Septic system maintenance isn't about what you do, it's about what you don't do. The one thing you do is to get your tank pumped on a regular basis. Failure to pump your tank can result in the movement of solids and sludge into the leach field which can drastically reduce the systems life span. Otherwise you just need to keep in mind that everything you pour down the drain, flush down the toilet, or put in the washing machine has the potential to affect the functional lifespan of your leach field. Field replacement usually costs $7000 or more, so treating your system right is in your best interest!
Suggested Maintenance Practices:
· Grease and oil used in cooking should be scraped or poured out of the pan and disposed of in the garbage before washing the pan.
· The garbage disposal should be used only for small amounts of loose vegetables found in sink: large portions of leftover food should be disposed of in the trash. A septic tank filter is generally recommended if a garbage disposal is used.
· If strainers are used in the kitchen sink, grease on pans is kept to a minimum, and drain traps are cleaned periodically in the bathrooms, then drain cleaners (which are harmful to septic systems) can be avoided.
· Soap and detergent in large quantities can contribute to the clogging in the leach field and contributes to premature breakdown. However when used in moderate quantities and spaced throughout the week (I.E. Not waiting to do a weeks laundry for a large family all in one day) the septic system can tolerate soap and detergents for many years. Powders, anti-bacterial soaps, and products high in bleach or chlorine (Tide, Comet, Clorox Cleanup, etc.) should be minimized or avoided all together to maximize the lifespan of the system.
· Your septic system relies on bacteria to function properly so flushing prescriptions (especially antibiotics) or chemicals of any type will have a negative effect. People with hobbies such as photography, painting, electroplating, automotive care/restoration, etc. should never dispose of chemical waste in the house drains.
· Any products high in chlorine or other antibacterial agents should be used in small quantities, if at all. Remember, bleach should only be used as a white dye, not an every day cleaning agent!
· The toilet should not be used to dispose of anything but what it was intended for. Paper towels, sanitary napkins, ‘flushable’ wipes, newspapers, rags, and any other material of this nature can create blockages in the tank and result in septic tank backup and more frequent septic tank service.
· Products that claim to be aids in septic function are not necessary and are fundamentally flawed in regards to how a septic system is intended to function. Your septic tank is designed to separate waste to be manually removed by a pump truck, not to be broken down and sent to the leach field. The best thing you can do for your septic system is not what you DO put in it, it is what you DON’T put in it!
· No solvents, paints, or pesticides should be disposed of in the house drain system.
· No trees or shrubs should be planted close to the leach field: the roots can clog the bed and break the pipes.
· A continual high volume of water flow into the system can contribute to malfunction. Your septic system is designed to accept a set volume of liquid: overloading the system can push unwanted solids and sludge into the field and accelerate failure.
· Get your septic tank pumped every two to five years to remove solids and sludge. Without regular service solids and sludge will accumulate to the point that they can pass into the field and clog the pipes and soil.
· Normal household chemicals and materials like soap, detergent, drain cleaner, grease, oil, ground up garbage, etc., will not have a noticeable short term effect on the function of your system when used in moderation. They will, however, have an effect on the longevity of the system, so conscious moderation is very important.
· Toilet tank tablets that contain antibacterial agents such as chlorine or bleach should not be used.
· Toilet bowl cleaners, and bleach/chlorine based tub and tile cleaners should be used as little as possible. Non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners are a good choice for most cleaning cycles, then occasional use of the stronger stuff will have less impact.
· A septic inspection every five years can alert you to any developing problems so they can be repaired or reversed before permanent damage is done (I.E. A broken outlet baffle can greatly reduce your leach fields lifespan, and is only about $100 to repair).