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Tips for a Healthy Septic System


Day-to-Day Guidelines for a Healthy Septic System

Septic systems are a reliable and cost-effective way to handle household waste and waste water in areas not served by a municipal sewer system. One of the differences between owning an unsewered versus a sewered home is that unsewered wastewater treatment and disposal systems need to be maintained by the homeowner.

These suggestions will save you time and money over the life of most conventional systems.

With proper use, conventional onsite systems can operate for years without much management. On a day-to-day basis, you won’t have to think about it.   But following a few simple guidelines will help keep your system in shape.

Maintenance begins with sound water use and waste disposal habits. Since your family will determine which materials enter the system, we encourage you to set rules and stick to them.

Here is a partial list of the items to keep OUT. Do not introduce any of the following to your system:
  • Grease or cooking oils
  • Disposable diapers
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Any latex products
  • Paper towels
  • Plastics
  • Cat litter
  • Latex paint, pesticides, or any hazardous chemicals
  • Garbage grinders are not recommended
Do not put too much water into the septic system. Excess water puts too much strain on the decomposition process and can cause problem. Target maximum water use is about 50 gallons per day for each person in the family. Estimate using the following numbers per person so you can keep track:
  • Shower: 2.5 gallons per minute – 10 minute shower = 25 gallons
  • Toilet: 2 gallons per flush (for toilets bought in the last 20 years)
  • Washing machine: 40 gallons per load
  • Dishwasher cycle: 10 gallons
With large families, keeping track of water use can be hard. But laying down guidelines can help everyone do their part. Also consider getting energy and waterwise appliances when purchasing new ones.  Visit www.energystar.gov/ for suggestions.

Do not use harsh drain openers for a stopped up drain. The best alternative to conventional drain openers is to use boiling water or a drain snake to clear clogs.  Though it may be a little messier to do it that way, the chemicals in drain cleaners can cause havoc with your septic system.

Use the mild or natural cleaners for your bathroom and kitchen that are either okayed for use in septic systems or ones that are marked biodegradable. 

Be aware that bleaches and antibacterial soaps can inhibit the enzymatic action necessary to help bacteria break down the solids in the tank.

Again, harsh chemicals can cause expensive and unpleasant problems in your system. 

If you use or intended to use a water softener in the home, let your installer or maintenance contractor know. In certain soil conditions, the salt recharge solution must be handled carefully and the size of your absorption field may need to be increased.

Have the solids pumped out of the septic tank on a regular basis. Your installer, a recommended and licensed septic pumping contractor or your local health department can give you guidelines.

Remember, more sophisticated systems may require additional maintenance, so always ask your installer for details before they start digging so you can be fully informed.