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Determining the Lifespan of Your Septic Tank

A well-functioning septic tank is essential for homeowners, but how long can you expect your septic tank to last? The answer is based on a number of factors, including the construction material, environmental factors, usage, and of course, proper maintenance. Read on to determine the potential lifespan of your septic tank, as well as how you may be able to extend its lifespan well into the future.

How Long Does a Septic Tank Last?

Many different factors go into determining the lifespan of a septic tank, from the tank’s material to the soil and water level. However, most septic specialists say that the average lifespan for a well-maintained system is anywhere from 20 to 40 years.

Factors that Determine a Septic Tank’s Lifespan

Tank Material

One of the major factors in determining how long your septic tank will last is the material it’s made from. The majority of septic tanks today are made of concrete, which typically lasts the longest, but some tanks are made of steel or fiberglass. The average lifespan of each material is:

  • Concrete

It’s not uncommon for a concrete septic tank to last 40 years or more. While you’ll typically pay more for a concrete tank, the investment is well worth it. Though concrete tanks are the most durable, however, it’s still important to have your septic tank inspected periodically to check for cracking or settling.

  • Fiberglass

This lightweight option is almost as durable as concrete, lasting around 30 years when properly maintained. That said, you will probably pay more to install this type of septic tank.

  • Steel

You can expect a steel septic tank to only last from 15 to 20 years at most. That’s because the metal can rust or corrode over time. Steel tanks are rarely installed today, but you may have an existing steel tank on your property. If so, it’s best to have it inspected regularly to avoid costly issues.

Soil Type

The acidity of the soil where your septic tank is installed will play a major part in how long the tank will last. Acidic soil, for example, can cause steel tanks to rust at a faster rate. It can also break down concrete over time. If you are unsure about the acidity of your soil, you may want to have it tested. Septic tanks in acidic soil should be inspected for corrosion regularly.

Water Table

The water table refers to the groundwater levels on your property. When the water table is higher, it slows down the process of wastewater, or effluent, from absorbing into the surrounding soil through the leach field. This could result in more frequent backups and eventually take a toll on the functionality of the septic tank itself.

Usage

Consider both how often the septic tank is used, as well as how it’s used. You can expect a septic tank that is only used by one or two people to last a bit longer than one that supports a family of five or six. In addition, how the tank is used will determine its lifespan. If your family uses septic safe toilet paper and avoids flushing wipes, feminine products, or other objects, the tank’s lifespan may be extended.

 

Extending the Life of Your Septic Tank

Unfortunately, you cannot change the acidity of your soil or the level of your groundwater, and if your septic tank has already been installed, you cannot change its material either. On the other hand, there are several things you can control that could greatly affect the lifespan of your septic tank and entire septic system.

  • Use a Bacteria-Based Product

Consider adding a bacteria-based product to your maintenance routine. Once bacteria is introduced to the tank itself, it goes right to work digesting waste, including fats, oils, and greases (or FOG). This helps to maintain the proper levels of wastewater inside the tank and will reduce the likelihood of clogs or backups in the drain pipe and leach field.

  • Follow Best Practices

Septic systems do not function in the same way as city wastewater systems, and certain guidelines should be followed to keep the system working properly. Flush only wastewater and septic-safe toilet paper, and avoid dumping food scraps, grease, or chemicals down your drains. This will drastically reduce the strain on your septic system and could extend its lifespan well into the future.

  • Perform Regular Inspections

If you want to extend the life of your septic tank, you need to prioritize regular inspections and pumpings. While it’s never enjoyable to learn of cracks or rust in your tank, it’s best to catch these issues early, while it’s still possible to repair the tank, rather than replace it. In addition to regularly scheduled visits from your septic technician, watch for signs like foul odors, pooling water in your yard, or slow drains. If you notice any of these, reach out to your technician.

How Long Will Your Septic Tank Last?

A concrete septic tank could last up to 40 years, but the answer truly rests on several factors. Some, like soil type and groundwater level, may not be in your control. Others, however, are based on how you and your family use the system. To extend the lifespan of your septic tank, be mindful of what you are flushing down your toilets and dumping down your drains. Be sure to schedule regular maintenance, including inspections and pumpings, and consider adding a bacteria-based product to your routine. The bacteria will fully digest waste in the tank and help it function properly for years to come.

