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What Cleaning Products are Safe for Septic Tanks?

Water Running Down a Drain

If you own a home with a septic system, you’re well aware of the objects that shouldn’t go down the drain. Paper towels, for instance, won’t break down and could easily clog your pipes, and pouring grease down the drain could have similar results. Did you know, though, that cleaning products, from laundry detergents to toilet bowl cleaners, could also damage your septic tank and leach field? Knowing which cleaning products to use—and which ones to avoid—is essential for maintaining your septic system.

Types of Cleaning Products to Avoid

The sludge inside your septic tank should be broken down before it makes its way through the outlet pipe and into the leach field. To do this, the septic system is designed to utilize bacteria within the tank. Unfortunately, many cleaners that may be safe to use in other households will destroy bacteria in your tank, making it difficult for waste to break down and increasing the likelihood of clogs.

Bleach, for instance, is a disinfectant, which means it’s designed to kill bacteria. That may sound ideal for scrubbing a dirty toilet, but once it’s flushed down, the bleach will begin to kill off the good bacteria in your tank. Ammonia is another popular cleaner that is not recommended for use in homes with septic tanks.

Drain cleaner is another culprit for killing off good bacteria. While it can be frustrating to deal with a clogged drain, reaching for a powerful drain cleaner could cause more frustration once it reaches your septic tank. In addition to throwing off the natural balance within the tank, foaming cleaners can actually do damage to the tank itself as well. One good rule of thumb is that if you need to wear gloves to handle the product, it probably isn’t safe for your septic system.

Types of Cleaning Products to Use

If you’re wondering about the safety of a particular store-bought cleaner, check the labeling. Most septic-safe cleaners include a logo to indicate they can be used in homes with septic systems, though even if something is considered safe, it still may not be the best choice. Instead, take a look at the ingredients list. If the first thing listed is water, it’s likely safe to use. Many disinfectants, bathroom cleaners, and even laundry detergents are now water-based.

You may actually have several septic-safe cleaners in your home, without needing to go to the store. Natural cleaners are not only good for the environment, they are effective and safe for your septic system as well. You’ve probably heard of using white vinegar and baking soda, but lemon juice, salt, and even borax have natural cleaning properties that won’t kill off the good bacteria in your septic tank.

Fortunately, there is another option that isn’t just safe for septic tanks, but beneficial too. Bacteria-based cleaning products introduce more good bacteria into your septic tank. Once inside, the bacteria get to work to completely digest fats, oils, and greases, or FOG, inside the tank. Think of it as a probiotic for your septic tank, as it helps to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the tank and keeps the system functioning properly.

Why it’s Important to Select Septic Safe Cleaning Products

Solid waste, including FOG, creates a layer of sludge that floats at the top of the tank. When there aren’t enough good bacteria to completely digest this layer of sludge, it could make its way into the outlet pipe that leads to your leach field, clogging the pipe and causing damage to the entire system. You’ll also need to pump your septic tank more frequently to remove the growing sludge layer.

One more reason to consider the cleaning products you use is the environmental impact. Everything that is flushed or poured down the drain will make its way to your tank, and then eventually to your leach field and yard. The tank will not filter out chemicals and toxins, so those, too, will filter into your yard, which may be a concern for your family and pets. On the contrary, natural and bacteria-based cleaning products are safe for everyone.

Don’t Damage Your Septic Tank with the Wrong Cleaners

As you select septic-safe toilet paper and avoid dumping coffee grounds down the drain, consider your cleaning products as well. Harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia will kill off important bacteria and allow sludge to build up in your tank. They’ll also eventually leach into your yard. Instead, purchase water-based cleaners, or, better yet, make your own from natural products. Then, add good bacteria to your tank by using a bacteria-based product. They will then safely begin to break down the solid waste and FOG inside the tank, which will reduce the likelihood of clogs and may even allow you to pump your tank less frequently. Opting for safe cleaning products will help your septic system operate properly for years to come.

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How to Make Your Leach Field Last Longer

Septic Tank Pumping

Within a septic system, the leach field performs a very important job, so it’s understandable that you would want to ensure it’s functioning properly well into the future. Fortunately, with proper service and maintenance, and some healthy septic habits, your leach field could last as long as 50 years!

Inspect and Pump Often

The leach field is only one part of the septic system. If you want to increase the lifespan of your leach field, you’ll need to make septic tank maintenance a high priority. Have your tank inspected regularly to detect potential issues early and to monitor sludge levels.

When the sludge level begins to rise, it could make its way into the outlet pipe that connects the tank to the drain field pipes, leading to slow drainage and potential clogs. To avoid this damage, the septic tank should also be pumped regularly. How often the septic tank needs to be pumped depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the tank, the number of people living in the home, and the total wastewater usage. On average, most septic tanks will need to be pumped every three to five years.

Keep Records of All Septic Tank Services

While you may notice some outward signs that there could be problems with your septic system (like foul smells or overly-saturated ground above), most potential issues are hidden in the tank itself. Be sure to keep detailed records of all service and maintenance, including sludge levels. You may even begin to see some patterns form that could help predict future pumpings.

Use Water Efficiently

Every household relies on water usage, but for homeowners with septic tanks, it’s important to be mindful of just how much water is used. On average, individuals use about 70 gallons of water a day, and septic tanks are actually sized based on the number of individuals that live in the home. However, when large amounts of water go down the drain too quickly, it can overload the tank, making it harder to process and drain in the leach field.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to reduce water usage:

  • High-efficiency showerheads and faucet aerators—These simple swaps can help reduce water usage during daily tasks like showering or washing the dishes.
  • Washing machine usage—The load size you select determines the amount of water that is used. Adjust the load size on the machine for each load, and consider spreading out your clothes washing to multiple days to reduce wastewater overload in the septic tank.
  • High-efficiency toilets—Older toilets use 3 to 5 gallons of water with every flush, while newer, high-efficiency toilets use only 1.6 gallons.

Properly Dispose of Waste

It may seem like everything that goes down the drain is gone forever, but if you have a septic tank, that isn’t the case. Whatever goes down your drains and toilets will quickly end up in your septic tank, and eventually your leach field. When solids and non-biodegradable products are flushed or poured down the drain, the lifespan of your leach field will shrink.

