A septic tank can be quite intimidating for anybody who’s moved out of an area with a municipal sewer. There are always lots of myths that we hear about the do’s and don’ts of septic tanks, so I’ll try to clear them up today by answering a few frequently asked questions.
How do septic tanks work?
The basic function of a septic tank is to separate liquids and solids. When you flush the toilet, run the sink, put something down a kitchen drain, or run the garbage disposal, both solids and liquids will go down at the same time. When this mixture reaches the septic tank, the solids and liquids will begin to separate from each other. The solids will either float to the top or sink to the bottom and the liquids will remain at the center of the tank. From there, hopefully only the liquids will reach the leach field by traveling through the exit pipe, which drains the center of the septic tank.
The remaining solids will gradually decompose with the help of bacteria, which is very crucial for the septic tank to work properly. Unfortunately, many of our household cleaners, hand soaps, body washes, etc., are antibacterial. When we put those substances down the drain, they kill the beneficial bacteria and prevent the septic tank from doing its job effectively. For that reason, we need to add some sort of supplemental bacteria source. (We have a product called BioOne that does just that. Contact us if you’re concerned about maintaining the bacteria in your septic tank.)
Should I stay away from using a garbage disposal if I have a septic tank?
People commonly think that you can’t have a garbage disposal if your house has a septic tank. However, a garbage disposal in and of itself is not bad for septic systems. It’s only when you start to abuse the garbage disposal that you’ll run into problems. Garbage disposals are not intended to assist with cleaning out your refrigerator or to be used as a trash can. They are really intended for disposing of small amounts of debris from plates as you rinse them. If you use the garbage disposal properly, it really won’t be detrimental to your septic system.
How often should I pump out the tank?
This answer might not be very specific, but the tank should not need to be pumped out every five years. Some septic tanks have not been pumped for 30 years, and if they have a good bacterial base, they will continue to work for many, many years to come.
I’m moving into a home with a septic tank. What should I do about maintenance?
If you don’t know anything about the home’s septic tank, first find out where it is located. This is a good opportunity to have it dug up, inspected, and pumped at the same time. That way you’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with. (If you were to become aware of any issues during this first inspection, they should be taken care of right away. That way you won’t end up with a backup in your home.) From there, you can perform regular maintenance with products like BioOne. You should be able to go 15 or 20 years without doing anything else to the septic system.
If you have any specific questions about your home’s septic system, reach out to the team at Wisler Plumbing today. or give us a call at 540-483-9382.