Your septic system needs consistent care and attention in order to run smoothly. In order to take care of a septic system, you’ll want to understand how the system works as well as what parts of the septic system need to be inspected, repaired, or replaced regularly. Taking care of your septic system is also treating it properly, a septic system that has been misused and improperly maintained is far more likely to run into problems like clogs in the soil, freezing drain fields, or flooding back into the home.
Things that Can Damage Your Septic System:
One of the most common mistakes with a septic system is flushing things that really shouldn’t be flushed. Your septic system is not garbage disposal that will magically turn your solids into liquids. We have seen some pretty odd things get flushed down the drain that really never should be.
Toxic or inorganic materials such as paint, drywall mud, solvents, or renovation materials should never be dumped down the drain. When people first take possession of their acreage, we know and appreciate the need to “make it your own” and renovations are part of most people’s plans. That said, some care must be taken when disposing of the byproducts of renovations. These products can cause major issues with the drain field as they are filtered through the soil.
A common mistake is when people get in the habit of flushing personal care products. Items like feminine hygiene products, prophylactics, birth control devices, and even diapers are a definitely no-no when it comes to flushing through your septic system. One of the most common personal care items we see causing problems are the infamous “flushable” wipes. These wipes are not septic friendly, (even those that say they are on the package!) flushable, so be sure to always throw them in the garbage, not down the drain.
None of this material should go down the drain anywhere, but the issues that happen with your septic system tend to feel more personal. When the wrong thing is flushed in the city, it costs millions in maintenance and repairs to get rid of this stuff, but it’s the taxpayers’ problem. When something goes wrong with your septic system, that’s your responsibility, and the bills can add up.
Other odds and ends we’ve seen in septic tanks and even when we’re out dealing with clogged lines in drain fields include wrappers from granola bars, labels from water bottles, and even masks people have become accustomed to wearing during the pandemic.
Most of these items we believe (hope) are just things that were left in pockets of clothing that’s gone through the wash. One way to mitigate this is to put a simple, inexpensive filter on the outlet hose of your washing machine. This will catch any inadvertent litter from finding its way down the drain.
My wife once found the remains of a “pet frog” my son found in the yard and decided to put in his shirt pocket so the two of them could share backyard acreage adventures together -apparently at the age of 3, my son forgot about his “new friend” and threw his shirt, with his friend still in the pocket, into the dirty clothes hamper.
Life happens and you’re not likely thinking about the impact a child’s toy could have on your septic system with every load of laundry, but the preventative step on installing filters on your washing machine drain as well as sink strainers can help significantly. These also prevent things like nylon and polyester lint from going down the drain. These fibers from clothing are not biodegradable so are best removed before the water hits your tank.
Ways to Take Care of Your Septic System
Your septic system was designed to treat water and re-introduce it into the environment safely and effectively. A septic system’s design requires a few things to happen to ensure proper operation. Water that leaves the home should spend a minimum of 24 hours in the first chamber of the septic tank before moving on to be sent to its final treatment area, the soil.
Things like “laundry day” where many loads are run, one after the other, can overload the system and force water through faster than the system can properly treat it. When water is rushed through the first stage of treatment, higher levels of organics and suspended solids are carried downstream where they can cause real problems for your drainage area. Although it may not feel ideal, spreading out loads of laundry over the course of a week is a simple way to help take care of your septic system.
Water softeners and filtration equipment can also be a problem for septic systems. Some of these tools will send as much as 150 gallons or more, all within a short period of time, down the drain. When that happens, once again water can be forced through the system faster than it should and contaminants can be pushed downstream where they can cause problems. Take care of your system by doing research and talking with a septic technician before installing anything that might impact your septic.
Some water treatment equipment uses harsh chemicals that can cause some real problems for your septic system. Oxidizers like chlorine and potassium permanganate can disrupt the bacteria in your septic system and may also cause contaminants to go where they shouldn’t, increasing your maintenance costs and decreasing the life expectancy of your system.
Another good thing you can do for your septic system is to make sure you have an alarm system and ensure it works properly. We recommend, in addition to pushing any “test” buttons on your alarm, to actually check to make sure the float is working. You should manually raise the float up into the alarm position and make sure it triggers your alarm so you are sure that if and when a problem occurs, you’re alerted to it before it becomes an emergency.
There are NO good reasons not to have an alarm on your septic. Just because your system may have been installed before alarms were considered mandatory doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. Alarms are meant to let you know about problems before they become a threat to your health and safety and risk severe property damage.
How to Spot Something Is Wrong With Your Septic System
The biggest thing to watch for when it comes to septic problems is wet or soft spots in the ground. If you’re walking or mowing the lawn and you notice a change, call a professional. Your septic system is designed to send water down into the soil, so water rising to the surface is a clear sign something is wrong. If your septic system is starting to have problems accepting the water from your home and is left unchecked, it could lead to total failure. Caught early enough, things can be turned around and made to work properly again.
Septic systems need to be treated properly and cared for. If you have any questions about what you can and cannot put in your septic system, don’t hesitate to ask or check out our FAQ page! A general rule to follow is if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t allow it to go down the drain.
If you have any issues with your septic system, SepTech Canada can help! Contact us and we will get back to you right away. We know that issues with your septic system can be stressful and often can happen outside of “normal business hours,” that’s why we are here 24/7/365 to answer your call.