Septic Tank Usage Tips   Share

by Greg Smith, Roto-Rooter of Mobile

If you have a septic tank system, there are some basic tips that you need to be aware of to keep your system working properly and to reduce the likelihood that you’ll have to face the expense of costly, avoidable repairs.

Six Tips for Proper Septic Tank Usage
Here are a few tips that every person who lives in a home that is on a septic system should be aware of and follow on a consistent basis.

1. Regular Maintenance Pumping Matters
There is no substitute for getting your septic system pumped on a regular basis. For proper maintenance, with usual usage, pumping is necessary every three years for homes where there are four or more residents and every five years for smaller households. Septic pumping typically costs about $300 and can keep you from facing costly, avoidable repairs.

2. Keep Stuff Out of Your Tank
Everything that goes down your drain will end up in your septic tank, so don’t flush or wash away anything that shouldn’t go into the tank. This includes food waste, grease, sanitary products and other often-flushed or washed-away items that should be kept out of your septic system. Keep in mind that septic tanks are designed to collect solids – and anything that goes into the tank that is not biodegradable stays there until it is pumped out with a vacuum truck.

3. Do Not Install or Use a Garbage Disposal
While a garbage disposal may seem like a convenient household gadget, this type of appliance should never be used in homes that have septic systems. Compost your food waste or throw it away – but do not put it down your drain even if you grind it first. Note that installing a garbage disposal on a septic system is not consistent with plumbing code – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

4. Proper Rainwater Management through Landscaping
When you have a septic system, landscaping serves a much more important purpose than just making your yard look nice. That’s because it’s important to ensure that rainwater is not allowed to settle on top of your septic tank or its field lines. Ensure the area above your septic system is landscaped in a manner such that water will drain away from the system rather than gathering on top of it.

5. Exercise Moderation
When it comes to water usage, moderation is an important key with a septic system. These systems are designed to handle a certain number of gallons per day of water. Do not over-do it. For example, while it is likely fine to do two loads of laundry in a row, it’s not a good idea to do more than that back-to-back. Simply wait a little while before starting that third load. The same is true with showers; don’t stay under the spray for half an hour – get in and get out. These practices will help you avoid putting unnecessary stress on your septic system.  

6. Fix Leaks Immediately
Plumbing leaks – including leaky pipes, toilets, faucets and valves – all put unnecessary stress on septic systems that can lead to damage. Anytime your plumbing fixtures or pipes develop leaks, get them fixed right away to avoid septic problems.

Signs of a Problem
If a system starts to fail, there are several indicators that something is wrong and that repairs are likely necessary. Common signs of a damaged septic tank include:

  • Effluent leaking into the yard
  • Toilet makes gurgling noise
  • Drains in the house start running very slowly, especially the tub and shower
  • Turning on the washer or dishwasher results in gurgling in the tub or toilet
  • Water standing on top of the septic tank
  • Odor

Depending on how severe the problem is, it may be possible to remedy the situation with pumping – but often costly repairs are the only solution. In many cases the system is already significantly damaged and in need of repair before there are any indicators that something is wrong. That’s why there is no substitute for proper septic maintenance by having it pumped regularly, following a schedule appropriate for the size of your household.   

About the Author
Greg Smith is President of Roto-Rooter of Mobile, Alabama. The company provides industrial, commercial and residential plumbing repair services, including video pipe inspection, throughout Mobile, Baldwin and Washington counties in Alabama.