Maintaining Your Septic System

When you think about the maintenance of the systems in your home your first thoughts are probably HVAC, electrical and plumbing. However, one overlooked and undervalued system in your home is actually outside your home, the septic system. As with all the systems in your home, if you properly maintain your septic system you can avoid costly repairs.

First, understanding how a septic system works will help you maintain it. The wastewater from your home leaves through a pipe and goes to the septic tank. The waste separates into solid waste (sludge) that sinks to the bottom and oil and grease (scum) rises to the top. There are bacteria in the septic tank that helps to breakdown the sludge. The wastewater then exits the septic tank and goes into the drainage field. The wastewater is released into the soil which removes harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

So one thing you have to watch is what you put down your drains (that goes into your septic tank). Everything that goes down your drains should be biodegradable and septic safe. Flushing things like dental floss, feminine products, paper towels, coffee grounds and other kitchen and bathroom products can clog the tank and drain field. Also, household chemicals, paint, oils and grease can kill the good bacteria in your septic tank. If you have a garbage disposal, you will want to use it sparingly as it will increase the accumulation of sludge and scum.

Another thing to be aware of when you have a septic system is how much water you are using. Per the EPA, the average single-home family uses 70 gallons of indoor water per person per day. Leaking faucets and running toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons per day. Faucet aerators and high efficiency toilets and showerheads can help reduce excess water usage. Many people like the convenience of washing all their laundry in one day, but with a septic system you need to give your tank time to recover. So it’s recommended to spread your washing, otherwise you risk flooding your drainage field.

Knowing where your septic tank and drainage field are is also very important. You don’t’ want to put anything heavy like a shed, parked car or RV, cement or pool in this area as it can damage the tank and pipes as well as compromise the drainage field. Another thing that can damage your septic system are large trees and shrubs. Roots, especially aggressive roots that come with Willows, can damage pipes and the tank.

Having your tank pumped regularly is part of proper maintenance. Professionals typically charge between $200-$300 for this service, however, it can vary by region. Keep in mind that if they have to dig to find your septic tank that will incur additional fees. When your tank is pumped they should also inspect the tank to make sure everything is in good working condition. The frequency of pumpings varies between owners. No matter the size of your family, if you have a garbage disposal it is recommended that you pump your system annually. If you are a family of four with no garbage disposal, it’s recommended every 2-3 years. If you are a family of two with no garbage disposal, it’s recommended every 4-5 years.

Every few months using a septic tank system treatment, like Rid-X®, by pouring into your toilet can add the bacteria necessary to keep your septic tank performing optimally. For those of you who like homemade treatments, you can pour a liter of spoiled buttermilk down the toilet every few months, as it too is a great source of bacteria. If you notice anything that seems off with your septic system, it is best to contact a professional immediately to address any issues as early as possible.

While this system doesn’t need constant supervision, remembering these key things will help prolong the life of your septic system.


Edited and posted by

McKee Homes online marketing manager

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76 thoughts on “Maintaining Your Septic System

  1. My brother would really like to make sure that nothing is wrong with his septic system because it smells really bad. he would like to get a professional to check it for him. I’ll be sure to tell him about how everything that goes down into the tank should be safe and biodegradable to make sure that it doesn’t kill the good bacteria in the tank.

  2. My husband and I have recently moved together and we are looking for advice to know how to maintain our septic system. I like that you recommend knowing how your septic tank works, in order for you to be able to maintain it. I will let my husband know what you said about how the septic tank works so that we both know how to regularly maintain it, and if we don’t have time to call a professional.

  3. Thank you for reminding me that we need to get our tank pumped on a regular basis as a part of routine maintenance. We’re thinking of having our own installed after learning that our new neighborhood doesn’t have any public sewer system. I’ll try looking for experts in septic services and inquire how much the installation process will cost.

  4. I had no idea that a garbage disposal will create sludge and scum in your septic tank if used too often. This is good to know because I have always wanted a septic tank before. I never got one because I wasn’t too sure on what to do and not do so that it works perfectly normal.

  5. I had no idea that placing heavier items on top of your sewer tank or drain field could lead to damage. I am a new homeowner and have never had to take care of a septic tank before, and have no idea what I need to be doing to make that it’s properly taken care of. I will definitely keep your many great tips and information in mind when trying to properly maintain my septic tank.

