How Do You Unclog a Drain if You Have a Septic System?

Septic tank systems are mainly used for properties that don’t have access to a public sewer system. Their main role is to realize the primary treatment of large amounts of household water coming from a property. For this reason, septic tank systems are vulnerable to different types of issues, one of which are clogged pipelines.

When properly maintained and cleaned septic system drains will function efficiently and can last a long time. But sometimes in our attempt as homeowners to fix some issue inside our septic tank system, the problem may get worse. 

The goal here is to do it in the most effective and safe way possible. So, in this article, we will share with you some helpful advice about how to effectively and safely deal with the clogged drains of your septic system.

What are the signs that your septic system drains need unclogging?

How Do You Unclog a Drain if You Have a Septic System?

Different things can happen when a septic tank system doesn’t function properly. Some of the clear signs that there is some issue with your septic system is when you notice water pools in your backyard or slow draining kitchen sinks, siphons and toilets, etc.

Although it’s always recommended to trust your septic tank maintenance and cleaning to the hands of a professional sewer technician, there are some septic drain pipe clogs that aren’t considered serious and don’t require much professional experience or the use of special sewer cleaning equipment.

Everyone can handle some of the mild septic drain pipe issues as long as they are applying safe and proven septic drain cleaning techniques, some of which we are going to show you in this article.

How Do You Unclog a Drain if You Have a Septic System?

How Do You Unclog a Drain if You Have a Septic System?

Basic Steps

The first thing to do is check if there are some visible clogs inside your septic tank. You can remove them from the drain if they aren’t situated too deep into the drain. Before starting the first step make sure to put on protective gloves to avoid getting your hands into contact with sewer waste. 

Step 1: Accessing the septic tank 

Find the concrete or plastic inlet lid of your septic tank. If it’s underground you will need a shovel and a pry bar to access it. Lift the septic tank lid carefully and check whether something is blocking the end of the pipe that is more closely located to your property. 

Depending on the water level you can get an idea of where the clog exactly is. If the water level is above the inlet pipe and nothing blocks the end of the pipe, then some of the pipes that connect to the leach field are probably clogged. 

If the water level is below the inlet pipe, then the location of the clog is inside the drain pipe that connects your property and the septic tank.

Step 2:Removing the clogged solid waste from the pipe

If there is a layer of scum stuck on the end of the inlet pipe, you can use a pole or a stick made from wood or metal to move it to the side of the pipe or push it down the pipe.

If the scum is located deep inside the septic tank pipe, put one end of the pole/stick as far as possible into the end of the pipe to break apart the scum. Try scraping the walls of the pipe to move around the accumulated solid waste in the septic tank.

One sign that you have managed to remove the clogged scum from the pipe is when water starts to flow out of the inlet pipe. If water doesn’t start flowing out of the  pipe, then this means the clogged debris are located at a deeper level. 

Sometimes the pipe’s location may not allow you to successfully access the clogged scum inside the pipe with the pole and break it apart.  

How Do You Unclog a Drain if You Have a Septic System?

In the case of a deep scum layer inside the drain pipe, then you will need to use a mechanical auger or a drain snake to bore into the clogged sewer debris. This will help you remove the sewer drain clogs more easily.

You should know that even after cleaning the clogged solid waste by yourself from your septic tank, sewer backup can still happen if your septic tank is filled to the inlet pipe.

In such a case, a recommended safe option for you will be to contact a professional sewer tank cleaning company within 5 days. If you don’t get professional help from a septic tank contractor soon, the scum will reach the drain pipes and you risk having a sewer backup.

It’s recommended to have your septic tank cleaned every 3-5 years to avoid sewer backups and ensure the optimal function of your entire septic tank system,

Step 3: Return the septic tank lid back to its place

When you are lowering it over the hole make sure that it fully covers the septic tank hole and then set it securely into place. Never leave a septic tank without its lid on as something can fall inside the tank.

Step 4: Cleaning the tools you have used for cleaning the septic drain pipe

It’s recommended to clean all of the tools you have used when cleaning your septic tank drain pipes. Inside a large bucket prepare a mixture of 5 parts pure water and 1 part chlorine bleach. 

Stir the solution, dip your sewer cleaning tools in it and leave them in the solution for around 5 min. so that the bacteria on their surface are removed. After that pour the solution into the septic tank.

How Do You Unclog a Drain if You Have a Septic System?

Other tips for unclogging septic drain pipes

Here are some of the natural drain cleaners that can help you remove septic drain clogs.

Pour Hot Water Down the Drain

This is one of the simplest solutions that you can use to get your septic system drains unclogged. If the clogs inside your drain pipes aren’t big and they are caused by soap grease or hair clogs, you can remove them by boiling water. Simply pour boiling water down the drain you want to clean slowly.

You need to be careful when applying this method for the drain of a porcelain bathroom sink as the boiling water can lead to cracks in the porcelain and also severely damage the joints of PVC pipes. So you need to try pouring the boiling water directly down the drain. Avoid this method if you have PVC pipes.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

The combination of vinegar and baking soda is one of the most commonly used for different household cleaning tasks. As a  result of the chemical reaction between these two ingredients, carbon dioxide gas is released.

The vinegar and baking soda solution can help you get rid of most types of clogs inside septic tank drains. It’s both septic-safe and effective. You need to pour half a cup of white vinegar down the drain you want to clean followed by  1 cup of baking soda. 

Wait half an hour and then flush the drain with boiling/hot water. 

Septic-Safe Drain Cleaners

How Do You Unclog a Drain if You Have a Septic System?

If you have read septic system maintenance guides before you probably already know that we should be careful about what we flush down our septic tank system. That is why choosing a septic-safe drain cleaner for your septic system is important as standard drain cleaners you will find on the market have strong formulas. 

One of the harmful ingredients in these formulas is sodium hydroxide which can destroy the naturally occurring healthy bacteria inside the septic tank. And this isn’t a good thing as we know well that these bacteria are responsible for breaking down solid waste.

For the safe unclogging of your drains, it’s recommended to avoid chemical drain cleaners. Choose instead such drain cleaners that are both safe and effective and can maintain the bacterial balance inside any septic tank. 

After you finish removing the clogs from the drains of your septic tank system, make sure to clean it properly afterward.