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15 Things Homeowners Should Know About Septic Tank Cleaning

Did you know more than one in five households in the United States depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater? 

With the average person using 60 to 70 gallons of water a day, regular septic tank pumping is vital to ensure its reliable operation. 

Not only does septic tank cleaning prevent damage to your septic tank, but it also eliminates bad smells and prevents sewage overflowing or pooling near the system. 

Unless you enjoy the smell of your waste, septic tank cleaning is a necessity. 

But how much do you know about it? And would you know who to call if you need a well pump replacement? Do you even know what a well water pump is? 

If not, you’ve come to the right place. Find out 15 things homeowners should know about septic tank cleaning. 

1. Inspect and Pump Frequently

You should have your septic tank inspected at least every 3 years. And your tank pumped as regularly as directed by the professional inspector.

How often your tank needs pumping will depend on how many people live in your home. As well as the overall condition of the system itself. 

However, for most, this is between 3 to 5 years. 

Having your system inspected regularly keeps it in good working order. This ensures the health and safety of you and your family. It also lessens the possibility of a breakdown. Plus, your inspector can locate issues before they become bigger ones. 

2. Maintain Your Drainfield

Your drain field (also called leach drain) is an important part of your septic system. It is used to treat the waste that comes from your septic tank. 

There are many things you can do (and should do) to maintain it. These include: 

  • Plant only grass around and over your septic system
  • Don’t drive or park cars over your septic system 
  • Keep roof drains, and other rainwater drainage systems away 

Flooding the drainfield with excessive water can damage, slow down, or stop the treatment process. This can cause the plumbing fixtures to back up. A potentially costly problem. 

Keeping a close eye on your water usage and what goes into your septic system is key to maintaining your drainfield. 

3. Use Water Efficiently

Efficient water use improves the operation of a septic tank and reduces the risk of failure. 

There are several ways to conserve water in your home, and some don’t require any money. They include: 

  • Taking shorter showers 
  • Turning off the water when you brush your teeth 
  • Limit how often you run the dishwasher and washing machine
  • Avoid running multiple loads if unnecessary

You can also purchase appliances, including dishwashers, toilets, and washing machines, that use less water. However, this can become costly. Wait until it’s time to upgrade to consider a high-efficiency model.  

4. Watch Your Drains

Slow drainage is one of the biggest signs that your septic tank is failing. 

If you notice your drain emptying slower than usual, either something is blocking it or the septic tank is not emptying as it should. It could also be that your drain field is not working as it should. 

If the reason behind your slow drain problem is some kind of blockage, you can remove the clog with everyday tools. In most cases, you do not need to call in the experts. 

However, harder blockages will need to be handled by a professional who can avoid further damage to your septic system. 

You can avoid slow drainage by not flushing certain items. These include grease, food, sanitary products, toys, and other plastics and paper items.

5. Keep a Detailed Record

Keeping your well and septic records is important. Consider having a “Septic File” of written records relating to your system. Detailed records make it easier to keep track of scheduled inspections and can help identify causes for water quality changes. 

They can also be transferred to new owners if/when you decide to sell up. 

In your records, it’s important to keep notes about: 

  • Septic tank installation
  • Permits
  • Maintenance 
  • Inspections 
  • Pumping 
  • Repairs 
  • Water tests 

Depending on how thorough you are, you may also like to note down who did the inspection work, the date it was done, what exactly was done, the outcome, and how much it cost. 

6. Know What Not to Flush

It may be obvious, but not everything can be flushed down the drain. This includes Nemo, especially if you want him to live. 

People tend to flush whatever they can, even if it means jamming it down. Of course, this isn’t great on your septic system. 

The only things that should be flushed down the drains are water, human waste, and toilet paper. 

Things that should not, include: 

  • Diapers 
  • Sanitary products 
  • Food scraps, coffee grounds 
  • Cooking fats and oils 
  • Chemicals 
  • Engine oils 

And perhaps most obvious, newspapers and plastics. Anything that shouldn’t be flushed will affect the tank’s ability to properly break down the waste. 

7. Modern Appliances May Affect Your Septic Tank

Modern appliances are a godsend. Washing machines, dishwashers, and garbage disposals add convenience to your daily household routine.

But did you know they can harm your septic tank? 

Washing machines use a lot of water, and this can be taxing on your septic system. When you do your washing, be sure to spread it out so your tank can manage the amount of water that passes through. 

The same goes for your dishwasher. Make sure you only run it when it is fully loaded. 

A garbage disposal may also seem harmless, but they make life harder for your septic system. Chopped food particles do not break down in the septic tank and end up causing clogs. Next time toss your food scraps in the trash. 

8. Keep Your Septic Tank Cover Accessible for Inspections

Do keep your septic tank cover accessible for inspections and pumping. This makes it easier for the inspector to assess quickly. If need be, install risers if your septic tank covers are underground.