  6. I like what you said about making sure that everything that goes down your drain is biodegradable and safe for your septic system. My brother has been telling me about how he wants to make sure that every system in his home is working as well as it possibly can. I’ll share this information with him so that he can look into his options for professionals who can help get any substances removed from his septic system that shouldn’t be there.

  7. I liked that you mentioned you need to be careful of what you put down your drains to keep your septic tank working properly. My mother thinks that she might have a clogged drain, and we are looking for advice. I will let her know about your recommendations to keep her septic tank in good shape.

  8. I like how you suggested that everything you put down your drains should be biodegradable. My husband was telling me last week how he wanted to get a septic tank installed for our home and I wanted to know how to maintain it. Thank you for these tips on how to maintain a septic system!

  9. I found it interesting that with a garbage disposal the tank should be pumped annually. I’m looking at moving into a new home and so now I know what to look for to see when I should get my system pumped. I’ll have to look more into residential septic tank cleaning.

  10. I didn’t realize that leaking faucets can waste up to 200 gallons a day when you are only supposed to be using about 70 gallons per person each day. That’s probably why our septic system backed up last night and caused our toilet to overflow. We’ll start looking for a septic system repair specialist to fix the toilet and the leaks.

  11. I love your tip about maintaining your septic system. That makes sense considering you want to keep your sewage in the pipes. I’ll have to consider your tips so that I can fix my sewage system.

  12. Thanks for the tips on maintaining your septic system. I appreciate that you mentioned that having your tank pumped regularly is part of proper maintenance. My husband and I just moved into a house with a septic tank so we’ll have to make sure that we have maintenance done on it regularly and have it pumped regular so that it can work the way it needs too.

  13. My family and I just moved into a home with a septic system, and we could use some advice on how to maintain is as we’ve never used something like this before. Your article had some great tips regarding this, and I liked how you said to hire professionals to regularly pump our tank, and they should also inspect it to make sure everything is in working condition. Thanks; we’ll keep this in mind when maintaining our septic system.

  14. I am glad that you mentioned the fact that you should be aware of how much water you are using when you have a septic tank. My father has been renovating his house so that he can raise its value and sell it for a profit. It seems like it might be a good idea for him to have a professional go to his house and ensure that his septic tank is in good repair.

  15. I like how you stated that knowing where your septic tank and drainage field are is also very important. I just moved into my first house with a septic system and have no idea how to take care of it. I will definitely keep your tips in mind so that I can properly maintain my septic system.

  16. I like how you mentioned that understanding how a septic drainage system works would usually contribute to how you would maintain it in the long run. Having at least a working knowledge of how a septic tank works, and what items are safe to be thrown down a disposal chute, are vital since there are kinds of trash that can never be sent towards the septic tank like coffee grounds, dental floss, and most kitchen and bathroom products should be disposed of alternatively. While I haven’t the need to call for a septic repair system, at least knowing how it works and what shouldn’t go down the drain is something that any septic tank owner should know.

  17. Thanks for mentioning that everything that goes down our drains should be biodegradable and septic safe. My husband and I want to do better at maintaining our home’s septic system. The info you shared about prevention should be really helpful!

  18. Understanding how a septic system works is usually one of the important ways that you can maintain it properly since wastewater that comes from your house isn’t directly pumped into the sewage system, it has to pass through the septic tank system first to make sure that the water is ‘filtered’ before being sent out. Another thing to keep in mind is how much water is being used so that on the off-chance the septic tank is completely full, at least you can tell the septic tank repairmen what to watch out for when it comes to draining the place! If I had to look for a septic tank repair team I would make sure to inform them about what to look out for when it comes to the septic tank setup around the house.

  19. Thanks for pointing out that regular septic tank pumping is an important part of septic system maintenance. My husband and I just moved to a new home, so I’ve been researching ways to keep the septic system in good shape. I thought the septic tank only had to be pumped if there was a problem, so thanks for letting me know that’s not the case!

  20. I like that you mention how it’s important to hire professionals for regular septic tank pumping so that your system is properly maintained. This would be important to help it last longer and to find any problems that need repairs. The professionals could also help you prepare for when to get a septic system replacement so that you can ensure that everything is working properly in order to avoid any issues.

  21. There are a ton of things you’ll need to keep in mind when you have a septic tank. I particularly like that the article recommends getting it pumped regularly. After all, keeping it pumped and clean is a great way to improve its lifespan.

