Your Septic System Has Bacteria: Why That’s A Good Thing

It’s true: there is bacteria in your septic system. In fact, it has a large impact on how well your septic system will perform. Many of the problems people have with their septic systems, such as pungent odors, gurgling and sucking noises, and frequent stoppages, can be linked to a lack of bacteria in their septic system.



The word septic, in scientific terms, actually means to be infected with bacterium; so when we talk about a ‘septic system’ we are actually talking about a system that relies upon bacteria in order to fulfill its intended purpose.

Your septic system is designed to utilize enzymes and bacteria in order to break down the solid waste that enters it, as well as greases, fats, and detergents. The bacteria there, through feeding on these materials, breaks down organic matter and liquefies solids within the tank so they can be disposed of. Your septic tank’s purpose is to serve as a large settling chamber where solids turn to liquids and prevent blockages in the rest of your plumbing. After being liquefied, the waste exits the septic tank via a drain with tiny perforations in the pipes.

Without the bacteria in your tank, solid waste—and that whole list of undesirables—cannot be liquefied and disposed of. What we’ll generously refer to as sediment or solid waste will begin to accrue in your tank until it begins to affect your drains in the septic system. This will lead to the nasty odors and unpleasantness that can accompany it.

Not only can odors be unpleasant, the real damage begins when solid waste leaves the septic tank and enters your drain field. As a build-up occurs, you will find your drainage system to perform less and less efficiently. Worse even, the surrounding soil acts as a natural sponge for your septic tank, and this solid waste will build up and prevent your soil sponge from being able to drain properly. You may begin to see some of this brackish water back up into your septic system or even into your home, and you may also experience flooding in your yard leading to expensive repairs that can be crippling to a homeowner.

Due to all of this, it is incredibly important to monitor and maintain a bacterial presence in your septic system in order to prevent these issues. With the advancement of science and the current rotation of household products, however, we are confronted with another difficulty. Previously, a septic system was designed and expected to rely on naturally occurring bacteria in order to break down waste, but with the change of products and water consumption in recent years it has become more difficult.


Antibacterial agents abound, especially in our cleaning products. A clean home prevents the spread of germs and sickness, and with good reason, we clean our floors, surfaces, dishes, and bathrooms regularly with antibacterial soaps and detergents. What you may not realize initially, is that these same agents will then enter through our drains into our septic. These cleaning products then begin killing the vital bacteria and enzymes contained within in addition to the bacteria it cleaned off of your hands and clothes. Without enough bacteria, your septic system becomes less efficient and begins to back up. Everyday activities are enough to lower your bacteria levels, and rigorous cleaning can sometimes lead to big problems.

In addition to labeled antibacterial agents, other household products and cleaning products can lead to the death of bacteria in your septic system. Large amounts of bleach can quickly kill off the bacteria in your system, and perhaps even more volatile than bleach, are drain cleaners. One study showed that it only takes about a teaspoon of chemical drain cleaner to kill the beneficial bacteria in a septic tank.


As a result, the solution obviously isn’t to stop cleaning, but there are some things you can do to help out your septic system:

  1. Perform regular maintenance and pump your tank regularly. This is a good way to lower the amount of solid waste build-up, but if you do it too frequently you can also remove the naturally occurring bacteria and waste money. Generally it is good to pump it every few years, but this table can prove useful.
  1. Use Antibacterial and Bleach less often. It is important to balance this one wisely. You likely can’t, nor should you, cut out all antibacterial soaps from your home, but you can use them in moderation. Consider not using bleach in the laundry and checking the labels when purchasing cleaner materials.

Following these steps can help you to have a healthy and efficient septic system, for more questions related to your septic- visit us at or call us at (480) 607-7763 to talk to one of our septic specialists today.

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