Nothing but wastewater and toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet. Even flushable wipes aren’t considered septic safe and could lead to clogged drain pipes later on. Other things that should be avoided include paper towels, coffee grounds, and cooking grease or oil.

Using harsh chemicals and drain cleaners can also throw off the natural balance of your septic tank. Swap those for a biological-based product containing live bacteria. Once introduced to the tank, the bacteria will begin to completely digest waste, including fats, oils, and greases (or FOG) in the sludge layer. Consistent use of biological-based products could even lengthen your time between pumpings.

Maintain Your Drain Field

When you are thinking about how to extend the lifespan of a drain field, it’s important to know that what happens above it matters just as much as what happens within it. When wastewater enters drain pipes in the leach field, it begins to slowly leach into the ground around it. If the ground is already saturated, however, it can slow or stop the leach field from working properly. Be sure to keep rainwater drainage systems like roof drains and sump pumps away from the leach field.

Avoid parking or driving over your leach field as well. Because the ground around the leach field tends to be softer, it could lead to crushed pipes. Roots can also wreak havoc on leach fields. Don’t plant trees or bushes near your drainage system, and if older trees have root systems that begin to stretch into the area, consider removing them to avoid damage to your pipes.

Getting Maximum Use from Your Leach Field

With proper maintenance and care, your leach field can last decades. Because everything that flows into your leach pipes comes from your septic tank, it’s important to inspect and pump the tank regularly. Keep detailed records of any service to your septic tank and leach field as well, paying close attention to sludge levels. Consider making simple changes to reduce water usage, and avoid putting anything other than wastewater and toilet paper down toilets and drains, though biological-based products can actually aid in septic maintenance. Rainwater drainage, cars, and root systems can also cause damage to your leach field and should be avoided. Following these tips should ensure that your leach field will function properly for years to come.

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Is Your Restaurant Grease Trap Constantly Plugged?

Commercial Kitchen

Restaurant owners are in business to provide delicious food and service to their customers, not to conduct regular maintenance on their grease traps. However, grease traps perform an important role in any commercial kitchen, and forgetting to clean them could lead to some pretty unpleasant consequences for your employees and guests. It’s important to know the signs of a filling grease trap, and how to clean it before problems start to arise in your kitchen, restrooms, and dining area.

How to Determine if Your Trap Needs Cleaning

Slow Moving Drainage
Fats, oils, and greases (or FOG) typically enter your wastewater system as liquids, but will then begin to accumulate and solidify. Over time, then, you’ll begin to notice slow drainage, not just in your commercial kitchen, but in your restaurant’s bathroom sinks and toilets as well. This is a clear sign that your grease trap is in need of cleaning. Waiting could eventually lead to clogs and backups in your sinks and drains.

Foul Smells
When FOG sits in your grease trap for an extended period of time, a foul smell will develop. If you notice an odor lingering in your kitchen—or worse, your dining room—a full grease trap could be the culprit.

Grease is Leaking
Grease will find its way out of your drains and pipes one way or another. If your grease trap is full or clogged, you may notice grease leaking out of your sinks, water lines, and pipes. When this happens, the grease trap should be cleaned as soon as possible.

The Trap is More than a Quarter Full
When your grease trap is full, cleaning will not only become more urgent but also more challenging. Instead, plan to clean your grease trap when it is only a quarter full. Doing so at this point could also help you avoid many of the unpleasant side effects listed above.

How to Unclog and Clean a Grease Trap

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your grease traps will help prevent slow drainage, foul odors, clogs, and leaks. Determine a time every week (or more frequently, if your traps clog quickly) to perform maintenance on your grease traps. Keep in mind, the job can get messy, so you’ll want to wait until your establishment is closed. Consider wearing coveralls to protect your clothing and a mask to help with the smell, as well. Then follow these steps to ensure your trap is cleaned properly:

  1. Once you’ve located the grease trap and removed the lid (slowly, so as not to splatter excess grease), you will need to measure the amount of grease currently in the trap. To do this, stick a ruler into the trap until it hits the bottom. Then record how many inches of grease are in the tank in the FOG report provided by the EPA.
  2. Next, you’ll need to remove the water inside the tank. Depending on how much water is present, you may be able to do this with a small bucket. If there’s a significant amount of water inside, a pump may be most effective at removing all the liquid. Set the water aside for later.
  3. Use a large bucket, shovel, or heavy-duty scooper to remove the FOG from the trap. Once the bulk of the grease is out, scrape down the sides and bottom of the trap to get as much out as possible.
  4. Scrub the interior of the grease trap and all its parts with a degreaser. Be sure to remove and flush the screens out as well.
  5. Once the trap is clean and reassembled, you can add the water to the trap again and replace the lid.

Keep Your Grease Trap Working Effectively

As a restaurant owner or a commercial kitchen manager, it can be frustrating when your grease trap is frequently clogged, slowing down the productivity in your kitchen and potentially creating an unpleasant experience for your guests. You can’t avoid the task of cleaning a grease trap, but you may be able to increase the time between cleanings without experiencing some of these side effects.

Consider using a bacteria-based product like Bio One to keep your grease trap functioning properly. When bacteria are introduced to the trap, they will begin working to completely digest the fats, oils, and greases in your trap. The food waste is then converted into carbon dioxide and water. Understandably, it can be challenging to remember to add the product to your busy commercial kitchen. Our auto-injection system will automatically meter the correct amount of Bio One into the drain lines to avoid clogs and backups. This could decrease the frequency of your grease trap cleanings and will allow you and your employees to focus on making delicious food for your customers.

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How Often Should a Septic Tank be Cleaned?

Septic Tank Pumping

Septic systems are designed to disperse wastewater effectively, and when used properly, can function well for years. However, regular pumping and cleaning of the tank itself is necessary to maintain the septic system. How often should a septic tank be cleaned? The answer is based on a variety of factors.

How Long Should You Go Between Septic Cleanings?

Most septic contractors recommend having the tank pumped every 2 to 5 years, but more should go into the decision than these arbitrary guidelines. A septic tank should always be pumped when needed, regardless of the date it was last cleaned. For some households, 5 years is a reasonable timeframe, but for others, more frequency may be needed.

