Top 5 Fundamentals on How Your Septic Tank Works

septic tank word cloud
Top 5 Fundamentals on How Your Septic Tank Works

Knowing how your septic tank works can save you lots of money and stress. The basic process is simple. Regular septic system maintenance keeps effluent flowing. Knowing what not to send down the pipes helps keep the system unclogged. 

So How does Your Septic Tank Work?

How Your Septic Tank Works

  1. Water runs out of your house to the septic tank
  2. A watertight, buried septic tank allows solids to settle while oils and grease float to the top
  3. Settled solids form a bottom layer of sludge.
  4. Compartments in the tank keep sludge in the tank.
  5. The liquid wastewater (effluent) exits the tank. It flows into the leach field. There naturally found ground-based aerobic bacteria decomposes the waste. Finally, clean water seeps down into the ground.


How to Care for Your Septic System

System maintenance prolongs the life of your septic tank and the entire system. There are some basic maintenance steps that you can take. Do monthly system treatments. Get your system checked regularly.


Septic Care: Help the Aerobic Process

Every month use a septic treatment product like Rid-X. It is easy to use. Check the septic system treatment product directions. Pour the proper amount into the toilet and flush. You flushed billions of active bacteria into your septic tank. This helps break down household waste. It slows down the sludge build up in the tank which limits how often the tank gets pumped.


Septic Care: Septic Systems Are Not Trash Disposals

Plumbing, in general, isn’t a substitute for a trash can. Don’t flush or rinse into pipes what should go in the garbage. The following items will clog up your pipes, backup your toilets, and gum up your septic tank. Other items such as toxic chemicals will kill the enzymes needed to keep your system working. Make sure to dispose of them properly. Use the garbage, hazardous waste drop-offs, recycling centers or compost areas.

  • Any type of grease or oil including those used for cooking
  • Non-flushable wipes
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Dental floss
  • Diapers
  • Cigarette butts
  • Food refuse such as coffee grounds and eggshells
  • Kitty litter
  • Non-flushable paper such as paper towels
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Chemicals such as gasoline, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, paint or paint thinners


Septic Care: Use Water Efficiently

Don’t drown your system with excess water. Remember Item 5 in how your septic system works? Water needs time to drain out of the tank and into the ground. What can you do to give your system more time to drain?

  • Install high-efficiency toilets. Did you know that toilets account for up to 25% to 30% of household water usage?
  • Use washing machines efficiently. Smaller loads should be set for a smaller wash cycle which uses less water. Spread washing machine use over the week instead of all at once. This puts less water at a time into the septic tank.
  • Get water efficient shower heads. A typical American shower uses around 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm). Newer water efficient shower heads can reduce that down to 2 gpm.
  • When it rains, it pours. The septic system gets flooded from excess rain. It needs extra time to drain. Reduce the amount of water you add to the system. Take shorter showers. Don’t run water full blast during dishwashing. Instead, turn it on and off as needed.


Septic Care: Get Regular Checkups

The EPA recommends having an average septic system checked every three years. Have it pumped every three to five years. Waste build up eventually prevents systems from working correctly. The septic tank needs to be cleaned out.

  • Per the EPA, when the top of the layer of scum is within 12 inches of the outflow pipe, the tank needs to be pumped.
  • Keep a Record. Record inspection dates. Note down performed repairs. Note the septic system condition at the time of the checkup. This will help with future check-ups as well as when to schedule your next check-up.


Septic Care: Be a Good Gardener

The grass is always greener over the septic field because that is all that should be over the septic field.

  • Keep shrubs and trees away from the septic tank. Nearby shrubs and trees will seek the easiest source of water. Over time, their roots break through pipes and clog up systems. Do not plant shrubs and trees around the septic tank and the pipe feeding it.
  • Keep leach fields clear. Fields need to breath and pipes in the fields cannot support any extra weight. Make sure plants and shrubs are far enough away from the leach fields. Don’t build on top of the fields and don’t drive across the fields. An open, grassy area is all the doctor ordered.


Know How a Septic Tank Works and Keep it Flowing

You can take better care of your septic system now that you understand how your septic tank works.

  1. Treat it monthly with a septic treatment additive.
  2. Get inspections every few years by a septic company.
  3. Don’t use it as a garbage can.
  4. Reduce water usage.
  5. Keep the septic field clear.

Still having issues with the inside plumbing? Cowboys Plumbing would be happy to help. Feel free to send us an email or give us a call, 405-915-9990.

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