to your septic system (and your party guests).
Septic tanks behave a little bit differently from sewer systems. Septic systems rely on the bacteria population inside the tank to break down solid waste. Educating your guests about what can and cannot be flushed down your septic tank can help you avoid problems while guests are in your home. Products like diapers, tampons, disposable wipes, paper towels and other products that are occasionally marketed as flushable also easily clog septic tanks.
To make this task less awkward, put up signs in your bathroom, laundry room and kitchen. Keeping the signs funny and lighthearted can help catch your guests’ attention while making the message memorable.
It is also a good idea to make the garbage cans in your bathrooms and kitchen easily accessible. This makes it easier for guests to throw away items that they might otherwise try to flush down a sink or toilet.
Pump the Tank Before Guests Arrive
Most septic tanks only need to be pumped every three to five years, depending on the size of the tank and the amount of people in your home. If you are not sure how often you need to perform this maintenance task, you can talk to your septic tank pumping company to find out how often this service is recommended based on the size of the tank, family lifestyle, number of people in the home and more.
If your septic tank is due for a pumping, schedule an appointment well in advance of the holidays. Keep in mind that this is a busy time for septic professionals, so schedule the appointment now.
4 Holiday Septic Maintenance Tips
1. Stagger the Use of Showers and Baths
Taking back to back showers puts too much stress on your water system. Divide the guests, so half will shower in the morning while the other half will shower at night. This will prevent too much water from entering your septic tank all at once. If most of your guests are partial to morning showers, then suggest shorter showers.
2. Be Careful of What Gets Flushed Down the Toilet
Keep in mind that a lot of your guests will be unfamiliar with the Dos and Don’ts of septic system care. To avoid unnecessary septic tank maintenance, talk with your guests about what cannot be flushed down the toilet. Avoid flushing wipes (baby wipes, cosmetic, cleaning, etc.), cigarette butts, toys, wrappers, grease, diapers, or feminine products. The toilet is not a garbage can and all these can cause problems in the septic system. Human waste and approved toilet paper are the only things to flush.
3. Limit the Use of Dishwashers
Holiday baking or extravagant dinners result in multiple loads of dirty dishes that you want to put in the dishwasher. However, too many dishwasher cycles could add stress to your water system. Try hand washing and drying as many dishes as you can. Also, wait to run the dishwasher at night when everyone has gone to bed so no one will try turning on another water appliance.
4. Pump Your Septic Tank Before the Holidays
Parties and house guests will cause increased usage of toilets and sinks and can overload an unmaintained septic system. If you are hosting a large group, have your septic tank pumped well before guests arrive. If you do a lot of entertaining you will need to have your septic system pumped more often.
5. Park Cars With Care
Parking cars on your septic system, especially after heavy rain, can cause $1000’s of damage. It’s important to know the location of your septic tank and drain field. Consider roping this area off to prevent guests from parking on your septic system.
Watch for Signs of a System Backup
Your septic tank may tell you when you are facing a serious problem. Days or weeks before a system backup reaches a critical point, you might start seeing signs of a clog. Watching for these signs in the weeks before the holidays can help you avoid a catastrophe. Some of the common signs of septic tank backup include:
- The pipes make strange gurgling noises.
- Bathtubs, showers and floor drains in the lowest levels of the house suddenly drain slowly.
- Water from one appliance or plumbing fixture drains into another, instead of draining into the septic tank.
- The drain field suddenly fills with standing water.
- The yard has a “sewer” smell.
If you notice any one of these symptoms in the weeks before the holidays, contact your septic tank service as soon as possible.
Schedule a Septic Service Before Guests Arrive
By planning for your guests’ water use in advance, you can have a carefree holiday party without the worry of a septic emergency. If you are hosting for the holidays and expect an increased number of guests, then give West Coast Sanitation a call to have the tank pumped out beforehand. Overuse can lead to backups and drainfield failures.
Keep in mind that this is a busy time of year for septic pumpers, so it is best to be proactive and have your tank pumped before there is a problem if your tank has not been pumped for some time.
If you have questions about septic services or you need to schedule an appointment, please give us a call at (951) 780-5922 right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.