How to Clean and Maintain Your Septic Tank?

Septic tanks are tanks that can be connected to a home’s plumbing system. They are often used in rural areas where public sewer lines are not installed or in use. If you have a septic tank, make sure to keep the tank cleaned by having it pumped routinely. Here is everything you need to know about keeping your tank clean.

Why Do You Need to Clean a Septic Tank?

When you flush a toilet in your home, use water to take a shower, or run the washing machine, the used water and waste are transported to your septic tank.

The septic tank is designed so that liquid, such as water, can be carried out of the tank to a drain field. But waste sinks to the bottom of the tank and remains.

As the waste begins to break down, it turns into slime or sludge-like material. Pumping the tank removes this sludge material, preventing your tank from getting so full that it cannot function or it overflows into your yard.

Can You Clean a Septic Tank Yourself?

Technically, you can clean a septic tank yourself. However, professionals do not recommend that you do so. Cleaning a septic tank is a challenging and laborious process. If done incorrectly, you can damage your tank, improperly dispose of waste, or fail to remove all of the waste from the tank.

You should hire a professional to clean your septic tank for many reasons. A professional can quickly and easily locate your tank and unearth it.

A professional has the tools needed to properly pump your tank. A professional also has the knowledge and training to remove all of the waste from your tank and dispose of it properly.

How to Clean Septic Tank By Pumping Process? (Step by Step)

When it’s time to have your routine septic maintenance performed, the process generally includes the following five steps.

Step 1: Septic Tank Access Lids Uncovered and Opened

Before any work can begin, the technicians at All Septic & Sewer will need to uncover your tank access lid. If your system was installed after the 1980s, it would have two separate compartments, of which both lids will need to be exposed.

From this point, the work crew will open the lids to your tank. This might seem like a simple task, but corrosion and general wear and tear can make it difficult. In some cases, your lid will need to be replaced.

Step 2: Your Tank Will Be Pumped Out

Using a high-power hose that’s connected to our vacuum truck, all the liquids and solids will be sucked out of your sewage tank. While the hose is usually powerful enough to remove all debris and waste, there are certain times when thick sludge and solids will be left behind.

Step 3: The Tank Will Be Washed Out

To help remove any residual waste, your technician will use water to clean out the interior of your tank to remove most of the remaining solids.

Step 4: Visual Inspections Will Take Place

After the septic pumping and cleaning steps have been completed, our crew will check the tank’s interior and exterior for any root presence or deterioration. They will also look over the septic tank baffles and dividing wall.

Step 5: The Tanks Lid Will Be Closed and Reburied

Once the inspection has been completed, your lid will be closed and covered back up. In most circumstances, septic tanks are buried between six and twelve inches below ground. If not, your technician might decide to install risers, which allow for better access during any future upkeep.

How to Clean Your Septic System Filter?

  1. Locate your septic system’s tank.
  2. You will see two lids, one for each tank chamber.
  3. Assemble the following supplies: rubber gloves, hose with spray nozzle, Allen wrench or a drill with a correct bit, and paper towel.
  4. Put on rubber gloves.
  5. Remove the lid from the solids tank (this is the first tank the sewage flows through before being pumped out to the drain field).
  6. Reach in, grab the “T” handled pipe, and pull up the filter.
  7. Carefully remove filter from housing and spray filter with hose, removing any solids from the filter back in to the tank.
  8. Replace cleaned filter in the filter housing and press firmly to ensure it is tightly sealed.
  9. Congratulations! You have successfully cleaned your filter. However, there is one more important step. Please replace the lid immediately. A child or pet could drown if they fall into the tank.

How to clean a septic tank naturally?

This method is a quick, gentle solution that is also effective. This method requires one to utilize the power of baking soda, vinegar, and lemon. First, start by mixing a quarter of a cup of baking soda with a half cup of vinegar and put it directly into the toilet.

Then add two tablespoons of Lemon juice. The baking soda combined with the vinegar causes a chemical reaction that fizzles and helps break down grime and dirt. The lemon’s acidity aids in this process and also provides a pleasant aromatic.

This solution is will clean your toilet bowl and after flushed, will do the same to the pipes within your system. And since this is a natural solution, it won’t affect your system’s healthy bacteria.

Homemade Septic Tank Treatment

As mentioned earlier in this blog, healthy bacteria are needed to ensure your septic system is working properly. The bacteria in your system helps break down solids allowing easier flow to the leach field. This is also helpful when you need to get your septic system pumped. The ingredients required for this natural solution are the following: Water, Sugar, Cornmeal, and Dry Yeast.