Your system naturally separates household wastewater into three layers. The first is the sludge layer, made up of solids, that settles at the bottom of the tank. Above that is the effluent layer, which has a watery consistency. This is the layer that should freely flow into the leach field. The top layer consists of grease and scum. When the sludge layer gets within 6 inches of the outlet drain or the scum layer falls within 12 inches, your tank should be pumped, regardless of when the last pumping occurred.

Factors that Affect the Frequency of Septic Cleanings

  • Number of People in the Household: The more people that live in a home, the more waste is produced, from flushing toilets to washing dishes. On average, a retired couple could probably go longer between pumpings than a family of five.
  • Size of the Home: The number of bedrooms a home has determines the size of the septic tank that is installed. A 2-bedroom house, for example, may have a 1,000 gallon tank, while a 5-bedroom house would need a 1,500 gallon tank.
  • Size of the Tank: Septic tanks have a limited capacity by design. As the effluent layer rises, it is forced through the drainpipes into the leach field, where it is dispersed through the yard. It could be assumed that a smaller tank would need to be pumped more frequently, but the factors above still play a big role in determining how often a tank should be pumped.
  • Amount of Wastewater Created: The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that the average person uses about 70 gallons of water per day. In households where most members work or attend school outside the home, the amount of wastewater entering the septic tank could be lower, but families that work from home, wash more laundry, or take more frequent showers could use more water than average.

Important Tips on Septic Maintenance

No one wants to pay for a septic pumping when it isn’t needed, but waiting too long between pumpings could lead to more costly and unpleasant issues. For this reason, consider keeping detailed records of your septic system maintenance, including uses you may have with the system and the dates it was pumped. You may begin to notice patterns, like odors appearing every four years, and use that information to schedule pumpings at the three-year mark instead. You should also record the levels of scum and sludge in the tank, and take action when those layers get too close to the outlet drain.

When less water makes its way into the septic tank, it could likely reduce the frequency of septic tank pumpings. Consider ways to bring down your water usage on a daily basis. While you may not be able to reduce the number of times family members flush the toilet, you can swap the toilet for a high-efficiency model. Doing so could reduce your water waste from 5 gallons per flush to 1.6 gallons. You may also want to consider switching to high-efficiency showerheads and faucet aerators to reduce water waste in your home. While washing clothes, adjust the load size to match the amount of clothing you are washing. Try spreading washing machine usage throughout the week as well, to allow the tank to process waste efficiently.

To reduce the frequency of septic tank pumping and repairs, it is also important to be mindful of what goes down the drains and toilets in your home. As a rule, nothing but wastewater and septic-safe toilet paper should make its way into your septic tank. Things like food scraps and paper towels could clog your pipes, while harsh chemicals could throw off the natural balance of the tank. Instead, consider using a bacteria-based product, which will introduce healthy bacteria into the tank. The bacteria then work to completely digest the waste, including fats, oils, and greases, or FOG. When the sludge and the scum are fully digested, your tank will need to be pumped less frequently.

Cleaning and Maintaining Your Septic Tank

If you own a home with a septic system, pumping the tank is a necessary service. On average, it will need to be pumped every 2-5 years, but factors including the size of the tank, number of people in the house, and wastewater usage could shorten that window. Rather than waiting until you begin to smell sewage or see waste backing up into your home, consider getting ahead of the game by recording sludge levels. You can also reduce water usage with high-efficiency toilets and showerheads. Consider using a bacteria-based product, as well, that will help to reduce the sludge in the tank, and the frequency of pumpings.

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How Long Does a Leach Field Last?

Leach Field

Your leach field performs a critical function for your septic system, so it’s important to make sure it works properly now and for many years in the future. Fortunately, your leach field can last decades if it’s maintained properly. In fact, there are some things you can start today that can ensure your leach field does its job for years to come.

What’s the Average Lifespan of a Leach Field?

Your septic system is comprised of many different parts, and each can have its own lifespan. For instance, a steel septic tank can be expected to last between 15 and 20 years, while a concrete tank could last up to 40 years under the right conditions. A leach field, however, can easily last up to 50 years if properly maintained and protected.

What can Contribute to a Leach Field’s Failure?

While getting 50 years out of a leach field is definitely possible, certain habits and actions can drastically lower its lifespan. Harsh chemicals, for example, can create multiple problems for your entire septic system. Bacteria is needed inside your septic tank to break down waste, including fats, oils, and greases, or FOG. When harsh chemicals are used to clean sinks, toilets, and showers, or when toxic drain cleaners are used, the bacteria inside the tank are killed off. Not only will the tank fill more quickly, it’s more likely that larger particles will float into the leach field, leading to clogged lines. In addition, harsh chemicals can cause corrosion of parts over time.

Another contributing factor to the failure of a leach field is what goes down the drain. We often think that when it comes to waste, it’s “out of sight, out of mind,” but that’s not the case when you have a septic tank. When anything other than waste, toilet paper, and water is flushed or dumped down the drain, it can clog your leach field. This includes things like plastics, diapers, and paper towels, but even wipes that are advertised as flushable are most likely not septic-safe.

Leach fields are usually buried in shallow trenches. Unfortunately, visitors, contractors, and even some homeowners don’t always know where exactly a leach field is located. If vehicles are parked on top of the leach field, or if heavy machinery is used, leach pipes and drainage lines may rupture. Root systems can also wreak havoc on existing leach fields. Often, small trees are planted in the vicinity of the leach field with the assumption that it won’t interfere with the system. Over time, however, the tree and its roots begin to grow and extend throughout the yard, eventually wrapping around drain lines or puncturing pipes.

How to Properly Maintain Your Septic System

Maybe you installed your septic system years ago, or you’ve recently bought a home with an existing septic system. Regardless, there are things you can begin doing now to lengthen the lifespan of your leach field. First, be sure to have your septic system pumped regularly. The average home system should be pumped completely every few years. Doing this will drastically reduce the likelihood that solid waste will enter your leach field piping. Conduct regular inspections, as well, to detect issues early, before major damage occurs.

When too much water enters your septic system at once, it can overload the tank and place added pressure on your leach field. Instead, be mindful of the amount of water your household is using at one time. Rather than running the washing machine, dishwasher, and shower in the same general timeframe, consider spacing out your usage. This will allow your system a chance to dissipate wastewater through your leach field more effectively.