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How to Determine What Size Septic Tank You’ll Need

septic tank

If you are planning to install a new septic system in your yard, you may be wondering what size tank you should purchase. Selecting the right size septic tank for your property is essential for avoiding frequent pumpings, costly repairs, and wastewater backups. While there are some basic guidelines to consider, the decision should ultimately be based on a variety of factors, including water usage, the size of your home, and government regulations.

Why Tank Size is Important

When it comes to septic tanks, size does matter. Typically, the biggest concern is with a septic tank that is too small for the household’s usage. When a tank is too small, it will fill up much quicker, requiring more frequent pumpings to maintain appropriate levels. In this scenario, the bacteria inside the tank won’t have enough time to break down the wastewater inside, including fats, oils, and greases (or FOG). If the solid waste makes it to the outflow pipe and eventually the drain field, it could create a clog or cause damage to the system. In addition, as the tank quickly fills with wastewater, some of it could begin to back up into your home’s drains and toilets.

Many homeowners decide to solve this problem by purchasing a much larger tank. While it’s certainly better to have a little more room in the tank, installing a tank that is too large could result in issues as well. Without enough wastewater cycling through the tank, the liquid inside the tank, or effluent, may not empty properly into the drain field. In addition, there may also not be enough bacteria produced inside the tank to break down the solid waste.

Basic Guidelines

You should consider a variety of factors to determine the right size tank for your home, and it’s important to have a consultation with a septic specialist before making any purchasing decisions. However, there are some industry standards to get you started:

  • 750 gallon tank—1-2 bedroom home, less than 1,500 sq. ft.
  • 1,000 gallon tank—3 bedroom home, less than 2,500 sq. ft.
  • 1,250 gallon tank—4 bedroom home, less than 3,500 sq. ft.

Factors that Determine the Right Size Tank for Your Home

Water Usage

While each of the following factors is important to consider, the most effective way to determine the size of your septic tank is to calculate the amount of water your household uses. That’s because there is a maximum capacity inside the tank before the wastewater can make its way to the leach field. If your family tends to produce more wastewater than average, it may make sense to install a slightly larger tank than guidelines suggest.

Property Size

Some homeowners installing septic tanks may be limited by the size of their property. Consider where you’ll be placing your tank and leach field. Keep in mind that local government regulations may dictate a specific distance between your septic system and your property line. While you should certainly still install a septic tank that will hold the proper volume for your household’s water usage, you may not have room for a substantially larger tank.

Number of Bedrooms and Occupants

According to the United States Geological Survey, the average American uses 80-100 gallons of water a day, and the more people that live in a home, the more wastewater is produced on a daily basis. That’s why the number of bedrooms in your home should be taken into account when selecting your septic system. If the tank is too small to hold the wastewater used by your family, it could begin to back up into your home’s sinks, toilets, and showers.

Government Regulations

Regardless of what size tank you think is best, it’s important to check your local government’s regulations. Each locality sets codes based on things like soil quality and the water table, so even if you’ve installed a septic tank in another home recently, the guidelines could be different. These regulations will also determine where you can install the tank and leach field on your property. Failing to follow these regulations could result in fines and additional costs to relocate your septic system.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

Once you’ve selected and installed the right septic tank for your needs, it’s important to set up a regular maintenance schedule. While selecting a smaller tank could require you to pump your tank more frequently, every tank should be pumped periodically, regardless of size. Typically, you can expect to have your septic tank pumped every three to five years.

In addition to scheduling regular pumpings, you may also want to consider adding a bacteria-based product monthly. When the bacteria are introduced to the septic tank, they get to work immediately to completely digest fats, oils, and greases inside the tank. This could not only reduce the frequency of your pumpings, but the likelihood of clogs and damage to your leach field, as well.

Selecting the Right Size Septic Tank for Your Property

Septic tanks are not a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, many factors should be considered when determining what size septic tank you need, including the amount of water your household uses, along with the size of your home and property. Be sure to consult local regulations, as well, to ensure that your tank meets government guidelines. Once your septic system is installed, schedule regular pumpings and use a bacteria-based product monthly to keep your system running effectively for years to come.