Septic tank risers and covers make access easier for you, an inspector, and the waste removal team. 

If you find your septic tank to be a bit of an eye-sore, you can cover it with tall native grasses or statues.

But keep in mind that trees must be at least 25 feet away from the drain field. Fencing should be used sparingly. And vegetable gardens are a no-no near or around your system. 

9. Divert Other Sources of Water

When the drainfield floods with water, the septic system can fail. As excessive water floods over the drainfield, the wastewater will have nowhere to drain because the soil is saturated with water. 

This causes the septic waste to back up in the house and overflow on the lawn.  

Signs of a flood drain field include: 

  • Sluggish drains 
  • Toilets draining slowly 
  • Gurgling sounds in drains 
  • Floor drains backing up with water 

Septic systems are designed to only handle wastewater from the house. Roof drains, house footing drains, and sump pumps should be diverted away from the septic system. 

10. Drain Cleaners Can Hurt the Septic System

When a drain is clogged, you might think chemical drain cleaner is the answer. 


Chemical-based drain cleaners are dangerous for septic tanks. They are harmful to the good enzymes and bacteria in your tank which helps to break down the sewage. This can also cause damage to the tank itself. 

When purchasing drain cleaner, you should avoid products that contain the following: 

  • Lye 
  • Bleach 
  • Peroxides 
  • Nitrates 
  • Sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid 
  • Caustic potash 

Instead, opt for a drain cleaner that is safe for your septic tank. Septic-safe products should be listed as 100% natural, biodegradable, and third-party certified. 

11. Lifespan of the Septic System Can Be Extended

Are you aware your septic system has a used-by date? 

That’s right. Like any other piece of equipment, your system will eventually take its final breath. That’s when you’ll need a replacement.

Typically, a septic tank can last for nearly 40 years. Although this depends on how well it was been maintained. 

But there are ways you can extend the lifespan of your septic system. How? With proper maintenance and a regular pumping schedule. 

If you are a homeowner, you can schedule annual inspections from a professional septic company. This is especially important if you’re new to the home, or the system is getting older.

12. Know Your System

As well as regularly cleaning your septic system, it’s important to know how it operates. Learn all the ins and outs of your system, including type, size, and when and where it was installed. 

This information is helpful to offer a septic technician, especially if it is an emergency. They can work on the problem quicker, saving you money and time. 

If you are unsure where your septic system is located, try: 

  • Contacting your local health department for public records 
  • Reviewing your inspection report
  • Contacting the contractor 
  • Finding the main sewer line 
  • Using a metal detector

And if all fails, contact your local septic tank experts. They can schedule a time to come out and locate it for you. They might as well service your septic tank too! 

13. Anticipate Problems

Anticipating problems before they occur can save you a lot of money on repairs. 

For example, if your tank is three-quarters full and you’re hosting Thanksgiving next week, it’s best to get it pumped out sooner rather than later. 

It also pays to know the warning signs. When you know what to look out for, you’re better equipped to handle an issue before it gets out of control. 

Do you notice any of these warning signs? 

  • Slow draining sinks 
  • Cracked driveway and sidewalks 
  • Wet lawn (even when it hasn’t rained) 
  • Bad smells coming from water sources 

If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s time to take action. You don’t want to be left with a backed-up septic tank the night before Super Bowl Sunday. 

14. Ask for Reminders 

Some household appliances require annual maintenance. Your septic system does not.

Generally, septic tanks only need to be pumped every few years or so. This makes it difficult to remember. 

The best way to avoid forgetting is by having annual inspections. They will assess whether pumping is needed that year or not.

You could also ask the company to send you a reminder every 2 to 3 years. Most are happy to provide this service via a text message or email. Just remember to update them if your contact details change during this time. 

15. Know When to Call In the Experts

There are key signs to look out for that will let you know that it’s time to call in the experts.

Slow drains, gurgling pipes, flushing issues, bad odors, and patches of standing water are issues that point to a problematic septic tank. 

Don’t avoid septic issues. They can snowball and create larger, costly issues. 

Choose a company that offers the services you need and schedule service right away. Everyone should have access to septic tank cleaning services. 

Your Guide to Septic Tank Cleaning 

As a homeowner, it’s important to know how to maintain all aspects of your home. And that includes the septic tank. 

Regular septic tank cleaning protects your family’s health, saves you money, and increases its effectiveness. And don’t forget you’re protecting the environment from harmful sewage leaks. You’re a regular environmental warrior! 

But problems can (and will) happen! Even with regular cleaning, you might find yourself in a smelly situation with no idea who to turn to! 

In cases like these, the best thing to do is call in the pros at Blair & Norris. We are the septic, well, pump repair, and water well drilling experts. We also provide 24/7 assistance in Central Indiana.

Stop Googling for ‘well drilling near me’.

Contact us today for all your septic and well drilling needs! Because nothing is more essential than water. 

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