  22. My husband and I just moved into a home with a septic system, but we’ve never used one of these before and could use some tips. Your article was just what we were looking for, and I liked how you said to make sure we get our tank pumped regularly, and that this service costs around $200-$300 depending on our region. This service should also inspect our tank to make sure its in working condition, and we’ll keep this in mind when properly maintaining our septic system.

  23. We didn’t know that you have to use biodegradable and septic safe toilet paper if your house uses a septic tank. Now we don’t know if we need to pump the tank or just have it completely repaired. I really appreciate the information that professionals will typically check your septic tank for faults when they pump it; we’ll make sure to hire someone tomorrow to do so.

  24. It sure is nice that you talked about how people should avoid putting anything heavy like a shed or a parked car near their septic tank. While we make sure to clear the things out near our tank’s proximity, I’ll be sure to contact a professional septic tank system service that can help asses our current situation and maintenance. Thanks for this really informative post about septic tank maintenance!

  25. This is some really good information about septic tanks. It is good to know that it would be smart to clean off the scum from the top of the tank. that is good for me to know as a new homeowner that has a septic tank.

  26. I like that you said understanding how a septic system works will help you maintain it. You will know what kinds of things to look for and what keeps it running and in good condition. You will know what parts to focus on and make sure are clean based on priority as well.

  27. My uncle will be moving into a more rural home with a septic tank, so he’ s been wondering how to take care of it. It was very helpful when you said to get your tanked pumped annually if you have a garbage disposal. Do you have any tips for choosing a septic service in his area?

  28. Thank you for pointing out that you are going to want to know where your septic tank is and avoid parking any cars over it. My husband and I are needing to get some repairs done on the septic tank of the house we just bought. I’ll have to look into some services in our area and find the best one for us.

  29. In order to ensure proper maintenance of a septic system it is important to have regular septic tank cleaning. This will ensure that the system is optimal and running adequately. To avoid problems with a septic tank it is important be aware how much water is being used.

  30. My husband and I are planning on installing a new septic tank, so we are wondering how we can best take care of it. So I appreciate you mentioning that we should have the system pumped regularly and have it inspected as well. We will definitely have a professional inspect and clean our septic tank regularly so that we can make sure it is working perfectly.

  31. Thanks for pointing out that it will probably cost between $200-$300 to have your tank pumped. It’d be important to find someone with a lot of experience so that they would definitely be able to do the job well and efficiently. It’d probably be a good idea to find a septic pump service once and then keep on using them throughout the years.

  32. I never knew that the average family uses 70 gallons of water per person per day. I can actually believe this considering how my teenage daughters take half-hour showers. I’ll have to tell them to hurry up their shower time so the septic pump doesn’t overload.

  33. I think it is great how you elaborated on what to avoid flushing down the drain, including using a garbage disposal sparingly to avoid accumulation of sludge and scum. There’s been a nagging suspicion in my head that my septic system is in need of repair after a few months of noticing that the drains in my house haven’t been working so well. Finding a septic installation services to get a new system seems like the best thing to do after making sure I don’t put anything else down the drain that I shouldn’t.

  34. I like your comment about getting your tank pumped regularly. Those prices that you mentioned are not that bad either! It sounds like it is totally worth the cost to keep it maintained.

  35. My fiance and I were wondering how often we should have our septic tank pumped since we have not done it in a while. We had no idea that having it pumped regularly was part of proper maintenance. Knowing this, we will contact professionals very soon. Thanks!

  36. I just wanted to thank you for going over some different ways to keep and maintain a septic system. I actually had no idea that grease could kill good bacteria that is used in the tank. Definitely sounds like it could be good to know all the different kinds of things that shouldn’t be put down the drain, and how to dispose of them in a different way.

  37. Thank you for all this great information about septic tanks! I really like your point about knowing where the septic tank and drainage field is because I would have never thought about avoiding to put heavy things like a shed or our camper on top of it. We just moved into our home that has a septic tank and these are all great tips to make sure we’re taking care of it correctly.

  38. I didn’t know that something as small as dental floss could cause problems for your septic tank. I wonder if that’s actually what’s been causing my aunt’s septic tank problems. Her little daughter loves playing with dental floss, and last time I visited, she disposed of it in the toilet.

  39. Very informative post. A good rule of thumb is not to flush things into the septic that did not go through your mouth (except toilet paper). Your system likes items that will easily decompose.


