6. Bath Oils and Solvents
Putting a bit of baby oil in your bathtub may leave your skin feeling ultra-soft when you get out, but it’s not such a great option for your septic tank. Once it washes into your septic tank the oil forms a layer of scum that coats the floating waste. The bacteria are then unable to penetrate the oil, preventing it from breaking down the waste. The oil flows throughout your system coating everything, reaching the soil in the drain field clogging it.
Never flush paints, solvents, pesticides, oils, or anything inorganic as they will kill the bacteria or clog the lines.
Drain cleaners are a no-no for all homeowners, even ones who don’t have septic systems. Not only can chemical drain cleaners kill the good bacteria in your septic tank, they can also eat away at your pipes! The caustic soda or lye used in them is a powerful oxidizer and can cause severe burns. If your drains are clogged, you’d be much better off paying a little more to hire a plumber to unclog them than using a chemical drain cleaner. If trouble arises, you’ll end up paying a lot more for the damage than you would have if you had hired a professional. Or try this homemade solution to clear your drain and pipes without harm.
DIY Drain Cleaner:
Pour 1/2 cup baking soda, followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar, down drain, and cover with a plug or rag. The mixture will work to break down any fats into salt and harmless gas. Flush with boiling water.
Dishwasher detergent is more likely to contain phosphates and surfactants than laundry detergents. Unlike in laundry machines, there is no agitation in dishwashers. Dishwashers work by spraying water containing detergents with chemicals that will dissolve and break down the food residue stuck to the dishes. If these chemicals somehow make it through your septic tank without killing the bacteria, they can eventually enter the soil around your tank, leaching into ground water and putting you at risk for contaminated drinking water.
Look for Phosphate Free dishwasher detergents.
Antibacterial hand soaps and any product claiming to be antibacterial should be avoided, not only because of the obvious harm they could do to the bacterial colony your septic system needs to function, but they are now being linked to the development of “superbugs” that are antibiotic resistant and pose a health risk to us all. Good old soap and water works fine.
Not only do the antibacterial chemicals in automatic toilet cleaners kill the bacteria in your toilet, they also kill the bacteria in your septic tank. If you use these toilet cleaners, you may find yourself ending up with a septic tank full of blue water and a lot of dead bacteria. Cleaning the toilet instead with a combination of baking soda and white vinegar will give you equally effective frothy results that are nontoxic.
A large part of the volume in your septic system may come from your laundry. Most of the laundry detergents that you find at your local grocery store probably contain some environmental contaminant. Thankfully nutrient polluters such as phosphates and nitrates are finally being eliminated from the detergents we use as they promote the growth of choking algae and weeds in our ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers.
Say NO to:
Surfactants – these are foaming agents and are in all soaps and detergents. They reduce the surface tension of fluids allowing them fluid to flow more easily between solids, freeing dirt from surfaces. They unfortunately affect cell membranes and microorganisms and will damage the bacteria colony in your septic system. Luckily, they degrade quickly and don’t pose a severe threat to ground water.
Chlorine bleach – bleach is highly toxic and should be avoided or used in limited amounts when needed, unfortunately chlorine bleach is used in many cleaners and disinfectants.
Say YES to:
Oxygen based bleaches – for laundering
White vinegar – for disinfecting
Baking soda – brightens colors and whites, softens fabrics, eliminates odors
Seek out concentrated laundry detergents with labels that say:
- Low Suds
- No Phosphorous
- No Nitrogen
- Chlorine Free
When you have leftover medications on hand it can be tempting to flush them away. DON’T.
Pharmaceuticals can destroy the bacterial balance in your septic system, causing septic failure. They also contribute to the proliferation of “superbugs”, antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose a health risk to us all.
Improperly disposed medications contaminate groundwater, endangering the environment and, closer to home, your own drinking water. This is a widespread problem — researchers have found traces of pharmaceutical drugs in the drinking water supplies of 40 million Americans. Pharmaceuticals were found in 80% of rivers and streams sampled in a nationwide study in 2000.
