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The holiday season is fast approaching! This is the time of year when we frequently entertain guests, host parties, and have social gatherings in our homes. Not a problem in you live in a community with sewer systems. A potential problem if you have a septic system. All year round, you need to be aware of the load you put on your system, but especially when you are expecting a large amount of guests.

With the promise of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, football games, parades and out of town guests, this is the perfect time to schedule a septic service. After all, you DO NOT want your holiday memories to include septic system failures and backups! The last thing any homeowner wants to deal with is a failed or backed up septic system in the middle of the festivities. If you are hosting a large holiday gathering, or if family will be staying with you this holiday season, you will have to consider the toll that all those extra guests can take on your home’s utilities and resources. Your septic system, for example, can sustain damage with all of the extra use. It is important to know how the holidays can affect your septic tank and what you can do to ensure that it remains in the best condition possible this winter.


Holiday Overuse

Septic tanks are designed to accommodate the number of bedrooms in a home and potential in flows. Therefore, an average home with one to three bedrooms is intended to house four or five residents and would have a tank that would accommodate 1000 gallons. This is large enough to handle normal inputs. A large party would multiply this effect. Can your system handle the added load?

With all of the people, cooking and water use that is associated with the holidays, your septic system can become overwhelmed and back up. It can be smart to proactively call for septic pumping prior to any major holiday events as the holidays are an especially busy time for septic pumping companies like West Coast Sanitation.

Beyond the excessive water usage during the holidays, you also have to consider how cooking can affect your system. Since there is often so much cooking going on during the holidays, it is not uncommon for people to pour grease or oil down the drains by accident. These substances can coagulate and cause obstructions in your pipes and can do damage to your septic system.

If your system is suddenly flooded from a large volume of water generated by a number of guests in a few hours, it can potentially overwhelm the tank and drain field capacity. This would cause sewage backups and increase the risk of flushing untreated effluent into your drain field. Your septic tank or onsite waste water system requires about 24 hours for processing and settling out the solid inputs. Anaerobic microbes break down the waste products. Flooding your system with water reduces or eliminates this settling and decomposition time.

The drain field is designed to continue the breakdown process with aerobic microbes in the soil. The layers of soil further filter the water as it slowly drains back into the water cycle. Solids flowing into the drain field fill up the pores in the soil reducing airspace and places for the microbes to live and thrive.


Steps You Can Take to Minimize the Impact on Your Septic System:

  • Make sure they know the “do not flush” list. Most people are connected to city sewer so they are not aware that many items are not flushable. Make sure that your guests have a good understanding of the “do not flush” list, which includes wipes (whether labeled “flushable” or not), feminine products and anything other than the septic approved toilet paper you likely already have in your bathroom.
  • Educate them on efficient water use and basic septic system function. It is important that your guests understand how your septic system works so that they do not overload it. Frequent bathroom usage, taking showers at the same time that laundry is being done or doing dishes during any of these other activities can cause septic system overload and backups.
  • Have your system pumped before your holiday party. If you are having a holiday party, increased bathroom use is often unavoidable. Be prepared by having your septic system pumped before your holiday parties to avoid any issues.
  • Reduce extra water inputs from laundry, dishwashers and extra showers a few days before your party
  • Do your food prep and other water intensive cooking ahead of time
  • Rent a portable restroom
  • Arrange to inspect and pump the tank prior to your party is the best choice, especially if it has not been done recently
  • Make sure that external inputs are routed away from the drain field


It is also smart to remind your guests about the rules of your septic system, so they know how to properly care for it during their stay.

Tell Guests to Avoid Flushing the Following Items in Particular:

  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Paper towels
  • Diapers
  • Personal cleansing wipes
  • Anything other than the toilet paper you provide

Remind Guests What Not to Put Down the Sink Drains:

  • No oils, fats, or grease
  • No coffee grounds
  • No solid food waste
  • No bleach or other chemicals


Shower. Wait. Repeat.

You may not need to actually establish a shower schedule for family and guests, but it is a good idea to distribute showers throughout the day. If possible, avoid showering in multiple bathrooms at the same time. This can overload your septic system and slow the draining process.

The same theory applies to running the washing machine and dishwasher. If you can, distribute loads over a few days rather than running them back to back.


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.