If you live rurally, you likely rely on a septic system rather than the city sewer for your home’s waste disposal system. When your septic tank is working as it should, the organic waste that comes from your house flows to it freely and is broken down by the bacteria in the tank where it is then decomposed. This keeps the tank efficiently functional for many years. On the other hand, when the tank is not functioning properly, or when there is a problem with the system, the waste is not broken down on time. It ends up filling the tank, and when the level is too high, the tank either leaks waste to the yard or the waste backs up into the house.
When your home relies on a septic system, you will 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. It is important to understand how to maintain, clean, pump and eventually properly replace your septic tank and system. Septic tank systems are relatively easy to maintain, and with the right measures, your tank can serve you for many years without the need for a replacement.
Here are some tips you can use to properly maintain your septic system:
1. Be Efficient With Your Water Usage
Excessive water is one of the common characteristics that septic tanks have failed. When there is too much water flowing into the tank, and you do not have a reliable drainage and recycling system, it washes out the bacteria. It is important to conserve water in all circumstances, but especially on a septic system, when excess water can overload the drain field or tank.
Save water and the tank by only washing full loads of laundry and only doing one load per day, avoid excessively long showers and remind everyone in the home to turn off the sink when not in use (while brushing teeth, for instance). It can also help to give your system “rest times” throughout the day when there is no water running to the system. We suggest not running dishwashers or washing machines overnight for this reason and repair any plumbing system leaks or other problems and install high-efficiency plumbing fixtures to avoid flooding your tank and overflowing it.
2. Do Not Park Vehicles Near the System
When you park heavy vehicles near the drain area, you increase the rate at which the soil will compact itself. This can also lead to the breakage of septic pipes and damage to the entire system. Avoid the septic tank, drain field, and other reserve areas when parking vehicles.
3. Pump the Septic Tank Every Three Years
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. However, over time solid waste at the bottom of the tank that has not yet decomposed begins to build up, and if it is not removed, it can fill the tank and eventually escape with the effluent into your yard.
A good rule of thumb is to get your septic tank pumped every three years, but this can change depending on your household size. If you have a small household, you can likely extend the service out to five years. If you have a huge household, you might need to have the tank pumped annually or every two years. Pumping the tank regularly prevents harmful tank sludge and sewage backup. If you have just moved into a new home with a septic tank, it might be worth getting it pumped now just so you can start with a clean slate.
4. Watch What You Flush
There are many things that people flush or put down their drains that seem innocent (and may even be labeled “flushable!”), but 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:
- Toilet paper that is too thick
- Condoms or feminine hygiene products
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Dental floss
- “Flushable” cat litter
- “Flushable” wipes
- Glass or plastic
- Paper towels
- Produce stickers
- Stringy vegetables
- Anything that is tough, sharp, or does not seem likely to break down naturally
5. Preserve the Health of the Ecosystem Inside the Tank
The first thing that you should pursue is making sure that the ecosystem inside the septic tank stays healthy. Harsh drain cleaning chemicals, bleach, and soap kill the aerobic and anaerobic bacteria which is found inside the septic tank. If you can, avoid pouring these harsh chemicals down the toilet bowl.
If you suspect that you may have interfered with the healthy ecosystem inside the tank, call professionals to help you clean. They know what measures to take to restore the balance of your tank. Sometimes, they might even introduce new bacteria in the tank to restore its function.
If you are on a septic system, you can still clean with Lysol and such, but do not flush it down your toilet and do not wash it down the drain.
Be especially careful with:
- Bleach (or cleaners containing bleach)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Any cleaner advertising its ability to kill bacteria
- Chlorine (such as from a pool or hot tub)
- Paints and solvents
- Automotive fluids, such as motor oil or anti-freeze
- Nail polish or polish remover
6. Conduct Annual Inspections
Have a professional come out at least once a year and inspect your septic system. This might include a tank or drain test, or it might be as simple as a visual inspection of key septic pieces. Regardless, a professional can detect problems with your septic tank and fix them before the tank becomes an environmental hazard on your property. Cracks in the septic tank can leak sewage underground, which can be an expensive hazardous waste cleanup.
7. Make Sure Your Yard Does Not Damage the Tank
This might seem obvious, but the more liquid flows into your drain field, the more strain you put on your leech system and your drain field health in general. Combat this easily by creating alternative routes for runoff, rain management and home or animal water management. Only have water from the home or business septic system in your drain field, if at all possible! Runoff can also expose your tank or crack it due to shifting soil. It is important that the earth surrounding your septic tank is cared for, stable, and free of damaging things such as the tree roots mentioned above.
Signs of Problem in Your Septic System
- Gurgling Sounds From Pipes
If you hear gurgling sounds after you flush the toilet or when you run the water, then it could be a sign the tank is full and needs a pump.
- Slow Drainage
If you notice that your kitchen sink, restroom sink, shower or bathtub is draining slowly, then it could be an issue with the pipe system in your home or your septic framework.
- Trouble Flushing
When your toilet is slow to flush or will not flush, there is a possibility that it could be a major issue with the septic system. It may be that the tank is full. This can be fixed with a septic tank cleaning.
- Water Backup
If water is backing up or if sewage has backed up into the house, then it is time to call for help. Sewage or water backups are one of the more significant symptoms of the failed septic framework.
Call West Coast Sanitation Today!
Like everything else, your septic system requires regular maintenance. Have it inspected by a septic professional at West Coast Sanitation at least once every year. During a maintenance session, your contractor will pump your septic system, conduct a drain test, and look for & rectify issues.
At West Coast Sanitation, we know that you don’t have time to deal with septic problems. If you think that your system has reached capacity, please give us a call right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.