How to Keep Your Septic System Healthy: Alternatives to Expensive Septic Treatments

The septic system is one of the most important yet overlooked functional elements of a home, and septic treatments are necessary to maintain them. Through routine proper septic tank maintenance, a septic system can last approximately thirty years. Unfortunately, most people are uninformed about the procedures that need to be taken to ensure the health and longevity of their septic system. Subsequently, septic systems are often an afterthought until a major issue occurs and some sort of property damage due to neglect, improper use or maintenance.

Periodic professional service regimens are crucial. Like a vehicle, standard maintenance is recommended for efficiency and inspection of components. Repairs can be costly, and many times avoided if the problem is detected earlier rather than later. If problems get to the point where an entire septic system must be replaced, the cost can be ten times the cost for just routine septic maintenance such as septic pumping.

Most septic systems consist of two main parts, the tank and the drain field. Wastewater from the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room are drained into the tank. When wastewater enters the septic tank, the solid elements of waste sink to the bottom forming the sludge layer. Meanwhile, elements of grease and lighter solids float to the top forming the scum layer. Each inbound supply of wastewater takes nearly a day for the layers to separate.

Between the layers of scum and sludge, water pushes through and out into the drain field. The scum and sludge are eaten up by bacteria over time, and this prevents the top and bottom layer from growing too large too fast. However, sometimes the bacteria cannot keep up with the inbound volumes of wastewater into the tank. When this happens, impurities can get pushed out into the drain field. In any case, a septic tank must be pumped every three to five years to prevent the scum and sludge layers from rising too high.

Bacteria is naturally present in all septic tanks. It comes from the organic waste that is flushed into the tank. Many household cleaners, such as bleach, and antibacterial soaps can reduce the number of bacteria in a septic tank; potentially destroying the entire bacteria population can be wiped out and a septic tank system backup can occur. Any buildup of solids that are not broken down by bacteria or removed could potentially block your drain field and backup into your house. These are the reasons you need to add “good” bacteria to a septic tank. Most commercial chemical additives are actually more harmful than beneficial and natural substitutes are preferred by experts in the septic industry.

There are many recommendations for alternatives to expensive septic treatments. These techniques help keep a septic system healthy in between septic pumping and prevent common mistakes that can have a very expensive outcome.

Don’t flush items down the toilet (even if they are labeled “flushable”)

To prevent breaking your system, avoid flushing anything down the toilet that isn’t toilet paper. While toilet paper is designed to break down and dissolve inside of septic tanks, other items are not. Even items described as “flushable” should not be flushed down your toilet. According to the EPA, items to avoid flushing down the toilet include cooking grease or oil, flushable wipes, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, diapers, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, paper towels and cat litter – among many other non-flushable items.

Don’t pour chemicals down the drain

Whether you’re at the kitchen sink or the bathroom shower, avoid pouring chemical drain openers, oil, grease and toxic liquids down the drain. This will prevent damage to your septic system.

Don’t waste water

Conserving water is the easiest way to maintain an efficient septic system. Several easy ways to avoid wasting water include investing in Energy Star appliances, fixing leaking faucets and repairing running toilets.

Save inspection reports & maintenance records

Homeowners should save any and all maintenance records and inspection reports when having their septic system serviced. Inspections should include detailed reports on potential or existing leaks, as well as scum levels and possible damage. If damage is reported, then you should hire an experienced repairman to fix it as soon as possible.

Do perform regular maintenance

To keep your septic system running efficiently, we recommend having a service professional inspect your septic system every year. According to the EPA, household septic systems are pumped every three to five years. Professionals should be able to tell you how often your septic system needs to be pumped. Pumping a septic system when needed will prevent it from breaking down.

Use a natural bacteria additive

Septic owners should use a live organic bacteria that breaks down the presence of unnatural substances and solids, like detergents and soaps, that sometimes enter your septic system. If these common household substances penetrate your septic system, they kill off the naturally occurring bacteria that allow your system to function properly.

Recommended alternative septic treatments include:


Rotten (over-ripe) Tomatoes

Baking soda