How Often Should I Maintain My Septic Tank?

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As a homeowner with a septic system, one of your more critical responsibilities is the regular maintenance of your septic tank. The maintenance mainly includes taking good care of what goes inside, making a tailored schedule for your system and pumping out the tank contents.

How Often Should I Pump Out My Septic Tank?

It would be best to empty your tank once every three to five years as a rule of thumb. This rule varies in individual cases, mainly because every tank has a different capacity. Also, every family varies in size, daily habits and wastewater generation. 

Everyday household activities such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes, taking a bath or using the toilet all contribute to the accumulation of liquids inside the septic system. If you live alone, you may not need to empty the tank regularly, but if you live with ten other people, you need to check the levels more frequently.

Pumping out your septic tank regularly should be one of the top priorities related to septic system maintenance and safety. Failing to pump out the accumulated content may cause risk for your system, house, drain field, living people in the area and the environment.

If your septic system fails because it hasn’t been pumped out on time, you risk dealing with sewage that backs up into the drains and back inside your house. In addition, you will notice foul odors and flooding of your drain field. 

Not only that, but a failed septic system can cause water source contamination, infecting animals and people who use it.

When Should a Septic Tank Be Emptied?

Try to empty your tank every 3 to 5 years, as we mentioned above. If you ever used professional septic system services, the company technicians probably advised you on the appropriate time frame for your case. You can also get a clue if it’s time to pump out the tank if you check the liquid levels. 

In the worst-case scenario, the septic system will show you signs that it had to be already emptied out. These signs include slow drainage, trouble flushing, gurgling pipes, pooling water, foul odors and an excessively healthy lawn.

In all cases, you need to know when your tank is full and what it exactly means. The tank content can be at a normal level or an excessive level. If the level is normal, the tank holds the amount of waste its capacity allows. 

Wastewater flow is uninterrupted and causes no issues. On the other hand, new wastewater will not flow in if the septic tank is overfilled. Instead, the drain field will flood, and sewage might come back into your house. In that case, you need to call a septic service provider immediately.

Keeping a track record of previous pump outs will help you estimate the emptying intervals your tank needs during usual everyday usage. This can save you a lot of trouble and money for repairs down the road. 

If you have recently moved into a house with a septic system, ask the owners to provide you with the necessary track records, schedules and maintenance records.

Why Does the Tank Need to Be Emptied?

The main reason you need to empty your septic tank is the accumulation of grease and sludge at the bottom of the compartments. 

To be more specific, when you own a septic system, all the wastewater from your house enters the septic tank through pipe installations. That includes water from all the sinks, bathrooms, washing machines, dishwashers and other similar places where you use water. 

You can imagine how everything entering the drain goes through the pipes and into the tank. That, unfortunately, is not always only water. Food particles, toilet paper, grease, hair and everything else go inside together with the wastewater.

Once the content reaches the tank, it starts being treated in the following way. Three distinct layers start forming – scum, effluent and sludge. All grease, fats and oils begin forming the thin top layer, called ‘scum.’ 

Their physical properties make them stay on the top. The layer under the scum is called ‘effluent’, containing mainly wastewater and waste particles. This liquid will be treated and purified when it passes the drain field and soaks into the soil. 

The bottom layer is the heaviest. It is called ‘sludge.’ ‘Sludge’ is a collective term for all the heaviest particles that have entered the tank.

The accumulation of sludge over time becomes problematic as its levels progressively rise. It limits the tank’s capacity, but the main problem comes when the sludge reaches the outlet pipes and blocks the way of effluent draining into the drain field.

Once sludge clogs the pipes, homeowners can notice :

  • slow drainage 
  • foul odors in their yards 
  • sewage back up inside the house 
  • drain field flooding and more

All of the above information is essential for homeowners to understand why regular septic tank maintenance is critical. The bottom layer of the tank, called sludge, needs to be pumped out regularly, so it doesn’t cause septic system malfunction.

Emptying the Tank

Emptying a septic tank is not an easy task. One should never do it alone, especially without professional knowledge, experience and equipment. Typically, homeowners use the services of a septic service company. 

If you do not have contact with such a provider, you can search for one in online databases. It is essential to note in which area your property is located.

If you are curious to learn more about the step-by-step process of pumping out a septic tank, feel free to read our other articles. We explain what is necessary to do before, during, and after the emptying process and what to expect from a service provider.In case you are located in the Woodinville area, feel free to contact FreshNCleanSeptic at +18883627782, or by using our Contact Form. We will send certified technicians with professional machinery and equipment to your property.