  40. Thanks for the tips for maintaining a septic system. My wife and I just moved into a home with a septic tank, and we want to make sure we take proper care of it. Thanks for mentioning that you should spread out your loads of laundry so you don’t put too much water in your tank at one time. We will keep that in mind.

  41. It is good to know that one should be aware of how much water they are using when a septic system is involved. I did not realize that the average family used 70 gallons of indoor water per person per day. It would be a good idea to get a septic system drained before moving into a new house.

  42. My husband and I recently moved into a home with a septic system. We want to make sure we are able to maintain it correctly to avoid any future problems. As you said, having your tank pumped and cleaned regularly by a professional will help ensure that everything is in good working condition. Thanks for sharing!

  43. I like that you recommend to wash your clothes throughout the week instead of just on one day. I can see why this would help keep your septic system in good condition. My uncle has lived in a house with a septic system for over twenty years. I’ll have to ask him if he does anything because of it.

  44. My brother recently moved into a house that uses a septic system. He doesn’t know much about that type of waste removal, and he’s wanting to learn more to ensure it is well taken care of. I didn’t realize that staggering your loads of laundry to different days can help the system recovery properly and prevent overflowing. I’ll be sure my brother is aware of this tip.

  45. Ever since we moved in three years ago we haven’t had the time or money to maintain our septic tank. It was remarkable to know that everything that goes down your drains should be biodegradable and septic safe. I will be certain to get the tank checked to make sure it is in good condition!

  46. The septic tank is something I have never thought much of. I think I should probably be more aware of it, so I don’t do anything that might break it. I hadn’t even thought of spreading out the laundry, but that makes sense!

  47. It makes sense to me that proper maintenance of a septic system can help prevent costly repairs. Like the article states, this all starts with knowing how a septic tank works. By learning basic septic tank functions in this article, I feel I can take better care of my tank. If I were to ever experience a problem with my tank, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact a septic tank repair specialist for my needs.

  48. You’re so right when you said that the septic system is often an overlooked and undervalued part of the home. I don’t know much about septic systems, so this article really helped me to understand what I need to do to maintain it. As you mentioned, it’s important to have the septic system pumped. I will be sure to have that done soon! Thanks for sharing!

  49. I agree that the septic tank is often overlooked and undervalued. You also said that if you understand how your septic system works, it will better help you understand how to maintain it. I think it’s a good idea to add additives to your system that will help to reduce waste levels.

  50. I appreciate this article about septic system maintenance. It is good to know that understanding how a septic system works will help you to better maintain it. I did not realize that everything in the tank enters through a pipe. It would be best to watch children to prevent large objects to go down drains and cause unnecessary problems to the system.

  51. I didn’t realize that there was so much that went into septic system maintenance! I like how you point out that knowing where your septic tank and drainage field are is so important so that you don’t put anything heavy, like a shed or parked car, in this area. My husband and I just moved into our first home, so all of this is new to us. I imagine that we’ll probably want to call a professional to come check everything out so that we know all is well before we get too settled. We’ll have to ask our new neighbors if there’s anyone they recommend.

  52. I didn’t realize that it was a good idea to treat your septic tank every few months. I can see how doing this can keep your system working properly and ensure that it will do so for a long time. I will make sure to look into this and ask the professionals about it. Thank you for sharing.

  53. Thanks for the tips for maintaining a septic system. I didn’t realize that I needed to be watchful of how much water I am using each day. I normally do all my laundry on one day, but I guess I should be letting my tank recover!

  54. Hi…
    thanks for sharing this informative blog with us. great stuff. I like your content of list you included. please
    keep sharing such innovative ideas with us.

  55. I agree that having your septic tank pumped regularly would be good. I would imagine that this could keep the system working well and prevent costly repairs. This would also be a good way to see if there are any needed repairs and get them done at the same time.

  56. I didn’t know that septic tanks needed time to recover, I’m glad that I came across this article! In our family, Sunday is laundry day. I think that it might be a smarter idea to space it our during the week so that our tank doesn’t get too overwhelmed. I’ll have to call someone in to make sure that everything is running properly with it and we won’t have to make any drastic repairs.

  57. I appreciate what you said about using your garbage disposal sparingly in order to maintain your septic system well. I’ve always thought that if you have a garbage disposal you can put whatever you want down there and it will be fine for your septic system! Would you say it is better not to have a disposal then in order to avoid the build up of sludge and scum in your septic tank?