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Can You Use a Garbage Disposal with a Septic Tank?

Garbage Disposal

If you’re a homeowner with a septic tank, you may be wondering if you can have a garbage disposal as well. While it’s possible to install a garbage disposal in a home with a septic system, it’s not recommended. Why? There are extra costs, maintenance, and possible repairs to your system when garbage disposals are in use. If you choose to use a disposal, follow these tips to minimize problems with your septic system in the future.

Why a Garbage Disposal isn’t the Best Option

Out of sight, out of mind, unless of course, you have a septic system. That’s because everything that is dumped down your drains or flushed down your toilet ends up in your septic tank. Once inside the tank, wastewater solids, or sludge, sink to the bottom. Then bacteria gets to work breaking down the organic matter inside.

When you install a garbage disposal in your sink, you end up disposing of significantly more food waste into your septic tank. While the disposal does break down the size of the food first, the bacteria inside the tank must still work to digest it. If the tank becomes overloaded with food waste, the sludge level rises. Not only does this decrease the capacity of your tank, it could also cause solid material to make its way to the outlet pipe, where it could clog the drain pipes.

Anyone that owns a septic tank can expect to have it pumped every three to five years, but when a garbage disposal is in use, you’ll likely need to pump your tank more frequently to avoid damage to your system. In fact, you can expect to have your septic tank pumped twice as much as homes that are not using a garbage disposal.

Helpful Tips for Using a Garbage Disposal with a Septic System

Sometimes, homeowners find the convenience of a garbage disposal outweighs the downsides. If you ultimately decide to install a garbage disposal, there are some things you can do to help your entire septic system run more smoothly.

Limit What Goes Down the Drain

Not all foods and waste should make their way into your septic tank. When considering which food and waste to dispose of in your sink, stick to soft foods and non-dairy liquids that can be more easily broken down inside the tank, like the flesh of soft fruits and vegetables, ice cubes, and biodegradable dish soaps.

Avoid fruit pits, tough skinned vegetables, and onion skins. Eggshells, nuts, meat, and bones are difficult for the bacteria in your tank to digest, as well. Surprisingly, soft foods like rice, pasta, and oats should also be avoided, because they can expand in water and lead to clogged pipes. Non-organic items like paper towels should never make their way into a septic system either.

Consider using a simple sink strainer that sits down in the sink. These strainers are extremely inexpensive and easy to clean out. This will prevent most foods and wastes of a larger size from making it down the drain. 

Use Cold Water

Food waste is more likely to clog your drain or pipes when warm water is used. Instead, flush your drain pipes with cool water before you turn on your garbage disposal. Then continue to run cold water down the drain until all food waste has passed through the disposal.

Keep Up with Routine Maintenance

This is critical for all septic systems, but especially if you also use a garbage disposal. Be sure to have your tank inspected regularly, and schedule more frequent pumpings to ensure the sludge level in your tank doesn’t rise to unsafe levels. You may also want to consider adding a monthly bacteria-based product. The addition of healthy bacteria will speed up the breakdown of sludge and waste, which will help your septic tank run more efficiently and may reduce the frequency of septic tank pumping as well.

Garbage Disposal Alternatives

Whether you are looking to reduce your garbage disposal use or you have opted not to use one at all, you may be looking at convenient alternatives. First, consider adding a drain strainer to your sink. This is the best way to collect food particles before they make their way down the drain and eventually into your septic tank. As noted above, these can be used with or without a garbage disposal.

You can certainly slip your food waste into the regular trash can, but you may also want to consider composting it. This environmentally friendly option turns fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, and other food waste into nutrient rich composting soil for your lawn or garden. You can purchase a composting bin for your yard, or for ultimate convenience, you can choose a countertop composter that stays in your kitchen.

Considering a Garbage Disposal with Your Septic Tank?

While it’s possible to use a garbage disposal if you have a septic tank, most homeowners choose not to do so. Why? Because more food waste in the septic tank can lead to more problems with the septic system. Instead of dumping food waste down the drain, consider composting it. However, if you do choose to install a garbage disposal, stick to soft fruits and vegetables without peels, flush your drains with cold water, and perform regular maintenance. Consider using a bacteria-based product, as well, to help the waste inside the tank break down more quickly. These tips will help keep your septic system functioning properly for years to come.