Consider what goes down your drains as well. Instead of using harsh chemicals that can throw off the natural balance of your tank and potentially corrode its parts, use a biological-based product that actually introduces bacteria to the septic tank. The bacteria will completely digest waste, including FOG. Avoid flushing anything down the toilet that isn’t waste, water, and septic-safe toilet paper, as well. Doing this will allow water to move more freely throughout the leach field and reduce the risk of clogging.

Finally, remember that what happens outside the septic system can impact it just as much as what’s happening inside. Don’t drive or park cars and heavy machinery on top of the leach field. Avoid planting trees and shrubs near the leach field as well. If something is already planted there, you may want to consider safely relocating it to keep the root system from invading your leach field’s pipes and drain lines to avoid future problems.

Extending the Lifespan of your Leach Field

Few things inside your home will last as long as your leach field, as long as the leach field and the entire septic system are maintained. Be sure to pump and inspect your system regularly, and spread out water usage to allow the leach field to drain properly. Avoid putting anything down drains and toilets that can cause a clogged line, and use biological-based cleaners to introduce helpful bacteria to the system. Ensure that the field itself is also free of heavy vehicles and expansive root systems. These healthy septic habits will keep your leach field working effectively for up to 50 years!

Should I Use Commercial Chemical Drain Cleaners with a Septic Tank?

     Most homeowners will experience a clogged drain from time to time, whether they have a septic system or not. The solution, however, may not be the same for everyone, especially those with septic tanks. Many commercial chemical drain cleaners say on their label that their product is safe to use with septic systems, but should you really be pouring it down your drains? You should probably consider other options. Read on to learn more.

How Your Septic Tank Functions

     When you flush your toilets or wash your dishes, wastewater flows through your home’s pipes and into your septic tank. There, bacteria break down the solid waste, including fats, oils, and greases (or FOG). Liquid waste then continues through drain pipes and into the leach field. When bacteria aren’t present to break down the solid waste, it will build up and eventually need to be pumped to avoid clogs in the leach field or sewage backups in your home.

Are Commercial Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe for your Septic Tank?

     Commercial chemical drain cleaning products often advertise that they are septic safe, but experts disagree with their safety. In fact, Craig Mains, an Engineering Scientist at the National Environmental Services Center strongly discourages the use of these cleaners in homes with septic systems. He states, “Using commercial chemical drain openers to unclog drains is not recommended for homes that are on septic systems.”

     That’s because the ingredients in these chemical cleaners are dangerous to the natural balance of your septic tank. Ingredients like bleach, lye, aluminum, and salt are used in these products to create a chemical reaction that eliminates clogs in your pipes. Unfortunately, when these components make their way into your septic tank, they immediately begin to kill off essential bacteria. All it takes is half an ounce to destroy the bacteria, but these product labels recommend using 16 ounces or more to clear a clog!

     While your clog may be resolved through the use of these chemical cleaners, the problem will now move to your septic tank. Without bacteria there to fully digest sludge and FOG, the waste in your tank will accumulate, but not be able to exit the tank and flow into your leach field. Solids that do make it into the leach system could create clogs that require costly repairs. You may also begin to notice sewage backing up into your home.

Safe Methods for Unclogging Drains

Fortunately, there are a number of safe ways to unclog a drain that will not cause damage to your septic tank:

  • Use a plunger: If you are using the plunger somewhere other than a toilet, like a bathtub or sink, find the overflow hole and cover it with a washcloth before plunging.
  • Pour boiling water down the drain: Small clogs, especially those caused by soap or grease, can often be easily cleared with boiling water.
  • Use baking soda and vinegar: This method employs a chemical reaction like the commercial drain cleaners, but the ingredients will not kill off the bacteria in your septic tank! Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. Cover the drain and wait 30 minutes before flushing with hot water. 
  • Manually clear the clog: Stubborn clogs may require a little elbow grease. A barbed wand or a plumber’s snake can often help dislodge the clog and allow wastewater to flow freely again. If none of these methods work to clear your drain, it’s likely time to call a plumber.

Maintaining Your Septic System

     Dealing with clogs can be a pain, but there are things you can do to maintain your septic system now and avoid costly repairs later. First, be mindful of what you put down the drain or flush down your toilets. Don’t dispose of oils and greases in the kitchen sink, and only flush waste and toilet paper. Even flushable wipes should be avoided when you have a septic system.

     To keep your septic system functioning at peak performance, use an all-natural bacterial-based product regularly. When additional bacteria are introduced to your tank, waste and FOG will be more easily digested, reducing clogs and issues elsewhere in your septic system. You may also be able to go longer periods between pumpings. However, it’s always a good idea to have your septic system inspected once a year.

What Goes Down the Drain Matters

     A clogged drain can be frustrating. Commercial chemical drain cleaners may seem like a quick fix, but it’s likely to cause more problems in the long run. Your septic tank relies on bacteria to break down and fully digest solid waste, but the ingredients in these products actually kill off the bacteria before they can do their job. Instead of reaching for chemical-based cleaners, try using a natural method. Then create healthy septic habits, like watching what you put down the drains, and having your septic system inspected yearly. Be sure to use a bacteria-based product regularly as well, to promote the natural balance of your septic tank and keep it running efficiently all year long.

What is the Cost of Cleaning a Septic Tank?

Septic Tank Pumping

     It may seem like a good idea to forgo septic tank maintenance once in a while, particularly if your system seems to be working fine. While you may save on the cost of cleaning or pumping your tank, it could end up costing more in the long run when problems arise. Instead, it’s best to focus on maintaining your tank through regular cleaning and other strategies.

Factors that Determine the Cost to Clean your Septic Tank

     The cost to clean a septic tank can vary throughout the country, and even neighbors may pay very different costs for septic tank cleanings. That’s because several factors are at play. The size of your home, for instance, has likely dictated the size of the tank. While average septic tanks run between 750 and 1,250 gallons, owners of larger tanks can expect to pay significantly more. The location of the tank on the property also plays a role in determining cost. A tank that is easily accessible will accrue less cost than one with an obstructed access point. The age of the tank itself and the level of waste inside the tank will also influence the cost of the cleaning.

