The number of people adding to the septic tank load and the way those individuals operate day to day can have a great effect on septic system performance. Using too much water can flood the system and cause it to fail, as it is given more water over a short period than it is designed to handle. Also if household members dump chemicals or excess organic matter—such as food scraps—into the drain system, this can destroy a septic system very rapidly. The following maintenance tips can help your system provide long-term, effective treatment of household waste:
Inspect and Pump Frequently
Removing sludge and scum is one of the most critical forms of maintenance. You must take care of this on a regular basis in order to keep your septic tank working properly. It is important to keep this in check because if too much buildup accumulates, it can block the access to the drainfield and cause a backup. How often your tank needs pumping depends on tank size, how many people are in the house, the volume of water that is used, how much solid waste is getting into the system, and how good your soil is. Generally, tanks should be pumped every three to five years.
Use Water Efficiently
Excessive water going in and out of the septic tank and drainfield is one of the leading causes of system failure. The soil under the septic system must absorb all of the water used in the home, but how much the soil can handle at once can be much more limited than many homeowners realize. It is important to remember that all water in the home ends up in the tank; water from laundry, dishwasher, toilets, baths, and showers may not stay in the tank long enough to separate and the drainfield may not have enough time to leach the water and decompose any solid waste. The less water used, the less water there is passing through the septic system, which results in less risk of system failure.
Minimize Solid Waste Disposal
What goes down the drain will end up in the pipes and eventually in your septic tank, where it can have a major impact on how well your system performs and how fast it fails. Many materials do not decompose at all—like plastics and Styrofoam—and some decompose so slowly they linger in the tank—like fats and grease. Consequently, these materials will build up in your septic tank and can cause clogs, burst pipes, and a major decline in tank performance. If you can get rid of something in some other way, always do so rather than putting it down the drain and into your septic tank.
Keep Chemicals Out of Your System
While there are products that are made to help clean out your septic system, these are specially designed to work with your tank system without harming it. General household chemicals need to be kept out of your septic system at all times. These include things such as caustic drain openers, gasoline, paints, photographic chemicals, pesticides, brake fluid, pesticides, and motor oil, among many others. Improper disposal of toxic chemicals hurts the environment; with nowhere else left to go, the chemicals leach into the soil, get into groundwater reserves, and will damage your tank and cause massive damage.