There are many misunderstandings and myths surround septic system care and maintenance. Avoid these common myths to prevent irreversible damage to your septic system.
MYTH #1: My septic tank doesn’t need pumped until I smell an odor.
Often times, people wait until they are having a problem with their septic system before they get it pumped. In many cases, a foul odor or sluggish drains may remind you that your tank needs pumped. But sometimes, people wait until raw sewage is backing up into their house or surfacing in their yard. By the time these “signs” arise, you’ve already waited too long to have your septic tank pumped out. In fact, waiting until your septic system is having problems to get the tank pumped is like waiting until your car breaks down to get the oil changed.
Septic system problems are often due to an overaccumulation of solids in the septic tank. When you wait for these problems (odors, slow drains, or backups) to remind you to get your septic tank pumped, you are actually damaging your septic system’s absorption area. The septic tank is designed to trap solids while the liquid flows out of the tank and into the absorption area. However, once the tank is more than 1/3 full of solids, it can no longer do its job effectively.
There may not be any signs of a problem, but when you wait too long to have your septic tank pumped out, solids flow out of the tank and into your absorption area. This can cause clogs and significantly shorten the useful life of your septic system. As a rule of thumb, your tank should be pumped every 2 to 3 years to prevent irreversible damage to the absorption area.
FACT: Septic tank pumping is preventative maintenance. By the time you smell an odor or your toilets are flushing slowly, you’ve already waited too long.
MYTH #2: I don’t need to get my tank pumped if I use septic tank additives.
Some people believe that additives can substitute the need for regular septic tank pumping. We’ve even had folks tell us that “[insert product name here] is going to put you out of business!” Yet here we are, after more than 60 years in business, still pumping thousands of septic tanks and repairing septic systems that weren’t pumped frequently enough. There is no magical powder or liquid you can put in your septic tank that is going to remove the solids.
This isn’t to say that septic tank additives serve no purpose. Bacteria enzymes, such as CCLS, can be beneficial to maintain a healthy level of good bacteria throughout your septic system to keep it operating at peak performance. This is especially important if you use harsh cleaning products or antibiotics. However, no septic tank additive replaces the need to get your septic tank pumped.
FACT: Even if you use an additive, your septic tank should be pumped every 2 to 3 years to remove the solids.
MYTH #3: Adding raw meat to my septic tank is good for my system.
As bizarre as it sounds, we’ve received many questions about this old wives’ tale through the years, and there are even people who have been using this “technique” for decades. The theory behind this myth is that adding raw meat or even roadkill to the septic tank will aid in the decomposition of solids. This is false.
Rotting meat just adds unnecessary and foreign bacteria to your septic tank. At best, this will do nothing. At worst, bones and fur from a dead animal will clog up your system. If your septic system requires supplemental bacteria, use an approved additive such as CCLS Bacteria Enzyme.
FACT: This one is simple. Don’t put raw meat or dead animals in your septic tank.
MYTH #4: It doesn’t matter what I flush down the toilet.
If you’re new to owning a home with septic, it’s important to remember that you cannot treat your septic system as if it’s public sewage. You must be cautious about what you flush down the toilet, and never use your toilet like a trash can. Don't flush non-biodegradable items, unused medicines, or harsh cleansers down your toilet. Never dispose of items such as diapers, paper towels, cigarette butts, condoms, tampons, or any trash in the toilet. Flushing items like these will require you to get your septic tank pumped more frequently and can even clog your drain field. Even many products, such as wipes, marked as “septic safe” do not decompose in your septic tank.
Likewise, you must be cautious about what you wash down your drains. Cleaning products such as bleach and drain cleaner kill good bacteria in your septic tank. Never wash paints, oils, solvents, or other abrasive chemicals down your drain. In the kitchen, make sure you dispose of cooking grease in the trash. Do not rinse grease down your sink as it can build up and cause clogs. Lastly, garbage disposal use can add up to 50% more solids to your septic tank, so if you have a garbage disposal, use it sparingly to avoid more frequent pumpings.
FACT: Only water, toilet paper, and human waste should be flushed down your toilet.