Since most people don’t think about their septic system, many systems fail due to their owners thinking everything is running just fine since there aren’t any smells or puddles in the yard. Things may appear fine on the surface, but, there is a fine balancing act going on underground that you should be familiar with to help prevent costly repairs in the future.
The simplest way to care for your system is to think of it as a compost, but one that is buried underground. Like any compost, organics are added to the septic tank regularly while bacteria breaks down the waste material into water and gases. Like a compost, your septic tank relies on rich, healthy bacteria to continually break down the waste that enters each and every day. While your bacteria colony counts remain healthy and plentiful, most of the time things work out well for many, many years, however, lower or weakened bacteria counts can lead to disaster in a short period of time.
The key to a healthy septic tank is – keep your bacteria healthy! Simply put, avoid chemicals that kill bacteria in order to allow maximum bacteria counts within your septic tank and throughout your drain field (aka leach field, cesspit, cesspool, lateral lines etc.). How do you accomplish this? It’s simple, pay close attention to what you add to your system, assuring that whatever goes down does not act as a major antibacterial to the healthy bacteria in your tank. Laundry soap is the number 1 killer of all septic systems since many brands kill off enormous amounts of bacteria with each load. Many high capacity machines give a false sense of security since their owners believe that such units only use a few gallons of water, however, many of these newer “low water use” units can use up to 30 gallons of water per full cycle! That might be like adding 30 gallons of gasoline to your system (as far as bacteria is concerned) on a daily bases.
Seek out “Green” brands that are safer to your bacteria when shopping for laundry soap, dishwasher soap and general household cleaners. Take the time to research the active ingredients contained inside the cleaners that you use most commonly around your home. Some cleaners claim to be ‘great for septic systems’ or ‘safe for septic tanks’ but in reality, they are kind of like ‘Marlboro to Marlboro Lights’ safe. Still a disaster when it comes to bacteria but not quite as deadly as last year’s concoction.
Remember; treat your septic tank system like a compost. You want the organics to rot away underground and the best way to achieve that is to allow for healthy bacteria to completely overrun the system without having to worry about battling toxic chemicals. Use common sense with water use and fix any leaks quickly to avoid flooding and saturation. Common sense along with bacteria additives that take care of your septic tank can help greatly extend the life of your system while reducing pump out frequency.