How To Take Care Of Your Septic System

Guidelines for the successful use of your septic system:

Don't flush dangerous and damaging substances into the septic tank. (Please refer to "Substitutes for Household Hazardous Waste," below) Specifically, do not flush . . .

  • Flammable or toxic products
  • Household cleaners, especially floor wax and rug cleaners
  • Chlorine, chlorides, and pool or spa products

Don't flush substances that cause maintenance problems and/or increase the need for septage pumping. Dispose of the following with your trash:

  • Kitty litter, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, cigarette butts
  • Paper towels, newspapers, sanitary napkins, diapers, sanitary wipes
  • Cooking grease, bath or body oils
  • Rags, large amounts of hair, dental floss
  • Water treatment or softener backwash

Don't use garbage disposals excessively. They increase the amount of solids entering your tank. Compost scraps or dispose with your trash. Collect grease in a container and dispose with your trash. (These food byproducts or cooking products accelerate the need for septage pumping and increase maintenance.)

Don't use special additives that are touted to enhance the performance of your tank or system. Additives can cause major damage to your drainfield and other areas in the collection system.  Especially do not use additives containing enzymes, surfactants, emulsifiers, or bacteria not naturally occurring in human waste.  The natural microorganisms that grow in your system generate their own enzymes that are sufficient for breaking down and digesting nutrients in the wastewater.

Don't use excessive amounts of water (60 gallons per person per day, average, is typical).  Look at your permit to determine the maximum allowable daily flow for your system.

Don't leave interior faucets on to protect water lines during cold spells.  A running faucet can easily increase your wastewater flow from hundreds to thousands of gallons per day and hydraulically overload your drainfield.  Instead, properly insulate or heat your faucets and plumbing.

Do repair leaky plumbing fixtures immediately (A leaky toilet can waste up to 2,000 gallons of water in a single day - that's 5 to 10 times more water than a household's typical daily usage)

Do conserve water:

  • Take shorter showers or baths with a partially filled tub.
  • Don't let water run unnecessarily while washing hands, food, teeth, dishes, etc.
  • Wash dishes and clothes only when you have a full load.
  • When possible, avoid doing several loads in one day.
  • Use water saving devices on faucets and showerheads.
  • When replacing old toilets, buy a low-flush model.

Do keep lint out of your septic system by cleaning the lint filters on your washing machine and dryer before every load. Installing a supplemental lint filter on your washing machine would be a good precautionary measure. (This normally takes just a few minutes. Lint and other such materials can make an extreme difference in the frequency and cost of pumping out your septic tank.)

Do use substitutes for household hazardous waste. Replace the following hazardous products with one that is less environmentally harmful. The hazardous cleaners are followed by the suggested substitute.

  • Ammonia-based cleaners: Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge. For windows, use a solution of 2 Tbs. white vinegar to 1 qt. water. Place the mixture into the spray bottle.
  • Disinfectants: Use borax: 1/2 cup in a gallon of water; deodorizes also.
  • Drain decloggers: Use a plunger or metal snake, or remove and clean trap.
  • Scouring cleaners & powers: Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge or add 4 Tbs. baking soda to 1 qt. warm water or use Bon Ami.  It's cheaper and won't scratch.
  • Carpet/upholstery cleaners: Sprinkle dry cornstarch or baking soda on, then vacuum. For tougher stains, blot with white vinegar in soapy water.
  • Toilet cleaners: Sprinkle on baking soda or Bon Ami, then scrub with a toilet brush.
  • Furniture/floor polishes: To clean, use oil soap and warm water. Dry with soft cloth. Polish with 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts oil (any kind), or use natural products with lemon oil or beeswax in mineral oil.
  • Metal cleaners: Brass and copper: scrub with a used half of lemon dipped in salt. Stainless steel: use scouring pad and soapy water. Silver: rub gently with toothpaste and soft wet cloth.
  • Oven cleaners: Quickly sprinkle salt on drips, then scrub. Use baking soda and scouring pads on older spills.
  • Laundry Detergents: Choose one with a zero phosphate content or use soap flakes with 1/3 cup of washing soda. (Before switching, wash clothes in pure washing soda to remove residues.)

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