To concoct this mixture, first, start by boiling roughly a half-gallon of water. Add in 2 cups of sugar. The sugar will act as the first food your bacteria will eat! Next, let the mixture sit until room temp and add in 2 cups of cornmeal.

Let the cornmeal absorb the water and mix it together until blended. At this point, you can add 3 packets of dry yeast and continue to mix them together. Once all combined, add the mixture into the toilet and flush. After the water returns, flush the toilet again.

This ensures the mixtures is pushed all the way into your septic tank. After the second flush, wait another 5-10 hours and flush the toilet again to continue to mix around the solution within your tank.

After completing this treatment, your tank should be back to a healthy bacterial state. These cleanse can be administered every 6 months or so but only if you suspect there to be a lack of bacteria.

How Frequently Does Your Tank Need to Be Cleaned?

You need to have your septic tank routinely pumped to keep it clean. This may leave you wondering how often your tank needs to be pumped.

Different factors affect the frequency in which your tank needs to be pumped, such as the size of the tank, the size of your home, the number of people living there, the amount of waste your household products, and whether you use enzymes or bacteria in your tank.

A septic tank professional can estimate how frequently your tank should be pumped based on these factors.

How Do You Know When Your Tank Is Due for Cleaning?

In addition to a septic professional providing, you with an estimated pumping schedule, your tank may also provide you with signs that the tank is due to be cleaned.

When your tank needs to be pumped, water may begin to drain slowly from your home. You may notice water puddling around your feet in the shower or sink water slowly draining away when doing the dishes.

Another sign that your septic tank needs to be pumped is odors. When your tank is full, odors may be present. These odors may be present in the yard around the tank, or smells can travel through the pipes into your home, and you may smell odors near your drains.

Finally, if your tank is overdue for pumping, your tank may begin to overflow. When this occurs, you will see puddles or pooling water and waste in your yard around the septic tank. Make sure you know where your tank is located so you can keep an eye on any standing water in the area.

What Are the Consequences of Not Pumping Your Tank?

If the tank is not pumped, the solids will build up in the tank and the holding capacity of the tank will be diminished. Eventually, the solids will reach the pipe that feeds into the drain field, causing a clog.

When the drain field pipe becomes clogged, homeowners may see a variety of symptoms including:

  • The smell of sewage in the yard
  • Swampy areas over the drain field
  • Bright green, healthy grass over the drain field
  • Wastewater backing up into the house.
  • The lowest drains in the house become slower

It doesn’t take long for these problems to become critical. Most homeowners find that the only way to solve this problem is to call in a professional.

How to Reduce Sludge in A Septic Tank System

Method 1: Pumping and/or Cleaning

It’s a fact of life: Septic tanks need to be pumped periodically. As solids (sludge) build up in the tank, the usable volume in the tank decreases.

If sludge is left in a septic tank for a long time, it will compact and harden to the point where a pump truck cannot remove it. In that case, high-pressure hoses are needed to break up the sludge and clean out the tank.

Of course, this method is highly effective and thus the standard method for removing sludge from a septic tank. The problem is that it isn’t cheap and if this is the only method employed to remove sludge, it must be done regularly.


Method 2: Aeration and Bio-Enzymes, Microbes, and Bio-Activators

Septic tanks are an anaerobic environment (without oxygen). Bacteria that consume sludge can only live in an aerobic environment (with oxygen).

The key to reducing sludge in your septic tank with enzymes is to provide a source of air and a population of bacteria to consume the sludge.

This process can take a few weeks but can consume up to 95% of the sludge in your septic tank! The major added benefit is that if you continue with the program, you should not have to pump your septic tank ever again!

How Much Does Septic Tank Pumping or Cleaning Cost?

On average, it costs $409 to clean or pump a septic tank. Most homeowners spend between $287 and $543. It’s possible for extremely large tanks to run $1,000 or more. Most tanks need pumping every 3 to 5 years with inspections every 1 to 3 years.

Depending on the size of your septic tank pumping could cost as low as $250 for a 750-gallon tank, or as high as $895 for a 1,250-gallon tank.

Septic Tank Repair Costs

The most common repair you will perform on your septic system is filter replacement. Expect to pay around $230 to install a quality filter for your septic tank. Additional repairs include fittings, pipes, risers, and lids which can likely be fixed for around $100 or less. Other times when your septic pump goes out, this repair will generally cost nearly $500 to replace.