    • Depending on the county codes where you live, you may not be able to have a garbage disposal if you are on a septic system. It’s probably safest not to have one, as even if you use it sparingly, someone else at your house might use it without realizing the damage it can cause to your septic system.

  58. I want to take better care of my septic tank. Thanks for the advice about how you should have your tank pumped regularly. Another thing to consider is to get your septic tank serviced by a company that is licensed and insured.

  59. I didn’t realize that all of the drains in my house lead to my septic tank, so I have never paid much attention to how often I use my garbage disposal. Your comment about the garbage disposal adding to the sludge in the tank was a real eye opener, I imagine watching what goes down the drain would make as much difference in the life of the tank as having it pumped regularly does. I had an issue with my tank last week and I’ve been looking into getting it repaired, but it seems I have been misusing it for my whole life… maybe I would be better off getting it replaced now and treating the new one more carefully.

  60. In your article, you stated that if you are a family of four with no garbage disposal, it’s recommended every 2-3 years. Do most septic companies offer regularly scheduled maintenance? My mother’s home has a septic tank and lately she has been noticing a really bad smell lingering through the house. Hiring a septic company to come and maintain it might be a good idea.

  61. My friend is buying a new house that has a septic system as a way of disposal. It is nice to know that better understanding how these systems work will offer a better knowledge of how to maintain them. I have heard that it is good to get them inspected regularly to prevent extensive problems.

  62. I appreciate your information on how a septic system actually works. You’re right when you say that it is much easier to take care of something like this when you know how it looks when it is functioning properly. I didn’t realize that dental floss could actually cause clogs, I think that this sometimes gets down my drains. I’ll have to what out for this better, thank you for a helpful article!

  63. I had never thought about all of the things that you’d have to watch out for when you’re putting things down your drains. Wastewater systems are one of those things that you just expect to work right, and having to think of things like that can get overwhelming. The more you’re reminded of what to do though, the better off you’ll be, so I appreciate the advice anyways. Thanks for sharing.

  64. It is true that this type of maintenance is not nearly as well known or focused on. I appreciate you explaining how this system works so I can better understand what needs to be maintained and what I need to watch. This seems like a pretty simple, but important process. Thank you for all of your helpful tips!

  65. Nice share… I just knew from you that septic tank pipe can not be mixed with bath pipe. nice sharing. Regard from young entrepreneur.

  66. Taking care of your septic system does seem like a good thing to do when you are a homeowner. I like that you talked about how much water can affect the system. I had no idea that a leaking faucet could create 200 pounds of extra water going through the system. It seems like it would be smart to have your plumbing and septic tank inspected on a regular basis to avoid problems like that.

  67. I agree that understanding how a septic system works is helpful. That way you can maintain it, and know how you are affecting the system when you use it. I think if more people knew how it works, they would be more careful about what things they flush down the toilet. Thanks for the advice!

  68. Thanks for the great advice, I actually didn’t know that placing heavier items on top of the tank or drain field could lead to damage, but I suppose that’s obvious. When we used to live in our home that had a septic system, we foolishly placed a shed on top of the tank. This led to a lot of damage over time and continual maintenance that eventually led to us moving out, I wish we had known about these tips quite a long time ago.

  69. I would think that someone would want to have their septic tank working properly, and not having any problems with it. I can see it working better if stuff that should not be in there stays out would be smart. Thanks for the tips, they are really good ideas.

  70. I had never thought about the fact that putting something over the drainage field would cause problems. I can see how that would make sense though. I also love planting trees, so I guess I would have to keep that in mind too. Thanks for the heads up!

  71. Thanks so much Tracy and Charmaine for your tip about regular septic pumping can help maintenance. I didn’t know that septic tanks had to be pumped every 2-3 years. My brother and his family recently had problems with their drainage system and I believe they had a professional go and check it out. I hope these tips can help us avoid that kind of mess in the future!

  72. Thanks for explaining the problems with putting the wrong types of stuff into the septic system. Having never had a septic system before, I really hadn’t thought about the challenges that it would present for garbage disposal or the flushing system. Apparently there’s a lot more possible problems than I would have imagined. It seems like knowing these things is definitely going to prevent a lot of headaches down the road if or when I decide to switch to a septic system. Thanks for the help!

  73. Thanks for explaining the way septic systems work! I’m considering having a septic system at my new home rather than hooking up to the city sewer line. It sounds like it uses very natural processes, which I like, but could take a while to recycle the water. Do you know how intensive septic maintenance is compared to sewer system maintenance?

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