Here are some helpful tips on how to keep your septic system purring like a stinky kitten.
Toilet paper into my system?
All septic systems are designed to properly process toilet paper. The size of the holding tank is based on the number of bedrooms in the home. Commercially manufactured toilet paper is septic system safe. Therefore, so long as the system is not required to handle more wastewater than it was designed to handle, there should be no problem using toilet paper.
What type of chlorine should I use for septic disinfection?
When disinfection of secondarily treated wastewater effluent is required and you are using chlorine tablets, it is important that you use a chlorine tablet that is made from calcium hypochlorite and is certified for wastewater disinfection by EPA. They are very reactive and will kill 99% of the bacteria present in the effluent within 10 minutes. Follow all warning and precaution statements of the chlorine tablet manufacturer to protect yourself and the system equipment.
WARNING: DO NOT use swimming pool chlorine tablets in your disinfection system. The chlorine in these tablets are made from trichlorisocyanuric acid. Swimming pool tablets dissolve more slowly than calcium hypochlorite and do not thoroughly disinfect the effluent. Additionally, there is a danger of explosion using swimming pool tablets since the tablets will release an explosive gas called nitrogen chloride due to the fact that they are not totally immersed in water at all times while in use. They are not approved by EPA for wastewater effluent disinfection.
Septic Do's and Dont's
Your septic system is designed to give you many years of service. But like other systems within and around your home, your septic system can become overwhelmed with use and misuse. It’s important to realize that the average septic system will need to be pumped free of solids once every 4 years and has an overall life expectancy of about 20 years. Usually you can reach or exceed these timeframes by applying the following suggestions:
1. Start by minimizing the amount of solid material that goes into your septic system.
Your system has been designed to handle human waste and toilet paper. Obviously, anything you can do to minimize the introduction of additional solids will help delay the need to pump-out your system. Here are a few suggestions:
- If you have a garbage disposal, avoid using it as much as possible. Food preparation debris dramatically add to the solids entering your system
- Cooking oils and grease should be thrown out with the trash. Once they enter the septic system they tend to harden and will eventually clog drain pipes and increase the need for tank cleaning.
- Non-biodegradable items must be kept out of the system: Remind guests of the need to avoid flushing: cigarette butts, diapers, feminine napkins and tampons, paper towels and tissues.
- Some bio-degradable and semi-biodegradable items should also be thrown out with the trash. These include: egg shells, coffee grounds, cat litter, clothes dryer lint, and vacuum debris.
2. Reduce Water Usage
Septic tank capacities typically vary from 750 gallons to 1500 gallons or more depending on the number of bedrooms. Conserving water is a proactive step you can take to avoid overloading your septic system. Once a system becomes overloaded with fluid, solid waste moves into the leachfield and can quickly block or reduce the leachfield's effectiveness.
- Leaky faucets and toilets. Watch this carefully. A stuck toilet flapper can result in as much as three gallons a minute entering your system. This is especially tough on a system that is expecting a max of 100 gallons per person per day. Toilet flapper leaks can be almost imperceptible. An effective test is to place enough food coloring dye in the tank to visibly color the water. Then, without flushing, wait a half hour or so and see if the color of the water in the toilet bowl changes. If so you will need to clean the seat on the flapper or change it. . Over time, leaky faucets are just as problematic, as the constant addition of fluid can eventually contribute to tank overflow.
- Avoid long showers and full baths. In larger families, reducing the size of the hot water heater can help control shower usage.
- Water saving shower heads are now available and are easily installed by the average homeowner.
- The average washing machine uses forty gallons of water per load. Limiting laundry to full loads and avoiding trying to wash multiple loads on the same day can reduce the impact on your septic system. The same thing is true about dishwashers. Where legal and practical, you may be able to divert dishwater and kitchen sink fluid as grey water to garden or other area of your property.
3. Limit Chemical Usage
Your septic system contains beneficial bacteria that help process and dissolve solid waste. These bacteria are active both in your tank and in your leachfield. Since these bacteria are helping you delay the frequency that you need to pump-out your system and replace your leachfield, you will want to protect them. And ultimately, the chemicals will pass through the filter of your leachfield and contaminate the groundwater. The following suggestions will help:
- Don’t use caustic cleaners such as Drain-O when you have a clogged drain. Try boiling water or a snake. Snakes come in different sizes and are available at home centers.
- Avoid antibacterial soaps. Increasing evidence points to the need to avoid these soaps personally as they tend to increase the likelihood of skin infections. And, of course, they kill the beneficial bacteria in your septic system.
- Bleach and other household cleaners should be used sparingly.
- Don’t use additives that are advertised to improve your septic system’s life. They are not proven to be effective and may actually harm your system.
- Clean paint brushes outside rather than in the sink.
- When it comes to chemicals, it’s a good idea to remember that if you only feel safe wearing gloves when you handle them, then it’s a good bet that you won’t want to put these items down your drain.
Warning Signs of Aerobic System Problems
- Alarms or lights going off
- Any changes in the system's normal operating sound
- Any changes in the normal color of the wastewater in the aeration chamber (for example, if the color is greyish brown rather than chocolate brown, this can sometimes indicate problems)
- Excessive solids, foam, or scum in the unit
- Plumbing backups
- Sewage odors in the house or yard
If your septic system requires attention due to an alarm or light warning please call your property manager at once. Failure to due so could cause expensive repairs to the system. Do not try to use household cleaners or drain cleaners to fix a septic problem, it may cause more damage to the system.