Pumping vs Cleaning a Septic Tank

     Many homeowners think that cleaning the septic tank and pumping it are essentially the same thing, though the two are not actually interchangeable. When a septic tank is pumped, this means that all the liquid in the tank is removed, along with some of the sludge and floating solids, though much of the sludge is left in the tank. A septic cleaning, on the other hand, involves the removal of all the liquids and solids in the tank.

     The size of the tank is the biggest factor in determining the cost of septic pumping. Typically, you can expect to pay around $0.30 per gallon, in addition to the cost of inspection, which is commonly conducted at the same time. On average, homeowners pay around $380, with smaller tanks costing as little as $250 and larger tanks running as high as $1,300. While the cost to pump a larger tank is higher, it will typically need to be pumped less frequently than smaller tanks.

     Like the cost of pumping, cleaning costs are dependent on the size of the septic tank itself. For a 1,000-gallon tank, homeowners can expect to pay around $400 to $1,000, including inspection and assessment. Cleaning for tanks under 750 gallons could cost as little as $75 if they are easily accessible and in relatively good condition. Larger tanks may cost up to $750 to clean.

Maintain Your Septic Tank

     While the cost to pump or clean a septic tank may seem steep to homeowners, it’s better to stay on top of this necessary maintenance. Failing to do so could result in the need for septic tank repair or replacement, costing much more money in the long run. Depending on the repair, homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $700 to $3,000 to get a septic tank up and running again, and replacing the pump inside the tank could cost as much as $1,400. Rather than pay repair costs, focus on maintenance.

     In addition to conducting regular pumping or cleaning, there are some things you can do to maintain your septic tank. First, pay attention to what goes down your drain. Only flush wastewater and toilet paper, and avoid putting fats and oils down the kitchen sink. Doing this will reduce the amount of sludge and solid particles in the tank, allowing for liquid to flow more freely through the outlet pipe and into the leach field.

     Septic tanks rely on a natural balance of bacteria and enzymes, which break down the solid waste within the tank. Common drain cleaners, bleach, and other chemicals actually kill off bacteria. This results in more sludge and the need for more frequent pumping. Consider using a bacteria-based cleaner instead. These products will introduce more healthy bacteria into your tank. Once there, the bacteria will completely digest fats, oils, and greases (FOG), drastically reducing the likelihood of clogs and the need for pumping or cleaning your tank.

The Cost to Clean Your Septic Tank

     Because costs can vary by region, size of the tank, and the location of the tank, it’s best to talk to your local septic company for more exact pricing. However, the average cost to pump a septic tank is around $380, while the average cost to clean a tank is between $400-$1,000. Overlooking this basic maintenance could end up costing you even more if your tank needs to be repaired or your pump needs replacing. In addition to cleaning or pumping your tank on a regular basis, be mindful of what goes down your drains and avoid chemical cleaners. Instead, opt for a bacteria-based drain cleaner. Once the bacteria is introduced to the tank, it will get right to work digesting FOG, which should reduce the need for pumping and repairs in the future.

How to Unclog a Leach Field

     In this article, we are going to go over how to unclog your leach field, but first, let’s go over what that is? Most homeowners know what a septic tank is, however that is not the only part of the septic tank system. As wastewater flows out of the septic tank and through the underground pipes, it gets soaked up into the leach field. The leach field’s job is to break down organic materials and purify the wastewater. To learn more about how to maintain your leach field, keep reading!

Signs of a Clogged Leach Field

     It’s never convenient to have a clogged leach field, but early intervention is the key to avoiding major repairs. For this reason, it’s important to know and look for early warning signs, which can occur both inside and outside the home. One of the first things you may notice inside your home is slow or sluggish drains and toilets. Water will only drain if there is room in the tank, but slow drainage may indicate that the tank is emptying slower, often due to a clog in the leach line. If left for too long, however, the water in the tank could begin to back up into your pipes and make its way back into your sinks, showers, and toilets.

     When a leach field is clogged, you are likely to see some changes to your yard as well. When the grass above your leach field grows greener and taller, this could be a sign that nutrients in the wastewater are making their way to the surface rather than filtering slowly through the field. You may also notice puddling, or even collapsed soil if the pressure around the leach field’s clog rises significantly. Whether inside your home or outside, however, an odor or smell of rotten eggs is often the first thing homeowners notice when a clog occurs.

Unclogging Your Leach Field
Take Action Immediately

     When you notice puddling above your leach field or sluggish drainage inside your home, it’s best to take action right away. It can be a hassle to take time from your day to deal with septic issues, but when wastewater overflows, it can cause major plumbing problems, health issues, and even environmental concerns. At the first signs of septic issues, call a professional to inspect your system and decide on the best course of action.

Reduce Water Usage

     When you have a septic system, it’s always a good idea to be mindful of your water usage, but if you suspect your leach field is clogged, it’s especially important to reduce your water usage. If not, you may begin to see sewage back up into your home or puddling and foul odors in your yard. While you are waiting for a technician to come to your home, consider significantly reducing the water your family uses.

Shock the System with Bacteria

     Homeowners often reach for harsh chemicals and drain cleaners when a clog occurs, but they could actually do more harm than good when a septic system is in place. They are not always effective at eliminating fats, oils, and greases (or FOG), and they could throw off the natural pH balance of the entire system as well. Instead, shock the system with a natural, bacteria-based product. The bacteria will completely digest the FOG in the tank and the leach field as well.

5 Tips to Maintain Your Leach Field

     Often, homeowners don’t think about their septic systems until they begin to smell foul odors or have difficulty flushing the toilet. Simply put, it’s much easier to maintain your septic tank and leach field than repair them. Follow these simple tips to ensure that your septic system functions properly for years to come.