Soil Fracturing Cost

In some cases where your septic professional is unable to pump your system, they may recommend cleaning the drain field lines, replacing the filter, and fracturing the soil. This process involves a 300-pound blast of air through a hollow tube in the ground, which costs around $1,500 to perform.

Septic Tank System Cost

Did the septic cleaning service determine you might need a new system? A traditional septic tank for a three-bedroom house will average around $3,250. For conventional systems, it might be possible to get a suitable system installed for under $5,000 in the Midwest, whereas in coastal areas, one could cost $10,000 or more. For an engineered system, the costs will average around $15,000.

Septic Tank Repair Cost by Type of Repair

The below-given table has the repair cost of the septic tank according to the type of repair:

Type of RepairAverage Costs
Outlet Baffle$150 – $600
Add Bacteria$350 – $650
Wall$500 – $4,000
Roots Removal$1,000 – $5,000
Leach Field Rejuvenation$1,000 – $5,000
Septic Field$1,000 – $5,000
Leak$1,000 – $10,000

How to Care for Your Septic System

Septic system maintenance is not complicated, and it does not need to be expensive. Upkeep comes down to four key elements:

  1. Inspect and Pump Frequently
  2. Use Water Efficiently
  3. Properly Dispose of Waste
  4. Maintain Your Drain field

1. Inspect and Pump Frequently

The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional.

Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be inspected more often, generally once a year. A service contract is important since alternative systems have mechanized parts.

Four major factors influence the frequency of septic pumping:

  • Household size
  • Total wastewater generated
  • The volume of solids in wastewater
  • Septic tank size

Service provider coming? Here is what you need to know.

When you call a septic service provider, he or she will inspect for leaks and examine the scum and sludge layers in your septic tank.

Keep maintenance records on work performed on your septic system.

Your septic tank includes a T-shaped outlet that prevents sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling to the drain field area. If the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet, or if the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet, your tank needs to be pumped.

To keep track of when to pump out your tank, write down the sludge and scum levels found by the septic professional.

The service provider should note repairs completed and the tank condition in your system’s service report. If other repairs are recommended, hire a repair person soon.

The National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) has a septic locator that makes it easy to find service professionals in your area.

2. Use Water Efficiently

The average indoor water use in a typical single-family home is nearly 70 gallons per individual, per day. Just a single leaky or running toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water per day.

All of the water a household sends down its pipes winds up in its septic system. The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system. Efficient water use improves the operation of a septic system and reduces the risk of failure.

Many simple ways to save water and water-efficient products.

  • High-efficiency toilets. Toilet use accounts for 25 to 30 percent of household water use. Many older homes have toilets with 3.5- to 5-gallon reservoirs, while newer, high-efficiency toilets use 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush. Replacing existing toilets with high-efficiency models is an easy way to reduce the amount of household water entering your septic system.
  • Faucet aerators and high-efficiency showerheads. Faucet aerators, high-efficiency showerheads, and shower flow restrictors help reduce water use and the volume of water entering your septic system.
  • Washing machines. Washing small loads of laundry on your washing machine’s large-load cycle wastes water and energy. By selecting the proper load size, you will reduce water waste. If you are unable to select load size, run only full loads of laundry.

3. Properly Dispose of Waste

Whether you flush it down the toilet, grind it in the garbage disposal, or pour it down the sink, shower, or bath, everything that goes down your drains ends up in your septic system. What goes down the drain affects how well your septic system works.

Toilets aren’t trash cans!

Your septic system is not a trash can. An easy rule of thumb: Do not flush anything besides human waste and toilet paper. Never flush:

  • Cooking grease or oil
  • Non-flushable wipes, such as baby wipes or other wet wipes
  • Photographic solutions
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Condoms
  • Dental floss
  • Diapers
  • Cigarette butts
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cat litter
  • Paper towels
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Household chemicals like gasoline, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, and paint or paint thinners

4. Maintain Your Drain field

Your drain field a component of your septic system that removes contaminants from the liquid that emerges from your septic tank is an important part of your septic system. Here are a few things you should do to maintain it:

  • Parking: Never Park or drive on your drain field.
  • Planting: Plant trees the appropriate distance from your drain field to keep roots from growing into your septic system. A septic service professional can advise you of the proper distance, depending on your septic tank and landscape.
  • Placing: Keep roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drain field area. Excess water slows down or stops the wastewater treatment process.