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September 06,2023

What Not to Put in Septic Tanks

Septic tanks are underground wastewater treatment systems common among rural and suburban settings that collect, treat, and dispose of household plumbing sewage. Septic systems can handle various waste materials. However, certain items should never be introduced into them to ensure optimal functionality and longevity of septic systems. Mr. Rooter Plumbing discusses what not to put into septic tanks to maximize performance and longevity and when to seek assistance from a professional plumber.

Understanding Septic System Components and Operating Strategies

A typical septic system consists of three main parts: a septic tank, a drainfield, and soil underneath. Wastewater from your home enters a septic tank where solid materials settle to the bottom (forming sludge). In contrast, lighter materials (such as grease) rise into "scum." Then bacteria break down any organic matter before sending clarified wastewater to its next stop: drainfield, where further treatment occurs as it percolates through the soil to reach more rigorous treatment processes before returning it to our soil beneath.

Items to Avoid

To maintain the efficiency and lifespan of a septic system, it's vitally important that any materials that could potentially interfere with natural processes take their proper places within its tank and soil environment. Below is a list of materials that shouldn't ever enter septic tanks:

  • Non-biodegradable Materials: Plastics, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, and paper towels that do not biodegrade easily should never be introduced into a septic system or flushed down the toilet - these materials do not break down easily and could lead to blockages within it and even result in catastrophic failure of its infrastructure.
  • Household Chemicals: Harsh chemicals like bleach, drain cleaners, and paint thinners may damage beneficial bacteria in septic tanks that break down waste, leading to an imbalanced system and lower treatment efficiency.
  • Medication: Pharmaceuticals and other medications should never be dumped into a septic system, as these substances could contaminate groundwater and soil and potentially harm the environment.
  • Grease and Cooking Oils: Pouring grease and cooking oils down the drain may lead to the formation of scum in your septic tank, decreasing capacity while also potentially blocking drainfield drains.
  • Coffee Grounds: While coffee grounds might appear harmless, their accumulation can clog your septic tank over time, leading to major blockages. Therefore, throwing them in the trash or using them for compost is wise.
  • Dental Floss and Cotton Swabs: Non-biodegradable items such as dental floss and cotton swabs that do not decompose properly can tangle in a septic tank and interfere with their proper operation, hindering their efficiency.
  • Cat Litter: Even though cat litter may be labeled flushable, it should never be introduced into a septic tank system, as this will add bulk and possibly cause blockages in your tank.
  • Excessive Water: Consumption of excessive quantities of water can quickly overload septic systems, precluding proper waste treatment. This includes doing multiple loads of laundry simultaneously or taking multiple long showers quickly.

Care and Maintenance for Septic Systems

Maintaining and caring for a septic system properly is vitally important - aside from keeping out harmful materials, proper care and maintenance should extend its longevity and reduce potential malfunction. Here are a few helpful hints that will keep it running in good order:

  • Maintain Regular Pumping: For best results, schedule regular professional pumping to remove solid wastes from the septic tank and flush any buildup away. Pumping schedules depend upon factors like household size and water consumption patterns.
  • Conservation: To safeguard against overwhelming the system with too much water use, consider water conservation measures by being mindful of how you use water. Address leaks quickly, install fixtures that utilize less, and plan activities requiring large volumes.
  • Make Choices That Benefit the Environment: In terms of household products, make a point to use only biodegradable and septic-safe items - such as toilet paper, detergents, and cleaning agents that biodegrade quickly in landfills or are water purification safe - such as toilet paper.
  • Maintain the Drainfield: Avoid parking vehicles or building structures over your drainfield, which will compact the soil and impair proper drainage. Planting grass or shallow-rooted vegetation such as ground cover can help stop erosion while improving water absorption efficiency.
  • Inform Household Members: Make sure that everyone in your household understands which materials can and cannot be introduced into a septic tank system through flushing, introduction, or disposal.

Mr. Rooter Plumbing

At Mr. Rooter Plumbing, our plumbing service offers expert assistance in maintaining an efficient septic system. Regular tank pumping to remove accumulated solids ensures efficient functioning. At the same time, our knowledge and commitment to eco-friendly plumbing practices help maintain long-term success with any septic system.

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