How To Protect And Maintain Your Septic Tank

If you live in a home with a private septic system, you probably already know that caring for the system is your responsibility. If you are like most people, you might think that means having the septic tank pumped out every few years. But there is more to caring for and maintaining the health of your septic system than making a phone call to schedule a pump. There are a number of things you can do to keep your septic system in tip-top shape and reduce the frequency of pumping out the tank.

Protect the Tank

It's easy to forget the location of your underground septic tank or to assume it is well protected under the soil. The truth is, putting heavy objects over the tank can damage it, as well as make it nearly impossible to service the tank should it ever need to be replaced. In fact, parking your car or RV over the septic tank may even be a code violation in your area. Mark the septic tank install area and make a note to stay away from the site when erecting outbuildings or backyard decor.

Go Easy on Water

Your septic tank handles both solid and liquid waste. The solids sink to the bottom while the scum rises to the top. An outlet pipe near the top carries water away from your septic tank and into the drain field, but your septic tank cannot handle an unlimited supply of water. To keep it operating smoothly, and prevent backups in the house, limit the amount of water you drain into the septic tank. Follow these tips for reducing the amount of water in the septic tank:

  • Avoid running small loads of laundry set on the normal cycle. This wastes water and fills your septic tank quickly.
  • Install low-flow toilets and showers. This reduces the amount of water that is sent down the drain without compromising how well the shower or toilet functions.
  • Turn off faucets when not in use. This includes turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth or performing other personal hygiene tasks that require periodic water use.
  • Fix leaky faucets. A steady drip from a faucet or two can account for a lot of wasted water. According to the EPA, the average American household loses 10,000 gallons of water a year due to leaks, with 10 percent of households losing more than 90 gallons of water per day.

Watch What Goes Down the Drain

Unfortunately, water and toilet wastes aren't the only things that can find their way into your septic system. Anything that goes down your drain will eventually end up in your tank. It is important to avoid flushing or washing foreign objects down the drain. Watch out for these common culprits that can clog your tank and make it necessary to pump it more frequently than normal.

  • Grease, fats, and oils. This includes everything from cooking grease to the fatty deposits left over from sauces and cooking pans. 
  • Personal hygiene products. This ranges from sanitary napkins and baby wipes to condoms, cotton swabs, and dental floss. Even though they my seem small and harmless, they can build up in your tank over time. Toss them in the trash instead.
  • Cat litter. It may be tempting to scoop out the litter box and toss the solids into the toilet for easy disposal, but this can spell disaster. Cat litter is designed to form clogs when in contact with water and will make a mess in your septic tank.

Taking a few precautions to keep your septic tank in good shape will reward you with fewer issues and less frequent pumping, too.