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Tips for a Healthy Septic System


Here are some tips to keep your system happy and functioning efficiently. This proactive advice is informative for homeowners new to septic systems, and can help to avoid headaches and expense down the road. You will also benefit by understanding a bit about how septic systems work. The Guide to Operating & Maintaining Your Septic System provides an insight to this and has additional recommendations for proactive maintenance.

Keep these tips in mind to save trouble down the road ...


  • Pump your tank every 3 to 5 years, if concrete, or every 2 years if plastic.
  • While the tank is being pumped have the contractor check that the inflow and outlet pipes are free of blockages, and clean the effluent filter (if you have one).
  • Keep a detailed record of repairs, pumping, inspections, permits issued, and other maintenance activities.
  • Conserve water. Avoiding overuse helps to maintain the beneficial "sludge" layer in the tank which is needed for proper treatment of solids.
  • Repair plumbing leaks - a leaky toilet or faucet can double the water discharged in a day
  • Keep trees and shrubs downhill of the septic bed
  • Let grass grow at least 3" high above the septic bed to promote better absorption of discharge
  • Direct root, driveway, and other run-off away from your septic tank and bed
  • If your tank does not have above ground lids, mark its location with a stone or stake for ease of locating
  • Use basket strainers in showers to catch hair - which causes a big problem for septic beds!
  • Look for phosphate-free liquid detergents or concentrated detergents
  • Use a dry well for backflushing water softeners; instead of putting into your septic system
  • Use a lint filter on your washing machine, reducing the solids that tend to clog septic beds
  • Use low flush toilets and water saving faucets / shower heads
  • Spread your laundry throughout the week
  • Add a weight to your toilet's tank to reduce the water volume - you can use a plastic bag filled with water.


  • Flush paper towels, facial tissue, coffee grounds, tea leaves, fats or grease, cigarette butts, filters, sanitary napkins, newspaper, disposable diapers, condoms, metal items.
  • Use a garburetor. It adds solids that can be flushed into your septic bed.
  • Drive or park vehicles on top of the septic bed
  • Put meat into the system to increase the helpful bacteria. As crazy as it sounds myths about septic systems have encouraged people to put hamburger or even a dead chicken into the system. This is completely unnecessary and only adds to the solid waste in your tank.
  • Plant trees or shrubs close to the septic tank or bed. Roots can cause significant damage!
  • Bury your septic bed under landscaping materials such as plastic or pavement, water must be allowed to evaporate for the bed to work efficiently.
  • Bury your septic tank under a driveway or deck, making it inaccessible for inspections and pumping
  • NEVER use caustic toilet bowl cleaners and drain cleaners which will destroy the beneficial bacteria in your tank. This results in sewage passing through without proper treatment.
  • NEVER pour chemicals like paint, solvents, thinners, nail polish remover, kerosene, antifreeze, gas, or oil down drains. These can seep into ground water and poison the drinking supply.