- Proper Design and Installation
- Garbage Disposals
- Laundry & Dishwasher
- Household Chemicals, Toxics, and Grease
- Hot Tubs and Pools
- Enzyme Treatments for Septic System Maintenance
Symptoms of Failing Septic System or Drainfield
A failing drainfield no longer has the capacity to handle the volume of water which it receives. Timely and proper maintenance should prevent problems from ever occurring. Call a professional if you notice any of the following:
- Wastewater backing up into household drains
- Bright green, spongy grass on the drainfield, even during dry weather
- Pooling water or muddy soil around your septic system or in your basement
- Gurgling sounds from running water or flushing toilets
- An unpleasant odor around the septic tank and drainfield
Inspect and Pump Frequently
The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components need to be inspected more often, generally once a year. A service contract is important since alternative systems have mechanized parts.
Four major factors influence the frequency of septic pumping:
- Household size
- Total wastewater generated
- Volume of solids in wastewater
- Septic tank size
Common Practices for a Healthy Septic System
Proper care and maintenance of your septic system is critical to ensuring your system functions properly. In addition to proper care, there are common practices that will help guard against a system failure.
Proper Design and Installation
The proper design and installation of a septic system is essential for it to correctly function. A home’s groundwater table, soil composition, and a properly leveled drainfield are just a few factors to ensure a well-functioning septic system.
It is not recommended to use a garbage disposal with a septic system. While convenient, the use of garbage disposals significantly increases the accumulation of sludge and scum in septic tanks and can result in the need for more frequent pumping. Take care when using your garbage disposal.
Laundry & Dishwasher
Avoid bleach, antibacterial products and non-biodegradable soaps. Look for septic safe products, which are healthier for you. Using too much soap or detergent can plug the soil pores in the drainfield and cause the system to fail. The best solution is to use a liquid laundry and automatic dish detergents which seldom have clogging fillers that may harm a septic system. Avoid dishwasher products with sodium hypochlorite (bleach) in favor of those with surfactants or baking soda that are septic safe.
Household Chemicals and Toxics
Never put oil-based paints, solvents, motor oils, gasoline, and large volumes of toxic cleaners down the drain or toilet. Remember that your septic system contains a living collection of organisms that digest and treat waste.
Efficient Plumbing and Appliances
Some appliances, water softeners, and toilets unnecessarily pump water into septic systems. Outdated and inefficient systems can send hundreds of gallons of water to septic tanks, causing agitation of solids and excess flow to drainfields. This can be prevented through proactive maintenance such as fixing leaks (especially leaky old toilets) and updating/replacing old appliances or water treatment systems with newer water efficient models.
Hot Tubs and Pools
Hot tubs may be a great way to relax, but when it comes to emptying them, your septic system should be avoided. Emptying a hot tub into your septic system stirs the solids in the tank, pushing them into the drainfield, causing it to clog and fail. Drain cooled hot tub water onto turf or landscaped areas far away from your septic tank and drainfield, and in accordance with local regulations. Use the same caution when draining swimming pools.
Enzyme Treatments for Septic System Maintenance
A little may be good but a lot is NOT better. Talk to a professional before using an enzyme treatment for system maintenance. The use of harsh chemicals and detergents can cause the bacteria to become depleted. By introducing an enzyme treatment into your drain at regular intervals, you can promote the growth of needed bacteria. However, not all systems will benefit with the introduction of an enzyme treatment and the over use can cause real problems. Please note this method will not eliminate the need for pumping.
Going Green…Good for the Environment…Good for Septic Systems
Commercial cleaning products sometimes contain toxic chemicals, or irritants that can be unhealthy if there is contact with eyes, skin, or is inhaled. They can also be hard on your septic system by killing the good bacteria that are essential to the proper functioning of your septic tank by breaking down waste solids.
Put these tips to use for a clean and trouble-free septic system. The cleaning methods listed here are effective, safe, and inexpensive. The added bonus is that they are easy on your septic system.
Toilet bowl cleaner:
- Baking soda
- Liquid castile soap
Sprinkle baking soda inside the bowl. Add a couple of drops of soap. Scrub with a toilet brush and finish the outside with a sponge or damp cloth.
- ½ cup baking soda
- ½ cup white vinegar
- Teakettle of boiling water
Pour baking soda down the drain first, add vinegar. Let it fizz for a few minutes then pour in the boiling water. Repeat if necessary.back to top.
Keeping records will help you better protect and maintain a healthy system. These records will be a valuable resource should you decide to sell your property by showing prospective buyers that your system has been properly maintained.
- Site drawing: It’s important to know where your system is. This is critical information in the event you plan to doing any construction or landscaping. If you don’t have the drawings contact Island County Public Health.
- Description: Include information about tank size, tank capacity, installer, and date of installation
- Maintenance and inspection logs.
- Any permits and/or receipts