Septic systems treat sewage waste generated by households not served by municipal sewer systems. Septic systems rely on bacterial action to break down solids and liquids in the waste streams from bathroom, kitchen and laundry. Liquified waste is disposed of through the system’s drain field while non-dissolvable solids sink to the bottom of the septic tank for eventual removal by pumping. You can extend the time between pumpings to as much as five years through careful management of what goes down your drains.
Keep in mind the following recommendations:
Too much water can upset the delicate biological balance within the tank, thus defeating its ability to work wonders. Moreover, discharging more water into the system than it can handle can cause it to back up — not a desirable occurrence.
Don’t use excessive amounts of any household chemicals. You can use normal amounts of household detergents, bleaches, drain cleaners, and other household chemicals without stopping the bacterial action in the septic tank. But, for example, don’t dump cleaning water for latex paintbrushes and cans into the house sewer.
Don’t deposit coffee grounds, cooking fats, wet-strength towels (paper towels that don’t dissolve easily, like the heavy-duty kind), disposable diapers, facial tissues, cigarette butts, and other non-decomposable materials into the house sewer. These materials won’t decompose, will fill the septic tank and will plug the system.
Use a high-quality toilet tissue that breaks up easily when wet. One way to find out if your toilet paper fits this description is to put a handful of toilet tissue in a fruit jar half-full of water. Shake the jar, and if the tissue breaks up easily, the product is suitable for the septic tank.
Avoid dumping grease down the drain. It may plug sewer pipes or build up in the septic tank and plug the inlet. Keep a separate container for waste grease and throw it out with the garbage.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, because of the presence of significant numbers and types of bacteria, enzymes, yeasts, and other fungi and microorganisms in typical residential and commercial wastewaters, the use of septic-system additives containing these or any other ingredients is not recommended.
You need to have your septic tank pumped and cleaned by a professional every one to three years. A septic tank in a northern climate will need to have the solids removed more often than a tank farther south. (This geographic variance is primarily because cooler temperatures inhibit bacterial action and provide less decomposition of the sewage solids.) How often you need to have your septic tank pumped also depends on the size of the tank, the volume of wastewater, and how many solids go into it. Constant foul odor, slow drains, and drains that back up are all telltale signs that your septic tank needs pumping. When in doubt, call in a septic pro.