When we think of beautiful things, septic tanks are rarely called to mind. But are they not elegant in design? Eco-friendly? Efficient? Sanitary? Largely self-sufficient? Profoundly useful?
Honestly, if we seriously considered all that our septic systems do for us (and save us from), they would certainly command more respect and admiration than they do, instead of being relegated to among the least spoken – or thought-of parts of our households.
Which is why we owe it to them to do basic maintenance and employ “septic best practices” throughout the year. Not only that, but when a septic system goes bad after years of neglect, it goes really, really bad . . .
Neglected septic tanks can cause noxious odors, drain backups, standing water (or even sewage) in your yard and, in the end, may require complete replacement.
How to show your septic tank you care:
- Be mindful of water usage. It’s never a good idea to overload your system with too much water, which means doing several back-to-back loads of laundry should be avoided.
Your tank needs time to separate sludge and scum from the water, so sending too much through at once can result in solid waste getting into your drainfield pipes, clogging them up, and creating pools of unsanitary standing water.
- Be careful what you flush or put down drains. Although most people know that it’s never a good idea to use a sink or toilet as a garbage can, it’s even more crucial to remember when you have a septic system.
Solids that can’t be broken down naturally in a septic tank (egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit skins or other food waste) will typically find their way into drainage pipes and clog them.
In fact, garbage disposals are not recommended for use with septic systems and people who have both should use the disposal sparingly and with discretion, especially in the case of grease and fats.
And of course, whether you have a septic system or not, never, ever flush or rinse paint, paint thinner, oil, medications, feminine hygiene products, plastics, cat litter, etc. down the drain.
- Use septic-safe products and limit use of chemicals. There are several brands of toilet paper, detergents, soaps and cleaners that proclaim they’re “septic safe” right on the label and we do recommend using them.
However, there really are no soaps or chemicals that actually “help” a septic tank, so it’s best to be mindful of how much you’re using and allowing into the tank at all times.
Your septic tank relies on bacteria to break down the solid waste “sludge,” and harmful chemicals or too much soap can kill that bacteria and interfere with its ability to work, but you should be OK if you’re using cleaning products in moderation.
- If it’s been awhile, have your tank and system inspected. The average septic system should be inspected every three years and doing so is the smartest way to avoid potentially huge repair, replacement and clean-up bills.
- Don’t hesitate to call a professional at the first sign of a problem. If you’re noticing foul odors around your property, experiencing slow flushing/backups or see standing water near your tank or drainfield, it’s imperative to call a pro immediately.
A small problem caught in time can help avert a crisis and save you the time, money and headache of having your yard torn up for a complete septic tank or drainfield replacement.
- Scheduled maintenance is the way to go. If you can locate a reputable septic company that offers scheduled maintenance, we highly recommend it.
Here are some guidelines to help you determine a pumping schedule that’s right for you:
But signing up for scheduled maintenance means that you never have to worry about remembering to order service and, even better, a professional septic service technician will take several factors (garbage disposal, water softener, laundry usage, etc.) into account when determining your system’s needs.
If you have questions about your septic tank, septic system, new tank/system installation, scheduled service, etc., please feel free to reach out anytime!