How To Care For Your Septic System
Do you currently own a home with a septic system? Thinking about buying a home with a septic system? You’ve come to the right place.
A professionally installed and well-maintained septic system can last 20-30+ years if you follow this list of septic system do’s and don’ts. What you do and don’t do greatly affects the septic system’s ability to do it’s job.
We’ve broken down the list of septic system do’s & don’ts into categories for easy reading.
How to Maintain Your Septic System Outside the House
Septic System Do's and Don'ts - The Septic Tank
- have your septic tank pumped every 3-5 years. If you have an aerobic system, make sure you have it regularly inspected and maintenanced every 6 months.
- stagger the use of water-generating appliances. Especially if your tank is overdue to be pumped.
- call a professional DEQ certified contractor for installations and repairs or if you suspect your system is failing. 100% of the DIY septic systems we see end up costing the homeowner so much more money than they wanted to spend.
- keep a detailed record of repairs, tank pumping, inspections, permits issued and other maintenance records.
- keep a sketch of your system with your maintenance records. This comes in handy for maintenance and repairs. If you don’t have a drawing, you can contact DEQ to see if there is a record on file.
NOTE: If DEQ has no records on your septic system, it is most likely:
1. An old system that was installed before all of the regulations were in place.
2. An illegal system installed by someone not certified. If your house is new-ish, this is a huge red flag.
- use your dishwasher, shower, washing machine and toilet at the same time. All the extra water will really strain your septic system.
- put items down your sink or toilet that can easily be thrown into the trash. Septic systems are not designed to be garbage cans. The more solids you put into the tank, the more frequently the tank will need to be pumped and the higher your risk of problems to arise.
- enter your septic tank. All repairs that could possibly need to be done can be done from the outside of the tank.
- use septic tank additives. These are harmful and add extra solids to the system that can clog your lateral lines. The chemicals will pollute ground and surface water.
- allow backwash from home water softeners to enter your septic system.
Septic System Do's and Don'ts - The Lateral Field
- keep your lateral field grassed. This helps with evaporation and prevents erosion.
- divert other sources of water, such as gutters, house footing drains and sump pumps away from the septic system. Excessive water will keep the soil in the lateral field from natural cleansing the wastewater.
- drive over or park on your lateral lines. The weight will damage them. Grazing animals can also cause damage. For those of you with aerobic systems, the same rules apply with your sprinklers.
- plant trees or shrubs too close to your lateral lines. The roots will grow into your system and clog it. We see it all the time.
- build anything over your lateral field. We see people build shops over them all the time. Their systems end up failing. Replacement is costly.
- cover any part of your lateral field with gravel, asphalt, concrete, etc. We see this a lot also. These systems also end up failing.
- install sprinkler systems over or around your lateral field.
- excessively water over your lateral field.
- alter drainage in your yard without considering the impact it will have on your septic system.
- drain water from hot tubs or swimming pools into your septic system. Large volumes of water will drown your lateral field and the chlorine can destroy important bacteria in your septic tank and lateral field.
How to Maintain Your Septic System Inside the House
Septic System Do's and Don'ts - In the Kitchen
- limit the use of your garbage disposal. Things that can be easily thrown in the trash, such as coffee grounds & food, should not be put down the disposal.
- use a drain catcher to stop food pieces from going down the drain.
- run your dishwasher only with a full load. Running small loads is a waste of both water and energy.
- pour cooking grease or oil down the sink or toilet. It can solidify and clog your pipes.
- pour household chemicals down the sink.
- put oil, gas, paint thinners, latex paint, solvents, weed or insect killers or other chemicals down the drain. They can poison your septic system and possibly threaten water supplies for your whole neighborhood.
Septic System Do's and Don'ts - In the Bathroom
- fix leaking faucets & toilets immediately. A toilet that runs continuously could be wasting 5-10 gallons per hour, which is enough water to fill up a swimming pool in a year.
- install water-saving toilets, faucets & shower heads. These devices can reduce water by up to 50%.
- flush items or chemicals that won’t decompose easily, such as feminine hygiene products, condoms, dental floss, diapers, cigarette butts, kitty litter, paper towels or pharmaceuticals. These items all belong in the trash can. The only things that should be flushed are wastewater and toilet paper.
- let the water run continuously while shaving or brushing your teeth. You can save up to 6 gallons of water per use.
- flush dead fish or small animals.
Septic System Do's and Don'ts - In the Laundry Room
- use a washing machine that displays the Energy Star symbol. These washing machines use 50% less water than standard models. Top loading washing machines use almost twice as much water than front loading machines.
- run your washing machine only with a full load OR select the proper load size when washing smaller loads.
- use liquid laundry detergent.
- do all of your laundry in one day. While it’s convenient to do so, it will also put a huge strain on your septic system. Spread it out throughout the week by doing 1-2 loads per day. Tip: start a load of laundry before bed & throw it in the dryer when you wake up in the morning.
In conclusion, follow this list of septic system do’s and don’ts and educate everyone in your household to save a lot of money and headache, protect your home, health environment and septic system.