Septic tank treatments have been increasingly popular throughout the past years. Most websites you can find while browsing the web claim that applying a monthly septic tank treatment is essential for preserving the health of your septic system. But is that really true?
As a professional septic service provider and a recognized leader in the industry, today we will share our controversial view on septic treatments and talk about if there are such products that can be considered “the best.”
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How does a septic tank system work?
If you are a homeowner with a septic system, you are probably already familiar with its various components. However, to discuss the influence of septic tank treatments, you must understand how the septic tank, in particular, works.
All waste from your household (both solid and liquid) goes into your tank. Waste inside the tank separates into three distinctive layers due to natural processes.
Grease and fats stay above the liquids, forming the top layer, called scum. In the middle is all the wastewater (or liquid), commonly known as effluent, which will reach the drain field and eventually the groundwater. The solids stay at the bottom due to their weight and form the third layer, called sludge.
As you continue flushing organic waste, natural bacteria begin to form inside the septic tank. These bacteria benefit your system by producing different types of septic tank enzymes (groups of proteins and amino acids).
Bacteria and enzymes are crucial to your septic tank. As long as they live in an environment with balanced pH levels, they help break down various organic compounds and degrade solids into liquids or gas.
Here are the main septic-specific enzymes:
What is a septic tank treatment?
In essence, septic tank treatments are additives people use for their septic tanks for different reasons.
One of the most common reasons is accelerating the degradation of accumulated sludge to avoid or save on septic tank pumping. However, given that some solids cannot be broken down by bacteria (e.g., sand, plastic), the treatments you’re flushing into your tank contain toxic chemicals.
Other common reasons include odor elimination in foul-smelling septic systems, unclogging clogged drains and pipes, dissolving grease inside pipes and tanks and many more.
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Do septic tank treatments work, and what types are there?
The market is highly saturated with all kinds of septic treatment products, and one can easily get lost in all the available information. We will try to make it easier for you.
There are three main types of septic treatments:
- Inorganic compounds
- Organic solvents
- Biological additives
Inorganic compounds are most commonly used for clogged drain problems as a substitute for drain cleaners. However, these products rely on acid and alkalis groups of chemicals that destroy organic life once they reach the septic chamber.
Once all the beneficial bacteria are dead, there’s nothing left to aid septic waste degradation. Thus, raw sewage is free to reach your drain field, cause foul odors, clog your piping system and sometimes continue even further, intoxicating the groundwater.
In case your septic tank is concrete, be aware that some inorganic compounds are known to cause corrosion and potential leakage. In addition, they can compromise your drain field and surrounding soil.
Organic solvents are mainly chlorinated hydrocarbons used for breaking down grease and oils. However, their degreasing properties not only break down scum but also eliminate beneficial bacteria inside the septic tank.
It’s essential to note that organic solvents themselves do not break down and exit the septic tank together with the effluent, enter your drain field and continue into the groundwater. Using such treatments directly increases the risk of biological hazards as they’re highly damaging and can contaminate water sources.
Biological additives combine septic tank treatment enzymes and bacteria to aid existing ones inside the tank or add new life where the previous one has disappeared due to harsh chemicals, for example.
However, it is yet to be determined if biological additives are beneficial or detrimental to your systems, as the evidence is contradictory. While some researchers believe it is a good option for new or damaged systems, others say some products can cause adverse effects.
Such negative effects include overstimulation of natural processes, which cause methane gas to bubble up and elevate solid waste into the otherwise clear effluent. These treatments also break down scum, causing fats to mix with greywater and exit the tank. All of these can cause clogging of the drain fields and surrounding soil.
So, what’s the best septic tank treatment?
Given all that information, we can conclude that there is no best septic tank treatment. In fact, you should avoid using such products at all costs, especially inorganic compounds and organic solvents.
A mildly safer option is using biological additives to aid bacteria growth in case of a damaged septic ecosystem.
Why does Fresh and Clean Septic not recommend using septic tank treatments?
We at Fresh and Clean Septic understand the natural processes occurring in a septic tank and believe that they don’t need to be overpowered. As the septic system is primarily self-sustaining, there’s very little you need to do to ensure its proper functioning and longevity.
You mainly need to do three things:
- Educate yourself about the do’s and don’ts for septic systems.
- Use your septic system correctly.
- Schedule regular preventive septic tank maintenance.
If you do these three things, it’s almost impossible for your septic system to malfunction (unless a specific component has failed), so there will be no need to purchase and use septic tank treatment products.
As evidence proves that most septic tank treatments cause more harm than good to your septic system and the surrounding environment, Fresh and Clean Septic does not recommend using any septic additives. Instead, our advice is to follow best practices for septic maintenance.
Doing so will, in turn, help you reduce potential risks:
- Clogging of septic pipes and drainage system
- Unpleasant odors
- Accumulation of sludge
- Contamination of the groundwater system and the local groundwater
- Harming septic tank bacteria population and bacterial ecosystem
- Disturbing enzyme balance and pH levels
- Septic damage and failure
- Expensive septic system services and more
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Top advice to prevent the need for septic treatments
As opposed to the common belief that applying monthly treatments for your septic tank is vital for preserving its health, we believe that prevention is key. That means flushing only clean water, human waste and biodegradable toilet paper into your septic system.
Here is some of the best advice for septic system maintenance:
- Schedule regular inspections, pumping and cleaning with a professional septic service provider to preserve your system’s health and prolong its life.
- Consciously dispose of non-organic waste to prevent sludge accumulation, clogging drains and pipes, and foul odors.
- Avoid letting grease or fats enter the drains and your tank to prevent foul odors, accumulation of scum and the need to use degreasers.
- Conserve water and avert rainwater runoff from your drain field to prevent septic system failure.
- Do not let food leftovers and other organic matter (except for human waste) enter the tank to prevent excessive sludge build-up.
- Never dispose of paint, solvents and acids inside your system to prevent corrosion, leakage and other septic damage.
- Do not use chemical additives and treatments for your septic tank to prevent expensive septic system repair.
Following these bits of advice ensures a longer life for your septic system and a healthy surrounding environment. Lastly, always instruct guests and family coming over how to use the property’s facilities and what items not to flush down the septic system.