Dealing with septic systems is not something most homeowners enjoy, but it’s one of the many responsibilities that come with owning a home that has a septic tank. Regularly inspecting and cleaning your system’s lines and tank is a must to keep the whole system in working order.
Do you know how your septic system works?
Knowing how your septic system works is the first step to understanding why your septic lines need regular inspections and cleaning.
The system is made up of three major parts:
- The tank
- The drain lines
- Soil treatment or drainfield areas
The size of your tank depends on the size of your home and your water usage, and it may consist of one or two chambers, depending on the age of the tank itself. The tank is responsible for holding and settling waste, as well as the success of the entire system.
The tank separates into three “layers:”
- Bottom sludge (heavy solids)
- Clear area
- Top scum (grease and lighter solids)
Bacteria and microbes work on breaking the bottom sludge up, but over the long-term, they’re simply not strong enough, and that’s why your septic tank requires regular pumps every three to seven years. Everything you put down your drains adds to the bottom sludge layer, so throwing paper towels, feminine hygiene products, and other garbage into your toilet could cause problems down the road if the tank is not large enough to handle the extra solids.
The tank is set up to only allow the clear area to go through the drain lines and into the treatment area, which consists of soil and gravel. Plants, bacteria, fungi, and even earthworms work together to clean the water. Soil does its part by binding minerals and metals. After the process is complete, this clean water moves back into the ground water.
Inspections and cleanings matter!
Septic tanks should be cleaned every three to seven years. Failure to do so can cause solids to enter the drain lines, resulting in clogs. In an unclean system, solids can even make their way into the treatment area. Garbage that is thrown into the system can cause the entire system to fail. Vehicle traffic, trees, and other debris may also have an impact on septic lines, and you probably wouldn’t know if they’ve affected yours without having an inspection done.
Clogs in septic lines can quickly lead to larger problems, including:
- Nitrate contamination
- Health hazards
- Unpleasant odors
They can be especially serious if you use well water. For this reason, your septic system should always be located downstream from your well.
How to Know If a Cleaning Is Needed
Cleaning your septic tank and lines requires the help of a septic professional.
When is the right time to call?
- You’re experiencing slow drains throughout your home.
- You notice sewage backup in the treatment area or in your house.
- You get a whiff of strong odors.
Checking the sewer line is the first step to determining whether there is an issue. You can check the sewer clean out, which is a white plastic cap just outside the wall of the house foundation. If sewage comes out or sitting water is visible, there could be a more serious blockage.
What’s involved in a septic cleaning?
During their septic tank cleaning service, a septic professional first inspects the lines, often using pipe cameras or plumbing snakes. These see if there is indeed a blockage or if there is breakage or damage to the septic lines.
The professional may add a large influx of bacteria to your septic system. This is enough to clear out the solids that have formed while also maintaining your septic system. While treatments once a month may work, more frequent shocks could be needed for a more serious problem.
Fracturing the soil is another technique that professionals use. This requires a 300-lb. blast of air into the soil. It may even help a struggling septic system recover altogether!
If the issue in your system is due to a backed-up sewer tank, an entire cleaning may be required, and damaged baffles, or filters, will be replaced.
What You Can Do (and Not Do) to Prevent Septic Problems
There are many things you can do (and avoid) to prevent issues in your septic tank and lines:
- Don’t throw garbage into the toilet or sink – Garbage significantly increases the amount of solid waste that collects at the bottom of the tank, causing it to require more cleaning. Garbage includes cat litter, paper towels, cigarettes, and other things you wouldn’t commonly flush down the toilet.
- Switch to gentle toilet paper – Some toilet paper has problems breaking down in septic tanks, adding to the solid layer.
- Use septic-system-friendly chemicals – Harsh chemicals, including some soaps and drain cleaners, could damage your septic system and even kill the bacteria that works so hard to break down solids. Try using non-toxic drain cleaners
- Conserve water – Not only will this help the environment, it will prevent the system from overloading.
- Do not drive near the soil-treatment area – Traffic can cause damage to the pipes, tank, and drainage area.
Call a professional.
Foul odors and even greener grass than usual could point to problems with your septic tank, lines, or soil treatment, and waiting could result in major problems, requiring extensive repairs and replacements.
If your sewer lines or tank are experiencing issues or backups, call C&W Plumbing as soon as possible for our septic tank cleaning service. We take care of the Dallas area, and we’re more than happy to provide same-day appointments. Whether it’s an emergency, or you just need a check-up, give us a call at 972-395-2597.