Do and Don’t

A quick guide for care and maintenance of your septic system from Express Septic

Regular septic tank pumping is the best preventive maintenance you can do for a septic system.
How many people would buy a expensive car and never change the oil? Regular maintenance of your septic system is necessary to ensure it’s proper operation. Over time the solids will naturally build up in the septic tank. When the septic tank gets full the solids can start to flow into the pipes leading to the drain field. The solid particles will really cause problems in the drain field, by not allowing the liquids to properly filter through the drain field. That is when the liquid (sewage) starts backing up in the pipes and now there are slow drains or backups in your home.

What you should do:

  • If you have a conventional septic tank and drain field system, make sure your septic tank is pumped or inspected on a regular basis. Frequency of pumping is based on your system’s capacity and the amount of wastewater generated by your household. Heavy water usage and/or garbage grinder usage places greater demands on a septic system. As a general rule, have your septic tank pumped at least once every three to five years to prevent your drain field from clogging.
  • If you own an alternative system, be sure to maintain a service contract with a qualified service provider for the life of the dwelling that is served by the system.
  • Keep records of all maintenance.
  • Identify medications that can harm your system. Certain medications can kill the bacteria that are needed to make an onsite wastewater treatment system work. If any household members are receiving chemotherapy treatment or other high levels of medications, notify your wastewater treatment professional to determine a solution for your particular needs.
  • Know where your system is located. Keep a diagram showing the location of the components of your onsite wastewater treatment system on your lot.
  • Reduce water use. Extend the life of your system and lower maintenance costs by using low-flow faucets, shower heads and toilets.
  • Protect your system. Keep your drain field or other subsurface absorption area clear of heavy equipment, vehicles, and shrubs or trees with extensive root systems that may clog drainage pipes.


What you should NOT do:

  • Do not pour or flush oil, grease, paint, antifreeze, solvents or toxic chemicals down the drain. Chemicals can prevent treatment from taking place and contaminate ground and surface water.
  • Do not put any plastic, cloth or paper products other than toilet paper into the sewage system. Put feminine products, condoms, diapers, cigarette butts, paper towels, dental floss, cat litter and other items in the trash, not the toilet. These items will clog and damage the components of your system.
  • Avoid using your kitchen garbage disposal. Solids accumulate in the septic tank. Grease and oil can damage your system by clogging pipes as well as the soil in the drain field absorption area.
    • If you must use your kitchen garbage disposal, be sure that your onsite system is designed to handle waste load from your kitchen garbage disposal. Be sure to scrape plates off in the trash can. Use the disposal only to get rid of the residue.
  • Don’t waste money on additives to help maintain your septic system. Additives can cause increased discharge of organic matter into your drain field and are not the most effective way to maintain your septic system.


Signs of Trouble:

  • Sewage in the basement is an obvious sign of a problem.
    While some alternative systems have alarms and controls, not all problems have initially-visible symptoms. Immediately call for service if you see any of the following:

    • Standing water or wet area above or around the absorption field.
    • Toilets that flush slowly, gurgle or back up.
    • Sewage odors inside or outside of the house (may be a warning sign that the system may not be operating properly).