How To Maintain Your Septic System

Septic system maintenance is much, much cheaper in the long run compared to the cost of neglecting the system and letting it damage itself, sometimes beyond repair. There are four key elements to septic system maintenance:

  1. Inspect and Pump Frequently
  2. Use Water Efficiently
  3. Properly Dispose of Waste
  4. Maintain Your Drainfield

1. Inspect and Pump Frequently

A typical household septic system should be inspected every three years and pumped out every three to five years. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, mechanical components and alert systems should be inspected more often – once a year to be safe. A few factors that influence the frequency in which you should have your septic tank pumped are:

  • Household size
  • Total wastewater produced
  • Volume of solids in the wastewater
  • Size of your septic tank

When you have Roto-Rooter of Traverse City comes out to pump your septic tank, the technician will inspect for leaks and other possible failures within the septic system. He will also examine the scum and sludge layers within the septic tank.

It’s a good idea to keep records of work performed. Then you can roughly estimate the next time the septic tank will need to be pumped out.

The Roto-Rooter technician that does your septic systems inspection will take notes and give any recommendations (if any) to keep your system running effectively and efficiently.

Roto-Rooter of Northern Michigan not only offers septic tank pumping service, we also offer full septic system installation service.


2. Use Water Efficiently

A typical single-family home averages about 70 gallons per person per day of indoor water usage. A toilet that constantly runs can waste as much as 200 gallons of water per day. A shower dripping at 10 drips per minute will waste about 500 gallons of water per year.

All of the water actively used along with all the leaky fixtures leaking down the drain all ends up in your septic system. The more water your household conserves, the less water that enters your septic system. Less wasted water in the septic system improves the septic system’s operation and reduces the risk of failure.

Simple Ways to Save Water

  • High efficiency toilets 
    A typical single-family home’s toilets account for 25 to 30 percent of the total household use of water. Older toilets usually have 3.5 to 5 gallon reservoirs where a newer, high-efficiency toilet use 1.6 or less gallons per flush. Switching out 2 older toilets for 2 high-efficiency toilets can cut the typical water usage for toilets in half.
  • Faucet aerators and High-Efficiency Showerheads
    Faucet aerators and high-efficiency showerheads restrict the flow of water thus reducing the water going down the drain and ending up in your septic system.
  • Washing Machines
    Energy Star labeled washing machines use up to 35% less electricity and up to 50% less water. If running out and buying a new washer is not in the budget, as it isn’t for most, you can do a few other things to help lessen the load on your septic system. Washing small loads of laundry on your washer’s normal or large load settings will waste more energy and water per load than a large load of laundry. If your washer doesn’t have load size settings, you are better off the wash only large loads of laundry. Another thing you can do is spread out washing laundry over the whole week rather than saving all the laundry for “laundry day”. Doing all your household’s laundry in one day rather than spreading it out

3. Properly Dispose of Waste

No matter if you flush it down the toilet, grind it up in the garbage disposal, or pour it down the sink, tub or shower drain, it all ends up in your septic system. Everything going into your septic system effects how well it works.

Don’t Treat Your Toilet Like A Trash Can

When you dispose of items by flushing them, you are essentially treating your septic system like a trash can which can be very expensive to repair. Our recommendation and a simple rule of thumb to follow would be to ONLY flush human waste and toilet paper. Nothing else. Common items we find when servicing septic tanks that should never be flushed:

  • Cooking grease or oil
  • Non-flushable wipes, such as baby wipes or other wet wipes (Even the ones marked as “flushable”)
  • Photographic solutions
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Condoms
  • Dental floss
  • Diapers
  • Cigarette butts
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cat litter
  • Paper towels
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Household chemicals like gasoline, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, and paint or paint thinners

Think At The Sink

Your septic system contains a variety of living organisms that naturally digest and treat household waste. Pouring toxins down the drain can kill these living organisms and disrupt the natural process of breaking down wastewater which then leads to costly septic system repairs. No matter the sink, tub or drain you are using:

  • Avoid chemical drain cleaners for a clogged drain. Instead use boiling water or a drain snake.
  • Never pour any type of grease down the drain. Cooking oil, food grease etc…
  • Never pour oil based paints, solvents or large volumes of toxic cleaners down the drain.
  • Eliminate or limit the use of your garbage disposal. This will greatly reduce the amount of fats, grease and solids that end up in your septic system which ultimately end up clogging your drain field.

4. Maintain Your Drainfield

Your drainfield is the last part of your septic system when considering the flow of wastewater. It takes all of the liquid that comes from the septic tank and disperses it into the ground for further filtering. Maintaining your septic system’s drainfield  is more about avoiding damage causing activities more so than actively carrying out maintenance duties. Here’s what you need to do to properly maintain your drainfield:

  • Parking – Don’t ever park or drive on your drainfield. This can cause ground compression and reduce the ability of your drainfield to absorb the wastewater from the drainfields perforated pipes.
  • Planting – Plant trees and larger plants an appropriate distance from your drainfield to help prevent roots from growing into your septic system. Roots cause thousands of dollars of damage to septic systems every year across the United States. As roots grow, they can damage pipes and eventually completely block pipes.
  • Placement – Keep roof drains, sump pumps and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drainfield area. Excess water saturates the ground and can slow down or even stop the natural wastewater treatment process.

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We are more than happy to come out and give you an estimate on new plumbing projects or possible solutions to an existing plumbing problem. We are plumbing problem solving pros. Have questions about your plumbing or septic system? Give us a call and we'd be happy to answer those questions along with suggest appropriate services if necessary.

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