Blog    |    Taking Care of Your Septic Tank


Scientists tell us that one of our primary connections to memory is our sense of smell. One of the first things you notice when your septic tank is not working properly is the smell. It seeps up through your sinks, your shower drains, and your toilets — and trust us, that is not something you’re going to want to remember. Sometimes it begins to waft up from the ground near your tank and drain field. It is unmistakable. Everyone knows what it is and no one wants to be anywhere near it.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. No one wants to inhabit a space that smells like a Port-O-John. That is why it is imperative that you take good care of your septic tank system.

Things to Avoid

The general rule when considering what to flush down the drain is to limit the amount of solids. An excess of solids flushed down drains and toilets will fill up your septic tank very fast. You will want to avoid flushing things like sanitary napkins, dental floss, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, paper towels, tampons, cat litter, or coffee grounds.  You want to keep anything that does not decompose easily out of your septic system.

Most of the time when we think about causing havoc in the septic system, we think about problematic materials flushed down the toilet. However, it is equally important to consider your kitchen sink. Garbage disposals can be a problem for homeowners with septic tanks, because only the high-end models chop particles up finely enough to decompose properly. It is a far safer option to avoid the garbage disposal altogether and start a compost pile for your cooking scraps instead.

Along with food scraps, you should avoid putting grease and fat down the drain. While they do not cause significant damage to the tank itself, grease and oil can destroy a septic system by clogging the drainfield and polluting the soil around it. This polluted soil is unable to do the work of absorbing and processing liquids from your tank.  If this happens to your septic system, you might have to replace the system.

Be careful with household cleaners. The work of your septic tank relies upon ‘friendly’ bacteria to do it’s decomposition work. Many disinfectants, bleaches, and household cleaners kill this bacteria. If you have a septic tank, you should instead use organic and biodegradable household products. Never use drain cleaners if at all possible – even small quantities of these virulent chemicals can destroy the bacteria and cause your septic system major problems.

Never put hazardous substances into the system. Avoid paint, paint thinners, gasoline, motor oil, or any other such substances. There is no way of salvaging a septic tank with these substances in them.

Conserve Water

Septic systems are water dispersal units that have a wide front end and smaller releasing ends. Like a funnel, they seek to direct an outpouring of water into much narrower streams. Now imagine putting several coffee filters in that funnel. It would not take much water for it to overflow or tear through those filters. Similarly, septic tanks can overflow if they spring a leak from too much pressure or too much water usage in a single day. Anything you can do to conserve water will prolong the life of your septic system.

Use Septic Treatments

Septic treatments, such as RID-X® Septic Tank System Treatment, are made of billions of 100% natural active bacteria that produce enzymes with the ability to  break down waste. When you add these treatments to your septic system, you help restore these beneficial bacteria and enzymes needed to help keep your system working efficiently.

RID-X® contains:

  • Cellulase – which breaks down toilet paper, vegetable matter and some foods
  • Lipase – which breaks down fats, oils and grease
  • Protease – which breaks down proteins
  • Amylase – which breaks down starches

How quickly do these septic treatments work?

These enzymes begin working as soon as they come in contact with water. After just a few hours the bacteria germinate and then begin to breaking down solid waste. The bacteria will multiply to the maximum level that your septic system can hold in about 2-4 days, if the temperature and conditions are favorable. Since septic systems are unique to specific homes, they break down waste at different speeds.

External Care

You might think that the ground near septic tanks would be ideal for growing your plant life, since the ground would be filled with a constant supply of fertilizing materials. That would be true for the plants themselves. However, in their search for those nutrients, trees and bushes grow roots that twist around and break up your drain field wastewater lines. For the safety of your septic system, it is important to keep all trees and bushes clear of the septic tank and draining field.

It is also important to keep heavy objects, such as cars, trucks, and RVs, as well as small buildings like sheds and garages, clear of the area. Excess pressure could damage the pipes, and should a problem arise with the system, small buildings could prevent important access required for maintenance.

Septic Tank with Pump

A septic tank pump is a water pump that is installed either in the last chamber of a septic tank or in another pump sump after the septic tank. Essentially, it is a small electrical water pump that can be submerged in wastewater. It has a float switch which turns the pump on and off as the tank fills with water. It has a small impeller which then pushes the water up through the pipes, into the drainage field. This pump will require electricity to operate so you will need to make sure you have electrical access near your septic tank and that it is installed safely.


Why would you need a septic tank with pump?

In general, a septic tank with a pump is more efficient at dispersing wastewater from the tank, which prevents the tank from filling up as fast. The float switch keeps the wastewater below a certain level in the tank, similar to how the float switch in a toilet shuts the water off when the reservoir reaches a certain level.

Oftentimes, a piece of property is not level. If your septic tank sits at a lower level in your property and you are attempting to create a draining field at an elevated level, gravity works against you and prevents the wastewater from distributing properly, making a pump necessary. It may also be necessary if you have a raised percolation area or a soakaway near the septic tank.

You can install a septic tank pump into an existing septic tank, or it can be installed in a pump station after the septic tank. If your septic tank is only a single chamber unit, then you should not install the pump directly in the tank. If you you do, you will end up pumping settled solids (or sludge) out of the tank. These solids will block your pipes and pollute your draining fields.

However, if your tank has 2 or 3 chambers then you can install a submersible septic tank pump into the last chamber of the tank. Be sure to install a dirty water pump that can handle solids up to 30mm in size, otherwise the pump will clog with small solids.

Pumping Your Septic Tank

One of the most important parts of septic tank maintenance is having the tank pumped regularly. Even if you have a septic tank pump, the whole tank needs to have the solid waste pumped out of it every 1-3 years. If you do not do this, it will fill up, clog the dispersing pipes that lead to your drain field, back your sewage up into your household, and potentially crack the tank and cause a leak from the pressure.

At that point you are no longer looking at septic tank maintenance, you are looking at septic tank replacement… and a huge, potentially dangerous mess to clean up on your property. It is the difference between paying ​300 for pumping and paying $10,000 for a new septic system. You cannot afford not to pump, and the more often you do it, the longer your septic tank system will last.

How do you know when to get your septic tank pumped? If you have an internal pump in your large-size tank, it will be running a lot to keep up with elevated levels inside the tank. This means the solid sludge has accumulated to much and the tank cannot hold as much liquid without activating the float switch and turning the pump on. You will hear the pump running and you will notice it in your electric bill.

Your tank will also probably have some kind of gauge to show how full it is. If two years have passed and you do not notice any accumulation on that gauge, it is probably worth having it checked out by an expert.

The whole maintenance process can be simplified by consulting your local septic experts. They can estimate a pumping schedule for you based upon your present septic system and your household size and water usage. They can recommend proper treatments and a schedule of how often to add them as well. Regular inspections can help them catch problems early and prevent huge replacement costs to you.

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