To safely dispose of medications:
- Find a medicine take-back program in your area. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events, setting up collection sites in communities nationwide for safe disposal of prescription drugs. Your local police department may also sponsor a medicine take-back program. If you can’t find a medicine takeback program, contact your local waste management authorities to learn about medication disposal options and guidelines for your area.
- If you cannot find a takeback program, you may have to dispose of unwanted medications in the trash – but be sure to do it safely to prevent accidental poisoning or environmental contamination. The FDA recommends taking medications out of their original containers, mixing them with an “undesirable substance” (such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds), putting the mixture in a Ziploc bag or a container with a lid, then throwing the whole package in the trash.
Caring for Your Septic System
If you have a septic system in your home, you need to be very careful about what household products you use. Septic systems rely on bacteria to break down wastes and solids, but these bacteria need a specific environment to survive. For example, if you put the wrong kind of detergent in your washing machine or you use the wrong drain cleaner, you can end up killing the bacteria, rendering your septic system ineffective. This can lead to overflows, clogs, flooded drain fields and even groundwater contamination. It’s important to protect your septic system by avoiding harmful household products.
Here are the Top 6 items that you should NEVER put into your septic system.
Do you need to install an effluent filter in your septic system?
Regardless of where you live, the state, city or even county you live in probably has their own specific requirements for homeowners with septic systems. Although following these requirements can help you to avoid many potential issues that may arise with your septic system, there are other additional steps you can take to protect your system, such as installing an effluent filter.
What is an effluent filter?
Effluent filters are installed inside of septic tanks, and they are designed to replace or enhance exit baffles. All of the wastewater that leaves your tank runs through the effluent filter, which prevents any solids from getting dumped into the drainfield. Your septic system, where it is located and how old it is can affect the cost and time it will take to have an effluent filter installed in your septic tank.
What are the advantages of installing an effluent filter in your septic tank?
As we mentioned above, the entire point of an effluent filter is to prevent solids from being dispelled from your septic tank and causing clogs, as well as all sorts of trouble. However, if you have an older septic tank, there could be another advantage to installing an effluent filter.
Regardless of how well you’ve taken care of your septic system, the exit baffle connection will fall off sooner or later, even if it was made with concrete. Exit baffle connections will typically last 20-30 years, and if you are replacing your exit baffle connection anyway, you may as well replace it with an effluent filter.
Effluent filters are made out of PVC and are connected to the pipe that connects to the tank instead of the tank itself. With this design, there’s no risk of anything falling off or corroding, and you get a permanent solution for your exit baffle connection
What are the disadvantages of installing an effluent filter?
An effluent filter can be a wonderful thing, but you need to make sure that you take proper care of it. It’s not something that you can just install and forget about; you have to keep up on cleaning and maintenance to keep it working properly. If you don’t clean your effluent filter properly, it can lead to your septic tank backing up into your home. It is imperative that you clean and replace effluent filters properly.
Another issue that can arise with effluent filters centers around expectations. Many homeowners install effluent filters in the hopes that they will be a permanent solution to all of their needs. However, if your disposal field is already saturated with Biomat, installing an effluent filter won’t do you much good. Sure, it may prevent the problem from getting worse, but it can’t possibly do anything about the Biomat that already exists.
An effluent filter can be a helpful addition to any septic tank, but it’s important to pair it with other smart septic tank care treatments, like Septic Genie, to make the most out of it. Septic Genie is designed to eat solid waste and Biomat. Regardless of whether you have an effluent filter or not, almost every septic tank could benefit from Septic Genie. Contact us to find out if Septic Genie is right for you.
Most homeowners don’t know where their septic tanks and drainfields are located, but it’s an important bit of information to learn.
If you were to ask a typical homeowner where their septic tank was located, you’d probably hear something like, “it’s out in the yard somewhere,” which is not exactly helpful. That is probably because many homeowners don’t give a second thought to their septic systems unless something goes wrong with it. However, knowing where your septic tank is located could come in handy for many reasons.
Why do you need to learn where your septic tank and drainfield is located?
- You’ll be able to watch out for signs of trouble – When it comes to septic tank repairs, being prompt is essential, and oftentimes, the first signs of a septic tank problem will be pooling water around the tank or drainfield. If you don’t know where your septic tank is located, you can’t possibly see this important sign that something is wrong with it. By the time you notice the other signs of the problem, it could cause a lot more damage and be much more expensive to fix.