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How to Locate Your Septic Tank

Home With Backyard

If you’ve recently purchased a home, finding out where the septic tank is located was probably not one of your biggest concerns in the process. With septic systems, however, problems can escalate quickly, from a slight odor outside to wastewater backing up into your home in a matter of days. Knowing where your septic tank is located allows you and your service provider to address problems quickly, and it’s also necessary for regular septic maintenance. Follow these tips to locate the septic system in your yard.

Inspect Your Property

The easiest way to locate your septic tank is to survey your property. Start by ruling out areas where the tank could not be located. For instance, a septic tank cannot be installed directly next to your home or your property line. Due to the potential for water contamination, septic systems can also not be installed near wells. You can eliminate the areas under paved surfaces like sidewalks, driveways, and patios, as well.

Most septic systems will be installed within 5 to 15 feet of your home. Scan this area looking for elevation differences. You may notice a small mound in the middle of your yard. This could be caused by a tank that was installed in a hole that was too shallow. Alternatively, you may notice a divot in the soil, or an area that appears sunken in slightly. This could indicate that a tank was installed in a hole deeper than the tank itself.

Another indication of a septic tank’s location could be the grass around it. When a septic tank begins to overflow, it may cause the grass above it to grow more quickly than the surrounding areas. In some instances, it could also cause the grass to die. Any changes could be indicative of a septic tank below.

When you’ve narrowed down the area of the tank, use a soil probe to pinpoint its exact location. Because tanks can be installed 1 to 4 feet underground, be sure your probe is longer than 4 feet. Then use a hammer to drive the probe downward toward the possible tank lid. A metal detector could also be used to locate the tank underground.

Follow the Main Sewer Line

Another way to narrow down the location of your septic tank is to use the main sewer line as your guide. In your basement or crawlspace, locate the pipe that leads to your septic system. It’s usually around 4 inches in diameter. Next, head to that location in the exterior of your home and look straight out toward your property line. If you cannot see any elevation or landscape changes to indicate a septic tank, you’ll need to use your soil probe. Start at about 5 feet away from your home and probe the soil every 2 feet, until you’ve located the tank.

Check Property Records

Because a septic tank’s location could impact nearby water sources, a permit is required to install them. This means that your city or county is likely to have a record of the tank’s installation in its property records. In fact, you may have a copy of this, as well, in the purchase documents for your home. If you have an older home, the city may not have a record because permitting was not required at the time the tank was installed.

Contact a Septic Maintenance Company

If you cannot locate the exact location of your septic tank on your own, it may be time to contact a septic maintenance professional. Chances are, the previous owner of your home had the septic tank pumped at least once, and the septic company may have records of its location on your property. While they are visiting your property, be sure to ask for an inspection, as well, so you know the state of your septic system.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve determined the location of your septic tank, it may be wise to mark the spot in some way. Permanent landmarks like landscaping should not be used, because they’ll need to be removed when access to the tank is needed. In addition, roots can grow into the tank or leach field, causing damage. Instead, consider a removable marker like a potted plant or bird bath, to help you remember where tank access can be found.

Next, be sure to set up a regular maintenance plan for your septic tank. If you’ve not yet had your septic system inspected, establish a relationship with a local service provider. Typically, your tank should be pumped every 3 to 5 years. Between pumpings, you can do other things to keep your system running effectively. A bacteria-based product, for instance, can be added to your drains or toilets monthly. The bacteria in the cleaner will fully digest waste inside, helping to maintain levels in the tank throughout the year.

Locating Your Septic Tank for Regular Maintenance

Most septic systems are installed underground, designed to be hidden from view. For regular maintenance and repairs, however, it’s important to know the exact location of your tank. One easy way to locate it is to find a small divot or hill in your yard. Insert a soil probe to verify it’s buried there. You can also use your main sewer line as a guide, or check property records for more information. Once located, conduct regular tank maintenance. Use a bacteria-based product monthly to keep your tank working efficiently, and schedule pumpings every few years, as well.

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Can You Have a Septic Tank Without a Leach Field?