  • Pump it Regularly – Clogs in the leach line typically occur because sludge or FOG make their way from the septic tank into the outlet pipe. When you notice sludge is within 12 inches of the outlet pipe, or FOG within 3 inches, it’s time to have your tank pumped. This will minimize the chances of FOG clogging the outlet pipe or leach field.
  • Conduct Regular Inspections – A septic technician can find and repair small issues before they become larger problems. Schedule inspections annually to keep your septic system in working order.
  • Protect your Leach Field – A broken leach pipe can be hard to locate and challenging to repair. To avoid this, refrain from driving or parking cars above your leach field, which could not only risk breakage but also compact the soil and prevent water from freely filtering through. Do not plant trees near your leach field, either, as the root systems can grow into your leach fields, rupturing pipes and clogging lines.
  • Be Mindful of what goes into your Septic System – Everything that goes down a drain or toilet in your home will eventually make its way into your septic tank. In the bathroom, some things, like septic safe toilet paper, may break down easily once inside your septic tank, but others, even wet wipes advertised as “flushable” are not safe for septic systems. While you may be tempted to dump grease or oil down the kitchen sink, it’s best to dispose of them in separate containers. Food waste like coffee grounds, eggshells, and nutshells should also be avoided.
  • Clean without Chemicals – Your septic tank and leach field need bacteria to break down waste and function properly. Common household cleaners and other chemicals like paints, polishes, and waxes kill off the bacteria that reside there. Not only will harsh chemicals slow the degradation of waste in your tank, but they can also contaminate your yard and even groundwater once leached into the ground. Instead of using harsh chemicals, focus on natural, bacteria-based cleaning products for your drains and septic systems. Learn more about the products that help clean your leach field here.

Unclogging and Maintaining Your Leach Field

     A healthy and functioning septic system plays a vital role in your day-to-day life, so it’s important to identify when there could be a problem and take action to solve it as soon as possible. Some early warning signs of a clogged leach field include foul odors, slow drainage, and even sewage backing up into sinks and showers inside the home. Outside, you may notice taller, greener grass above your leach field, and puddling or sinking soil as well. When you see any of these, it’s best to call a professional as soon as possible, reduce water usage, and shock the system with a bacteria-based product. Once your leach field is back in working order, take the steps to maintain it, including pumping your septic tank regularly and being mindful of what goes down the drain. When you prioritize septic maintenance, you’ll have a well-functioning system for years to come.

How Often Should a Commercial Grease Trap be Cleaned?

   Cleaning a grease trap costs time and money, both valuable commodities to a business owner. However, cleaning and maintaining your grease trap is essential to running your restaurant or commercial kitchen. So what’s the magic number? Read on to learn more about how often your grease traps should be cleaned.

How Often Should You Clean Your Commercial Size Grease Trap?

     Most manufacturers recommend that grease traps should be cleaned every 1 to 3 months. Just how often will depend on a variety of factors, including the size of the grease trap and the amount of grease disposed of on a daily basis. To determine how frequently to clean your trap, use the ¼ rule. When a quarter of your grease trap is filled with fats, oils, and greases, or FOG, it needs to be cleaned. Once your interceptor surpasses that capacity, it’s less effective at eliminating grease from wastewater, allowing other problems to follow.

     There are two common signs that your grease trap needs to be cleaned. One of the signs is that you will start to see fruit flies around the openings of your floor drains. The second sign is a foul odor caused by the accumulation of rancid fats, cooking oils, and foods. The odor is often strong, permeating throughout the kitchen, and even making its way into a restaurant’s dining area. Another sign that your grease trap is full is slow drainage. When FOG accumulates in your grease traps, it begins to solidify. This buildup decreases water flow and may eventually lead to clogs as well. You may also notice grease in areas you shouldn’t, like sinks, water lines, and pipes. This indicates that grease is backing up in the trap, and finding alternative exits.

     Even if your grease trap isn’t ¼ full, you may still need to clean it. Some cities and counties have regulations in place to dictate the time between grease trap cleanings. Failing to follow these guidelines could result in fines or lost business, so it’s important to do so regardless of trap capacity.

Best Practices for Keeping a Grease Trap Clean

Rather than waiting until a grease trap is overcapacity, causing problems like clogs and odors, it’s best to put these practices in place:

  • Cleaning Your Grease Trap Regularly – Depending on where you live, this may be law, but even if it’s not, keeping your grease trap clean helps your commercial kitchen to run more efficiently, with no shutdowns that reduce productivity or foul odors that disturb guests.
  • Recycle Waste Cooking Oil – This is both an eco-friendly and budget-friendly solution. Rather than paying to have your used cooking oil pumped and dumped, you can actually make money by recycling it with a company that will turn it into biodiesel fuel.
  • Dry Wipe Cookware and Dishes Before Cleaning – Using this method before rinsing in the sink or loading it into the dishwasher reduces the amount of grease entering the trap, which leads to less frequent cleanings.
  • Use Strainers in Drains – Solid food can cause problems in pipes in the same way FOG can. Strainers reduce the risk of solid food and solidified grease getting stuck in pipes, and it’s easier to remove these solids from strainers before they make their way into grease interceptors.
  • Don’t Pour Grease Down Sinks or Toilets – Avoid putting grease directly down sink drains or down toilets when possible. This keeps grease out of your internal plumbing and may also reduce the frequency of cleaning.
  • Cover Outdoor Grease Containers – If you store your grease containers outside, be sure to cover them. Uncovered containers can fill with rainwater and overflow, sending fats, greases, and oils into storm drains.

Using Bacterial Cleaners to Maintain a Clean Grease Trap

     Biological cleaners are a safe choice for commercial kitchens and restaurants concerned about using harsh chemicals and cross-contamination. There are many enzyme-based cleaners on the market today, but unfortunately, they only liquefy FOG, allowing it to flow downstream where it can resolidify, often in an outgrowing pipe. Bacterial cleaners, on the other hand, are extremely effective at degrading FOG in grease traps. Rather than liquefying the waste, they completely digest it, converting it to water and carbon dioxide that can freely flow through pipes and into the sewer line.

     Because bacterial cleaners completely digest fats, oils, and greases, they won’t accumulate as quickly. Foul odors from rancid FOG are reduced, and pumping may be needed less frequently as well. With regular use of bacterial cleaners, your grease trap will work more effectively, too, resulting in fewer clogs and backups.

Cleaning Commercial Grease Traps

     When a grease trap isn’t cleaned regularly, it can cause a variety of issues for your commercial kitchen or restaurant, from foul odors that can make their way into the dining area to slow drainage in sinks and toilets. Don’t wait until a problem arises to clean and maintain your grease trap. Use the ¼ rule to determine when to clean it. If you find that you are cleaning your grease trap more frequently than you’d like, you may want to size up, but don’t wait longer than 90 days to clean your grease traps either. A bacterial cleaner can decrease the frequency of cleanings and help to eliminate odors. Regular use will help to maintain a clean grease trap and a productive kitchen.

