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How To Keep Your Septic System in Tip Top Shape

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Follow these important steps to protect your septic system. Adhering to a few basic do's and don'ts is usually all it takes to keep your septic system functioning efficiently.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Conserve water to reduce the load on the septic system. For example, do laundry throughout the week instead of all at once; use flow reducer nozzles on showers; install water-conserving commodes.
  2. Tree roots that invade your septic system can do major damage. Keep trees at least 100 feet away from the septic system. Trees with aggressive roots, such as willows, should be planted even farther away.
  3. A soggy drainfield can't handle waste effectively, so design landscaping, roof gutters, and foundation drains to divert excess water away from the septic system.
  4. Never flush cat litter, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, paper towels, facial tissues, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, or similar items down the toilet. They'll quickly fill and clog your septic tank.
  5. Use garbage disposals wisely. They can double the amount of solids added to a septic tank. Consider installing a top-of-the-line disposal, which will grind waste into smaller particles that break down more quickly when they reach the system.
  6. Do not overuse heavy cleaners, especially those containing bleach. They kill beneficial bacteria in the septic tank, so solids can't break down as quickly.
  7. Do not pour grease down the drain. It will eventually clog your drainfield. If that happens you'll need an extensive (and expensive) septic system repair--and if there's no space for a repair drainfield you will have serious problems establishing any type of septic system.
  8. Do not pour hazardous chemicals down the drain. They can harm your septic system and will eventually find their way into the groundwater.
  9. Do not drive over the drainfield, build a structure on top of it, or cover it with concrete or asphalt. A few years ago, there was a home for sale in our area with an above-ground swimming pool built on the septic drainfield. That's a definite don't!
  10. Do plant grass on the drainfield to minimize soil erosion.
  11. Some professionals recommend a monthly dose of an enzyme product that adds beneficial bacteria to the septic system. Others say it isn't necessary and won't improve the performance of your system. Bottom line, septic additives are not expensive, so they can't hurt. I know several people who swear that flushing a few packets of yeast each month is a great way to keep septic systems in shape.

Tips:

  1. More water conservation: check plumbing for leaks, reduce water levels for small loads of laundry, and use a displacer to reduce the amount of water needed to flush the toilet.
  2. Never attempt to open a septic tank yourself. The gases in it are dangerous. Call a professional pumping company to empty the tank as required.
  3. Some garbage disposals periodically inject small amounts of enzymes into the drain. Keep the reservoir filled--you won't have to remember to add enzymes on a monthly basis.

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