Septic Tank

Whether you’re building a new home or repairing an existing septic system, you may be wondering how necessary a leach field really is. While your septic tank holds the wastewater flowing from your home, it can only hold so much. A leach field is needed to filter out that wastewater. However, when space or environmental sensitivity are concerns, alternative septic systems and leach fields may be an option.

How Does a Septic System Work?

In homes without connection to municipal sewers, septic systems are installed to remove wastewater. As you flush your toilets, take a shower, and even do your laundry, wastewater from your home flows into a septic tank. There, naturally occurring bacteria begin to break down the waste, which is divided into three layers. Solid waste sinks to the bottom, while oil and grease will float to the top. The middle layer is liquid waste, or effluent.

The leach field is an essential part of the system that removes the effluent from the tank and filters it throughout the ground beneath your yard. How does this happen? The liquid waste flows into the drain outlet pipe which leads to a series of perforated pipes. Wastewater then slowly seeps into the soil surrounding the pipes.

Why do you need a Leach Field with a Septic Tank?

Regular septic pumpings are an important part of system maintenance. Without a functioning leach field, however, you’d need to have your tank pumped by a professional much more frequently. If not, wastewater would begin to back up into your drains and toilets. You’d also likely notice an increase in utility costs without a way to filter wastewater efficiently.

Proper wastewater disposal is vital to the environment and communities. For that reason, many states and municipalities have laws and regulations for septic system usage. Most also require a leach field to be used in conjunction with a septic tank.

Situations Where a Leach Field may not be Necessary

Failing the Perc Test

Because a leach field disperses wastewater into the surrounding soil, the soil needs to have the capacity to absorb and retain the water. A percolation test is used to test just that. If the soil surrounding your leach field cannot properly absorb wastewater, it could lead to flooding and other issues. When soil doesn’t pass the perc test, a standard septic system cannot be installed.

Older Septic Systems

A hundred years ago, homes may have been built with septic systems, but not leach fields. Instead of filtering water throughout the yard, the wastewater would often spill into nearby waterways. Clearly, this is not an environmentally friendly or healthy solution today. Because of this, if you purchase an older home that does not have a leach field, you may be required to bring your septic system up to code.

Lack of Space

Most building codes require a specific setback from lot lines and waterways. On rare occasions, the size of the lot may not be large enough to install a leach field that meets those setback regulations. In these situations, an alternative septic system will be needed.

Shallow Water Table

Leach fields must be deep enough below ground to avoid damage from foot traffic or root systems. In areas where the water table is shallow, however, it’s possible for wastewater to flow into groundwater before it’s been properly treated with the microbes in the soil. To avoid groundwater contamination, an alternative septic system will be needed.

Nearby Water Sensitive to Pollution

Contaminated waterways can wreak havoc on delicate ecosystems. If your planned leach field is too close in proximity to a body of water, it will likely violate building codes and cannot be installed.

Alternative Septic Systems

While traditional septic systems are the norm in building homes today, there are a few alternatives that can be used when a leach field cannot be installed. They include:

  • Mound Systems
    These systems are a possible solution for areas with shallow water tables or dense soil. They are above ground, covered in topsoil, and include a pump chamber to separate scum and sludge, allowing effluent to flow freely into the septic tank.
  • Aerobic Treatment Systems
    For smaller spaces, an aerobic treatment system may be the right choice. With these systems, air is pulled into the septic tank, allowing the natural bacteria to actively clean it.
  • Sand Filtration Systems
    For environmentally sensitive areas, a sand filtration system could be the right choice. Wastewater passes directly through a recirculating sand filter to remove contaminants. It then safely disperses into the soil below.
  • Evapotranspiration Systems
    While this system has a traditional drain field, wastewater does not merge with groundwater. That’s because the base of the drain field is lined with a thick waterproof material that creates a barrier between the wastewater and the soil. When the effluent makes its way through the field, it evaporates instead.

The Importance of a Leach Field

If you have a septic system, you need a way to remove the wastewater from it. In fact, it’s often required by law. In traditional septic systems, this process is effectively performed with a leach field. However, there are some instances when a leach field cannot be installed, including space restrictions, environmental concerns, and soil quality. When using a leach field isn’t possible, you’ll need to consider alternative septic systems. While typically more expensive, these systems are often more environmentally friendly and space conscious.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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