The Best Way to Maintain Your Septic Tank

If you have a septic tank, you’ve probably heard about the high costs to replace your system, and maybe you’ve even experienced some expensive repairs yourself. Rather than waiting until your system fails and costs start to add up, however, focus on maintaining your septic tank to avoid repairs. Read on to learn more about the best ways to maintain your septic tank.

Septic Tank Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Septic Tanks Take Care of Themselves

     In a perfect environment, with best practices in use, it’s true that septic tanks can work well with less frequent intervention. However, even the smallest change to the environment of your septic tank can throw off the bacterial balance, and good habits can be hard to keep one hundred percent of the time. For this reason, regular maintenance and pumping of your septic tank are essential to extending the lifespan of your system and reducing the need for major repairs.

Misconception #2: It Doesn’t Matter What Goes Down the Drain

     In order to break down waste effectively, septic tanks need a natural balance of microbes and enzymes. When harsh chemicals like drain cleaners, solvents, and disinfectants make their way into the tank, these valuable microbes are killed off, which means waste is not properly eliminated and clogs are more likely to occur. Other waste, like grease and certain paper products, can create issues as well. Rather than flushing these items, consider using the trash, and limit what goes down the drain to wastewater and sewage.

Misconception #3: Clogged Septic Tanks Need to be Replaced

     It’s always better to prevent a clog than to repair it, but a clogged septic system doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced. Jetting is the process of installing access ports to the ends of inlet lines and using pressure to clear the lines. Having your system pumped and jetted by a septic tank technician helps to clear clogs and prevents the need for more costly repairs or replacement.

Misconception #4: Septic Systems Don’t Last Longer than 20 Years

     There is no set lifespan for your septic tank. Instead, how the system is treated and maintained determines how long it will last. In fact, a well-maintained system can last well over 20 years! To keep your septic tank running well into the future, control what goes down the drain, pump and jet regularly, and keep roots from growing into the lines.

Misconception #5: Only Enzyme-Based Products Work for Septic Tank Maintenance

     Biological cleaners are not only better for the environment than harsh chemicals, they often work better too. Enzyme-based cleaners have been a popular choice for years, but they may not be the most effective green cleaner for septic systems and drains. While they act fast to break down fats, oils, and greases (FOG), they only liquefy the waste. The liquid waste may make its way further down the pipes, but it could solidify again, causing yet another clog. Consider using a bacterial cleaner instead. Rather than liquifying FOG, bacterial cleaners completely digest it, reducing the risk of clogs in tanks or leach beds..

The Cost of Repairing or Replacing a Septic Tank

     According to HomeAdvisor.com, the average cost of a septic tank repair is $1,732, which is certainly less than the cost to replace it, but maybe avoidable with the right home habits, and even some DIY solutions. For example, bacteria may need to be added to your system to break down the waste. A septic repair company may charge between $400 and $600 for this, but you can purchase a bacteria-based cleaner and add it to your system for significantly less. The average costs of some other common septic repairs are:

  • Responding to Call-$200
  • Baffle repair-$300-$900
  • Pump repair-$400
  • Line repair-$1,100-$4,200

     When it comes to replacing your septic system, the costs can add up quickly. The tank itself will run anywhere from $600-$4,000, according to HomeAdvisor.com. Then you’ll need to pay for additional items like gravel, fill dirt, and topsoil, which can cost up to $1,000 on average. Depending on the building codes for your state, you may also need a licensed plumber, in addition to your septic installer, to ensure the pipes are connected properly.

How to Keep Your Septic Tank Healthy

    Repair and replacement costs may be high, but fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep your septic tank functioning properly. Forming these good habits today will help your septic tank working for years to come. They include:

Pumping your Septic Tank Regularly

     People often wait until major problems arise to think about pumping their septic tank. While the right bacterial cleaner can help keep scum and gunk to a minimum, the levels will naturally rise after a few years, and more frequently if harsh chemicals are used. Yearly inspections of your septic tank are highly recommended. If scum and gunk have risen too close to an outlet drain, the tank should be pumped. If not, it could flow into leach fields and create additional, and often more costly, problems.

Think about what you Put Down the Drain

     When it comes to septic tanks, it’s not out of sight out of mind. Everything that gets flushed down the toilet will end up in your tank and eventually your leach field. While toilet paper is designed to break down in your septic tank, other paper products, including paper towels and even wet wipes advertised as flushable, can wreak havoc on your septic system in a short amount of time. Avoid certain food items as well. Grease, for example, can solidify and cause clogs, and even coffee grounds can resist break down in the tank.

Use Bacteria-Based Additives Instead of Harsh Chemicals

     Your septic tank relies on bacteria and microbes to break down waste. When harsh chemicals and cleaners are used, you can not only do damage to your pipes, you can also throw off the natural pH balance of the tank. The bacterial additives available today are just as effective at unclogging drains as the harsh chemicals, without the consequences. Using a bacteria-based cleaner will help your entire septic system to work at peak performance

Maintaining your Septic Tank

    Even if you don’t think about your septic tank on a daily basis, it’s constantly performing a critical job for your home or business. Because your septic tank is an essential part of your daily life, it’s important to maintain it. Be sure to pump your septic tank regularly, at least once every few years or more frequently if scum and gunk rise to the level of your outlet drain. Consider what goes down your drain as well. Use septic-safe toilet paper and avoid flushing paper towels and wet wipes, even if they are advertised as flushable. Finally, swap your harsh chemicals for bacteria-based additives to help support the natural balance of your septic tank. These best practices will ensure that your septic tank works for years to come.

Enzyme vs. Bacterial Drain Cleaners: The Difference Explained

Bacteria Floating Around

     An effective drain cleaner is a necessary part of any drain or septic maintenance routine. If you’ve been using a chemical cleaner, you may be wondering if there’s a more environmentally friendly product, and more importantly, if it’s as effective as your current brand. Fortunately, a variety of biological drain cleaners are now widely available, but which one is right for your home or business?

