Having your septic system back up or overflow is one of the most irritating things that can happen when you're a homeowner. Not only do you have to deal with the stench, but you can't use your plumbing until the plumber arrives to fix the problem and pump your tank. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk of septic system issues.
Minimize your garbage disposal use.
Garbage disposals are surely convenient, but each time you use yours to grind up food and send it down the drain, you're adding to the solid waste in the bottom of your septic tank. This waste takes a while to break down and be washed out of the septic tank. If you use your garbage disposal too often and let waste build up too quickly, there won't be room left in the tank for liquid, and you'll have an overflow. Try to use your garbage disposal only when you're really in a hurry and can't take the time to scrape plates off into the trash instead. And avoid putting fibrous foods like orange peels and celery down the disposal. They don't grind up well, so they take even longer to break down in your septic tank.
Avoid using harsh drain cleaners. (Use vinegar and baking soda instead).
Chemical drain cleaners are not particularly good for anyone, since they present hazards to health and can corrode pipes. They're even worse if you have a septic tank, since they can kill the bacteria responsible for breaking down waste in your tank. If the bacteria levels fall too low, waste will just keep building up in the tank until it overflows rather than being slowly broken down. Stay away from chemical drain cleaners, and use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar instead when your drains need cleaning. The foaming action will loosen most clogs -- you just have to give it an hour or two to work before rinsing it away.
Don't flush feminine hygiene products down the toilet.
The tampon package might say "flushable," but when you have a septic tank, you really only want to flush toilet paper and human waste. Feminine hygiene products take way too long to break down. They just add volume to the tank and increase your risk of an overflow.
Have your tank pumped on a regular schedule, whether or not it "seems like it needs it."
Many homeowners are under the false impression that if their tank does not seem to be having any issues, they don't need to have it pumped. Unfortunately, if you wait until your tank "tells you" it needs to be pumped, you'll have sewage all over your yard. It's better to be proactive and pump your tank before there are any issues. Determining when your tank needs to be pumped can be a bit of a guessing game, but a good guideline is to have it pumped every four years. While your plumber is on site, you can ask if he or she thinks your tank could go longer between pumping sessions next time.
Don't park over your septic tank or place anything heavy on top of it.
Parking a car on top of a tank or setting anything else really heavy on top of it can cause it to compress. Not only can this decrease the volume of the tank, but it can also lead to cracks that would cause sewage to leak out. Make sure you know where in your yard your septic tank is located, and mark it with a flag or cone so that nobody is tempted to park in that area.
Septic tanks, like all home components, are not foolproof. However, if you follow the tips above, you'll reduce the chances of yours overflowing or suffering from other major issues.
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