Septic Maintenance

Proper septic system care and maintenance can help homeowners avoid system back-ups and other issues that can lead to costly repairs and failures.

Did you know that more than one in five households in the United States depend on a septic system to treat their wastewater? Follow these septic system maintenance guidelines and recommendations to reduce the risk of septic system issues and keep your system operating effectively. We can assist you with septic system repairs if you have problems. We can also install septic risers to make It easier to pump your system regularly, which is the number one priority.

9 Steps to Care for Your System


1. Regularly Pump Your Septic Tank

Did you know that pumping your septic tank is part of routine maintenance? During the pumping process, the tank is emptied of the sludge and scum that has accumulated over time. When a tank is not emptied routinely, the sludge can build up, resulting in back-ups, blockages, and in some cases, septic system failure.

In general, your septic tank should be pumped every 3-5 years, although this varies based on the tank size, size of your family, and the gallons of water and wastewater that you use. Excessive use will lead to having the tank pumped more often. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, tanks with pumps or mechanical components and electrical float switches should have more frequent maintenance to remove sludge. Keep in mind that regardless of the last time your system was pumped, if you hear gurgling water, notice your drains are taking a long time, see large volumes of standing water around your tank, have a sewer backup, or smell foul odors in your yard, you may have a full tank.

2. Make Sure Septic Tank Lids Seal

Septic tank lids should always be kept closed and secure. Dislodged or broken covers can become a safety hazard. Unsealed septic tank lids can also allow surface water and dirt to get inside the tank, which can create a problem and reduce the life of your system. If you notice a tank lid that isn’t adequately secured or appears cracked or damaged, contact the professionals at Center Septic who can inspect your septic system and, if necessary, make the required septic tank system repairs.

3. Properly Dispose of Waste

Properly disposing of waste is a huge step that you can take to keep your septic system in working order. Below are a few household items that can affect your septic system, some of which may surprise you!
Toilet paper
All toilet paper will eventually break down in your septic tank, but choosing a biodegradable option can speed that process up!
Feminine hygiene products
Feminine products should never go down the toilet because they can quickly clog your septic system and speed up the need for septic tank pumping. Instead, dispose of all feminine items in a trash can.
Paper towels & flushable or non-flushable wipes
Paper towels, baby wipes, and flushable wipes do not break down quickly and should not be sent down the septic system.
Coffee grounds
Coffee grounds can upset the pH balance in your septic tank, due to their high acidity. Instead of sending the grounds down the drain or garbage disposal, put them in the trash or use them outside as fertilizer!
Cooking oil and cooking grease
Both cooking oil and cooking grease can cause clogs in your septic system, so never send either of these substances down garbage disposals or your kitchen sink. Instead, pour grease into a container or empty food can. The grease will harden and can then be thrown out with the regular trash.
Dental floss
Dental floss may be a surprise, but its strength and size can combine to cause big problems in your septic system. Not only can it bind larger items together, but it can also get caught up around motors, pipes, and more.
Household chemicals
While household chemicals like bleach, antibacterial soaps, and drain cleaners might seem like ok items to go down your drain, all of these chemicals can kill good bacteria that septic systems need to function correctly. Do your best to limit the number of chemicals you send down the drain. If faced with a small clog, use a drain snake, hot water, or vinegar to try to clear the pipe rather than chemical drain openers or chemical additives.

4. Avoid putting anything down a drain or toilet that could damage your system

You might be surprised what people have put down a drain or flushed down the toilet, much of which results in the need for more frequent pumping of the septic tank, or worse. We covered the basic tips under the disposing of waste section, such as never flushing feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, and more. You also should not put condoms, cat litter, cigarette butts, pharmaceuticals or household chemicals like gasoline, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, and paint or paint thinners down the toilet or drain. And, if you have young children, you may want to protect the toilet from unexpected items such as toys that can damage your pipes and clog a toilet. If you accidentally drop something in the toilet, don’t flush it right away, as this will send the item into the septic system and possibly make retrieval impossible.

5. Use Water Efficiently

The average household septic system can handle the typical amount of water used by a family. Increased or excessive water usage can mean that the sludge, liquid waste, and scum layer don’t have time to separate as they should. Washing machines, long showers, and all sorts of daily activities can waste gallons of water that go right into your septic system. Efficient water use helps save water and decreases the need for more frequent septic system maintenance. Leaking toilets or dripping sinks and showers should always be addressed immediately. If leaks are left for long periods, they can have damaging effects on a septic system and leach field. Be mindful of all the wastewater that might be going down your drain and look for ways to conserve water, such as using high-efficiency toilets, a high-efficiency washing machine, and adjusting daily habits to avoid excess use.

6. Maintain Your Leach Field

Your leach field is an integral part of your septic system and should be adequately maintained. For septic tanks to work effectively, the leach field area shouldn’t become saturated, which means you don’t want to overwater the site or have any sump pumps, roof drains, or rainwater drainage systems that might spill onto the area. Additionally, never plant trees nearby. Tree root systems can make their way into drainpipes, causing major problems. The last way to maintain your leach field is to have your tank pumped regularly so overflows and backups don’t affect the health of your overall septic tank system.

7. Don’t Park Vehicles on Your System

Heavy vehicles such as cars and trucks can cause damage to your leach field and septic tank, so avoid driving or parking over these areas. You may also find that your vehicle will get stuck in these areas more quickly due to the moisture from the naturally filtered water that the septic tank regularly expels.

8. Keep Accurate Maintenance Records

When you inspect and pump your septic system, keep accurate maintenance records, which can help you keep track of your septic system age, condition, and needs.

9. Have a Professional Inspect and Pump the Tank

Though we already mentioned this as the first tip, it bears repeating: having your septic system inspected and septic tank pumped regularly by a professional (consider Center Septic if you're in North County San Diego) is the most important advice we can offer. A septic tank failure can be costly and frustrating so follow the steps we’ve outlined to extend the useful life of your tank.

For more, see: US Environmental Protection Agency Septic Guidelines and Maintenance