Using Biological Cleaners

     There’s no shortage of chemical drain cleaners on the market today, but biological cleaners are gaining popularity and with good reason. Once thought to be less powerful than their caustic counterparts, biological cleaners have been shown to clear drains—and keep them clear—just as effectively. Some even cost less than brands made with harsh chemicals.

     Chemical cleaners, on the other hand, have been known to cause cracks in pipes that eventually lead to large leaks. Because they are made of natural products, biological drain cleaners won’t damage your pipes, even after repeated use. In restaurants and other settings where fats, oils, and greases (or FOG) is present in drain pipes, these all-natural cleaners are safe to use as often as needed to maintain a clear drain line. Biological drain cleaners are also safe to use around humans and pets, even in sinks! They won’t leach chemicals back into the water supply, either. However, not all biological drain cleaners are created equal.

Enzyme Drain Cleaners

     One common type of biological drain cleaner is enzyme-based. These non-living organic compounds are safe to use in homes, commercial kitchens, and other businesses regardless of pipe age or material. Enzyme drain cleaners are fast-acting and can get to work right away breaking down fats, oils, and greases. Rather than fully digesting FOG, however, enzymes simply liquefy it, allowing it to continue through your pipes and drainage system where it could possibly solidify again, causing additional problems or clogs. In fact, some municipal water treatment systems have prohibited the use of enzyme drain cleaners, and they may not be suitable for some septic systems.

     Because enzyme cleaners are non-living, they won’t reproduce, so more of the product is needed than bacterial cleaners, and more frequent treatments as well. Enzyme cleaners are also difficult to manufacture. These characteristics typically make enzyme cleaners more expensive than bacterial cleaners. In addition, different enzymes target different types of waste. Some, for example, attack FOG while others attack protein or starches. The cleaner can only be effective if it’s targeted toward the waste in your drainage system. Some research may be necessary to select the right type of enzyme drain cleaner for the unique needs of your home or business.

Bacterial Drain Cleaners

     Like enzyme drain cleaners, bacterial cleaners are all-natural and safe to use around humans and pets. They can also be used in pipes without concern for cracks or leaks over time. Bacterial cleaners can survive in a wide range of temperatures and pH levels as well, and they actually help to maintain a healthy, natural pH balance in drainage or septic systems.  Because bacteria reproduce at very high rates, less product is required to clear a drain, and treatments may be needed with less frequency.

     Bacteria actually release their own enzymes and can detect the type of waste present in order to release the correct enzymes to attack it. However, unlike enzyme drain cleaners that only liquefy FOG, bacterial drain cleaners will actually fully digest any fats, oils, and greases that may be in your drainage system, resulting in fewer clogs down the line. This makes bacterial drain cleaners a safe and effective option for septic systems as well.

Choosing the Right Drain Cleaner for your Home or Business

     Drain maintenance is an important part of any drainage or septic system. When safety and environment are a concern, the best choice is a biological drain cleaner. Both enzyme drain cleaners and bacterial drain cleaners provide safe, all-natural drain cleaning solutions for your home or business. However, one major drawback of enzyme cleaners is that they only liquefy the fats, oils, and greases found in your drains. While the liquified FOG can then freely move down the drain line, it may solidify again, causing additional clogs later on. Because bacterial cleaners fully digest FOG, they are not only safe but highly effective as well.

The Meaning of the EPA Safer Choice Program Logo

EPA SaferChoice logoWith 85% of businesses creating sustainability initiatives, and consumers showing increased interest in environmental matters, environmental conscious products are increasingly in demand. In fact, surveys show that a product’s environmental impact is an important factor considered by   consumers in making their buying decisions.

The U.S. EPA Safer Choice Program parallels worldwide interest in environmental safety and sustainability. The purpose of this program is to help identify and develop environmentally safer products.

Once a product passes the specifications of that program, the EPA allows the display of the Safer Choice logo. This logo “allows consumers to quickly identify and choose products that can help protect the environment and are safer for families.”

In order to pass EPA Safer Choice requirements, a product must undergo a rigorous review by the EPA and a third party scientific review team. This team carefully screens each ingredient for any potential human health and environmental effects. The team reviews not only the ingredient, but its chemical structure, to see how it could impact the environment and people.

Only products that are made of the safest possible ingredients are eligible for approval. BioOne has passed the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Program’s criteria and proudly displays the Safer Choice logo in recognition of its positive effect on human health and the environment.

Commercial Lift Station Before & After Treatment

Lift Station Before Treatment

lift station before treatment
Day 1 of Treatment at a lift station outside of Bradenton, FL located outside of a food court of a major shopping mall. On day 1 BioOne® was added via an AIS System and the perimeter was sprayed with BioOne.

Lift Station After Treatment

lift station after treatment
Day 30 of Treatment

How BioOne Works in Septic Systems

drain field septic systemSeptic systems require live bacteria to consume, digest, and degrade grease, oil, and other organic matter so that proper functioning can be maintained. When a septic system is properly maintained, the connected drain field can also function according to design.

Subjected to bleaches, detergents, and other chemicals, naturally occurring bacteria struggle to survive and keep up with the influx of waste in residential and commercial septic systems.

Liquid BioOne is formulated to work in the harsh conditions of septic systems. BioOne requires no pH neutralizing and is performance ready. BioOne contains no added enzymes or other emulsifying agents which only liquefy solid waste. BioOne’s bacteria eat and digest the solid waste without the unbalanced action of enzymes or surfactants.

The most effective way to maintain a septic system is to inoculate the tank with BioOne immediately after pumping.

After your septic system has been pumped: Your technician will add BioOne directly into the clean tank.

To properly maintain your septic system: Between pumping, follow the instructions on the label of the 64 oz. BioOne that your technician has left with you.

For additional information on Aqua Pro, check out our RateItGreen profile located here.

Commercial Restaurant Problems from Fat, Oil and Grease (FOG)

fats and oils

Backed Up Drains

  • Expensive Slip and Falls
  • Potential Worker’s Compensation Claims
  • Emergency Pumping
  • Health Code Violations
  • Business Interruptions
  • Unsanitary Conditions

Offensive Odors

  • Unappetizing
  • Decreased Customer Traffic
  • Bad Advertising
  • Poor Work Environment

Drain Flies

  • Gives Impression of Poor Housekeeping and Lack of Hygiene
  • Annoying to Customers

Municipal Fines and Charges