- You’ll be able to avoid parking or building on top of it – Whether you need extra parking spaces for a big party at your house or you are looking to build a new shed in your yard, it’s essential to know where your septic tank is located. If you crush your septic tank or drainfield by parking or building on top of it, you could end up compromising both its structure and functionality.
- You’ll save time and money when you hire professionals – When you hire professionals for maintenance or repairs, the last thing that you want is to waste their time trying to locate your septic system. This could make septic tank service take a whole lot longer and cost more than it has to.
How do you locate your septic tank?
Now that you know why it’s so important to know where your septic tank is, it’s time to actually find it! If you recently purchased your property, this will be much easier, as your inspection paperwork should include a map with a diagram of the septic tank on your property. You could also ask your county if they have a map. Typically, counties will retain records of septic tank installations for all addresses.
If a map isn’t an option, then you need to locate the sewer line in your yard. Follow the line by inserting a thin probe into the ground next to it every two feet or so. Typically, septic tanks will be located between 10 and 25 feet away from your home. Once the probe strikes something hard and flat, you’ve probably found your sewer tank.
You can also walk around and watch out for signs of your sewer tank, such as low or high spots that are unexplained.
Septic tank care is essential, but if you don’t know where your septic tank is located, you can’t possibly take proper care of it! Take the first step to properly caring for your septic system by locating the tank and contacting Septic Remedies about all of your septic needs.
If you have a septic tank, knowing a thing or two about septic tank pumping is incredibly important.
A conventional septic tank needs to be pumped once every three to five years. Pumping removes the buildup of sludge and scum and helps prevent issues like clogs and disposal field failures. Septic tank pumping is not something you think about very often, but it is an essential part of taking proper care of a conventional septic system* (see note). Unfortunately, most people flush and it is out of sight, out of mind.
Why is pumping important?
To understand why pumping is important, you first need a general understanding of how a septic tank works. The purpose of your septic tank is to separate the wastewater from the solid sewage. The grease and oil that remains at the top is called scum, and the solid waste that sinks to the bottom of the tank is called sludge. In between the scum and the sludge remains water that is almost completely free of solids, but contains phosphorous, nitrogen, and other chemicals that act as fertilizer. Through dams and baffles, this water is removed from the septic tank and filtered throughout the septic field (also called a leach field or drain field). The scum and sludge do not leave the tank. The anaerobic bacteria in your tank helps to slowly eat away at the sludge and scum, but it cannot eliminate all of it, and that’s where pumping comes in. Pumping removes the solids, scum, and wastewater that the bacteria cannot handle from your tank.
What happens if you don’t get your tank pumped?
If you neglect getting your septic tank pumped, it can lead to serious consequences. Letting the sludge inside of your septic tank build up could cause it to back-up into your sewer lines. This can lead to sewage flowing into your home. The solid waste can also seep into the drain field and clog it. This is bad for the environment, and will cause foul odors on your property.
How do you know when your septic tank needs to be pumped?
It is important to understand the signs that your septic tank needs to be pumped, including:
- Pooling water – When your septic tank fills up, it can start to pool into the lawn around your tank and drain field.
- Unpleasant odors – The more waste that builds up inside of your septic system, the more likely you are to experience unpleasant odors.
- Slow moving drains – If your drains or toilets are moving slowly or gurgling, it may be a sign that your septic tank is full and needs to be pumped.
- Sewage backups – Have you experienced sewage backups in your sinks, bathtubs or toilets? If so, your tank is overly full and requires pumping..
It’s important to note that pumping is not the answer to every septic tank problem, and in some cases, it’s merely a short-term fix.
Note: Septic systems with a Septic Genie operate differently. The Septic Genie continually grows a thriving colony of special aerobic bacteria which eats all the scum and sludge in the tank and, over time, clears clogged drain fields. Eliminating the scum and sludge leaves just water in the septic tank, eliminating the need to have the septic tank pumped. Learn more about Septic Genie and find out if it’s the right option for your septic system. Call or visit us online today.