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In my last post, I discussed septic systems and why it’s important to take good care of them. In this post, I’ll show you how septic tanks work and how you can take good care of yours.

What does a septic tank do?

In a nutshell, a septic tank holds the wastewater your home discharges. It includes everything from the bathtub to the kitchen sink. (And the toilets, the washing machine and the dishwasher.) The solid waste settles at the bottom of the tank, forming a “sludge” layer, while oil and other wastes float to the top, forming a scum layer. In the middle is a liquid layer that is slowly dissipated back into the soil in an area known as the drain field. The liquid layer usually dissipates within a day. Biological processes that occur in the tank reduce the solid waste and scum, and help to reduce the amount of sludge that accumulates in the tank.

The bacteria that live in the septic tank play an important role in the health of your tank, but common household products and bad habits can reduce or eliminate tank bacteria. This, in turn, increases the sludge layer, which requires additional maintenance to remove. As the sludge layer accumulates, solid wastes can block the inlet pipe coming from your house, or the outlet pipe from the tank to the drain field. This can cause backups of wastewater into the home, or it can cause the drain field to flood with unprocessed waste. In either case, it’s a mess!

So how can you help reduce the chance that your septic tank will fail? Maintaining your septic tank is always a good idea. Regular, professional maintenance involves having your tank pumped out and inspected annually. Having a professional inspect the tank can help reveal problems that, if left untreated, could cause thousands of dollars in damage to your home and property.
Equally important is how you treat your tank on an everyday basis. Being careful about what you drain into the tank can produce better results, and extend the life of your tank and septic field.

So what stays out of the septic tank? Just about everything, with a few exceptions! Generally, the more solids that you add to the tank, the more often you’ll need to have the tank pumped out. Solid human waste and toilet paper can be broken down organically, so those things are allowed! Your toilet isn’t a trashcan, so avoid flushing everything else – facial tissues, garbage, sanitary products, cigarette butts, condoms and other similar items. These don’t break down, and can clog your tank.

Solid non-human waste (like food particles, scraps and grease) shouldn’t go down your drain. Dispose of food waste in the trash or compost non-meat food waste in a compost pile. Most household cleaners and soaps are ok, but toilet bowl cleaner is pretty hard on the bacteria, as are anti-bacterial soaps, bleach and disinfectants. Use these sparingly!

Do not put paints, paint thinners, unwanted drugs, toxic chemicals, pesticides, gasoline, oil or antifreeze into your septic tank. Not only will these items knock off the bacteria in your tank, they will also leach out into your septic field, which isn’t healthy! Dispose of these items properly.

When it comes time to clean and maintain your tank, give Clear Drain Cleaning a call at (330) 343-7146. We provide complete septic tank services for homeowners in the following counties: Tuscarawas, Ashland, Carroll, Coshocton, Holmes, Stark and Wayne.