The ultimate septic tank maintenance guide for property owners.

Your septic system is an unsung hero of your home or commercial property, and it’s one of those systems you don’t notice until something goes wrong. When something does go wrong, though, you really notice it. To keep everything up and running and smelling like roses, follow these top tips for septic tank maintenance.

Keep Up with Routine Inspections

The last thing you want is to be surprised by issues with your septic tank. In most cases, you can identify budding issues and repair them before they become real problems if you’re keeping up with routine inspections.

For a standard household septic tank, aim for an inspection every three years. Those inspections may be more frequent for large properties and commercial buildings, septic tanks for large families or large groups, or alternative systems. Regardless of the frequency, make sure you hire a septic system professional who can spot any warning signs.

Manage Your Pumping Schedule

Septic systems are designed to remove some materials through your leach field and through bacteria, but they still need to be pumped out occasionally. For a residential system, it’s ideal to pump your septic tank every 3-5 years.

Should you aim for the low or high end of that range? It depends on several factors, like the number of people in the household, the amount of wastewater you typically generate, and the size of your tank.

Here’s a handy hint: it’s convenient to have your septic tank pumped and inspected at the same time, so consider booking both of these services with a septic professional.

Try a Bacteria Additive

Did you know that your septic tank has an entire ecosystem within it? You want certain bacteria that naturally break down waste and treat wastewater to grow inside your septic tank. If the bacteria populations shrink low, your tank won’t work at its full potential. You can send bacteria additives into your septic system to help replenish those bacteria.

Be Smart About What You Flush or Drain

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen the fallout of an ornery child flushing a toy down the toilet and the way it backs up your plumbing. That’s not the only reason to be discerning about what you flush or send down the drain, though.

Sending certain materials into your septic system can fill up your tank faster. And remember those helpful bacteria that live in your septic tank? Some materials are toxic and kill those bacteria.

The top materials you want to keep out of your septic system include grease and oil, chemical drain cleaners, toxic cleaning products, and oil-based paints. Even acrylic paints should be kept to a minimum.

Know Your Drain Field

Your drain field or leach field is a critical part of your septic system, allowing your septic tank to dispose of materials properly. To keep your leach field intact, be careful to minimize the pressure and weight on this area, as too much pressure could damage the equipment.

Whether you had the septic system installed or bought the house after it was installed, find out where your drain field is on the property. Be sure to avoid parking vehicles or building structures on top of the drain field. You should also avoid planting trees too close to the leach field, as tree roots can grow and interfere with the system. Excessive water saturation in the leach field area is something you want to prevent, too, so make sure to place sump pumps and rainwater drainage systems away from this area.

Keep an Eye on Your Lawn

Your lawn doesn’t just sit there and look pretty. It can be helpful in alerting you when there’s an issue with your septic tank.

Know exactly where your septic tank is located and look for changes to the grass in that area. If you see spots that are more lush or dense than your other grass, it could signal a septic tank leak because the materials from the tank are fertilizing the nearby grass. If you do see this red flag, contact a septic system professional.

Consider How You Dispose of Food

Septic tank maintenance isn’t just about what to do to care for your tank; it’s about what not to do so you can avoid putting too large of a workload on your tank. Believe it or not, one part of your property that has a surprisingly big impact on your septic tank is your garbage disposal.

Unlike most of the drains and septic sources in your home, your garbage disposal sends solid material into your septic system (it’s mushy solid material, but it’s solid nonetheless). To keep your septic tank from filling up too quickly, keep your garbage disposal use to a minimum. Consider composting your disposable food instead.

Install an Effluent Filter

An effluent filter is a specific type of filter within a septic system that prevents clogs in your leach field. This is vital for your septic tank because those clogs can lead to backups in your tank and, eventually, a nightmare no property owner wants: a septic tank overflow.

If your septic system doesn’t already have an effluent filter, talk to your septic professional about installing one next time your tank is pumped. While these filters can last a long time, they do need to be cleaned every 3-5 years, so it’s convenient to have your septic professional clean your filter each time they pump your tank.

Keep Thorough Maintenance Records

When it comes to your septic tank, just like anything else on your property that needs maintenance, it’s important to keep detailed records of that maintenance. This includes dated records of pumpings, filter cleanings, equipment installations, inspections, repairs, and more. This information can prove invaluable when your septic system professional tries to diagnose a problem in the future.

The Golden Rule of Septic Tank Maintenance: Choose a Qualified Professional

All of the tips above for how to maintain your septic tank are useful for keeping your septic system up and running. At the end of the day, though, the most important thing you can do is to find a septic system professional who is knowledgeable enough to guide your maintenance plan and uses top-quality septic equipment that will last.

Want to keep expanding your septic system knowledge? Check out our septic and well systems blog for more tips and insights.

By Jeyree Everly
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