Understanding and caring for your home septic system

Daily tips for long lasting, trouble-free service

How often should the septic tank be pumped? Every 1-3 years, when the sludge in the tank is approaching 1/3 of the liquid in depth. If more than this amount of sludge builds up, this increases the solids that get into the disposal field and clog the system. To ensure regular service, keep a maintenance record of your system.

How does the use of household water affect the system? The more water that is used, the more that must be disposed of by the septic system drain fields. Buy water conserving showerheads and faucets. Avoid unnecessary flushing of the stool. Wash only full loads of clothes and fix leaky faucets. Conserve water.

What are some of the common household habits that create problems in a septic tank? When homeowners use their septic tank as a disposal. Grease is the worst thing in a system. Coffee grounds, bones, cooking fats, filter cigarette butts, disposable diapers, paper towels, tissues, feminine hygiene products, all types of wipes, etc., should not be put into the system.

Can a garbage disposal be used? Garbage disposals are not recommended, because the food particles fill up the septic tank faster, and tend to clog the lateral system. If a garbage disposal is used, the tank must be cleaned twice as often.

What effect does rain water run of have on the system? It overloads the system. Since all water must be disposed of, do not have storm or clear water from the basement or roof go into the sewage treatment system.

What about the use of household cleaning products? Moderate use of bleaches, cleansers and other household products will not harm your septic tank. Avoid drain cleaners, caustics and water softeners salt brine.

Is there any special type of toilet paper required? White toilet paper designed for septic tank use is best, because there are no dyes that need to be broken down in white paper.

What else can I do to protect the system? A property designed and installed system will give you years of trouble-free service if you protect the system with good daily habits and pump the tank regularly.

What safety precautions should be taken?

  • Absolutely never go into a septic tank. Lethal gases build up in the tank that are overpowering and deadly. Call professionals if you have a problem with your system.
  • Know where the manhole cover to the septic tank is located. It should be earth covered or locked at all times.
  • Septic tanks that are no longer being used should be filled with earth or rock. Important – Check with the health department in your community for local regulations and requirements concerning home septic systems. 

How to Care for Your Septic Tank and Septic System

Ongoing Maintenance: If you live in a rural area you probably have a septic system instead of a sewer connection. Taking care of your septic system isn't difficult, because modern systems function efficiently when you follow a few basic guidelines. Put these tips to use for a clean and trouble-free septic system.

Divert rainwater from the septic leach field: A soggy leach field won't absorb and neutralize liquid waste. Plan landscaping, roof gutters and foundation drains so that excess water is diverted away from the septic leach field.

Don't overload the septic tank and leach field:

  • Check faucets and toilets for leaks; make repairs if necessary.
  • Use aerators on faucets and flow reducer nozzles on showers to help lower water consumption.
  • Reduce water levels for small loads of laundry.
  • Wait until the dishwasher is full to run it.
  • Use a displacer to reduce the amount of water needed to flush the toilet.

Keep trees away from the septic system: Discourage root damage by keeping trees at least 100 feet away from the septic system. Trees with very aggressive roots, such as willows, should be even farther away from the system.

The toilet isn't a garbage disposal: Never flush cat litter, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, paper towels, facial tissues, coffee grounds, or cigarette butts and filters. They'll clog your septic tank in less time than you might imagine.

Use garbage disposals wisely: A garbage disposal can double the amount of solids added to a septic tank. Choose a top-line disposal that grinds food into tiny particles that are easier for a system to digest.

Minimize heavy duty cleaners: Overuse of heavy cleaners kills beneficial bacteria in the septic tank, so solids won't break down as well.

Do not pour grease down the drain: Grease can clog the septic leach field, making it impossible for soil to absorb liquids. If that happens you'll need a new leach field.

Avoid hazardous chemicals: Varnish, paint thinners, motor oils, gasoline and other similar chemicals can ruin your system and are a hazard to groundwater. Dispose of them properly.

Protect the system from damage: Do not drive over the leach field, as this will possibly crush the lateral tubing in the ground. Do plant grass on the leach field to minimize soil erosion.

Perform regular maintenance: Solids must eventually be pumped from the tank. Many experts advise a family of four with a 1,000 gallon septic tank to have the tank pumped after 2-3 years of full time use.

Never attempt to open a septic tank yourself. Gases and bacteria in it are dangerous.

Compliments of Spa Septic Tank Co., Inc. – Saratoga Springs – 518-584-5473