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How Often Should Septic Be Pumped?

How often should septic be pumped? - Clean toilet in white bathroom

How often should septic be pumped? Generally speaking, a septic tank should be pumped every 3 to 5 years. If you notice multiple drains running slowly or a sewage smell in your home, it’s time to have the septic system inspected and pumped.

A septic system is complex, but routine maintenance can prevent costly repairs down the line. Here are a few of the factors that affect how often your tank should be pumped:

How often should septic be pumped? It Depends On How Many People Live in Your Home

The amount of waste that your family sends down the toilet, washing machine, and sinks plays a big role in how often your septic tank needs to be pumped. Families with fewer members may be able to go longer between pumping services than those with many people in the home.

Your septic system uses the natural power of gravity to separate household wastewater into three layers. The sludge layer contains solids, the scum layer is made of grease, and the watery effluent layer flows out into your drain field.

When the sludge layer in your septic tank gets within six inches of the outlet drain, or the scum layer is within 12 inches of it, it’s time to have your septic tank pumped. While a plumbing service is on site, they can also inspect and repair any septic tank leaks to keep your septic system working properly.

Hardware store products that promise to extend the period between septic tank pumpings often contain chemicals that throw the primordial ecosystem in your septic system out of balance and interfere with the naturally occurring bacteria that break down waste. Instead, consider ways to reduce the amount of water you send down the drains by installing low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators, and by reducing your laundry load size.

How Much Water Your Family Uses

The more wastewater a household generates, the more often the septic tank needs to be pumped. A retired couple could go longer between pumpings than a family of five.

Wastewater that enters a septic tank is separated into three parts: solids, sludge and scum. Sludge stays at the bottom of the tank, while scum floats on top. Eventually, the watery mixture that leaves the tank passes through a drain field.

A septic tank’s bacteria help break down the sludge and scum. If too much sludge builds up in the septic tank, it can overflow and send unprocessed waste into the drain field.

You can avoid this by monitoring septic tank levels. To do so, you can use a stick with a velcro strip and lower it vertically into the septic tank. The dark, thick sludge that clings to the stick will indicate when you need to have your tank pumped. Using efficient toilets, installing faucet aerators and switching to a load-size setting on your washing machine can also help you reduce water waste.

What Type of Waste You Flush

Although alternative septic systems break down waste differently than traditional tanks, they all still have tanks that must be pumped. The bacteria that live inside the tank do a good job of breaking down most waste, but some solids accumulate as sludge or scum. These solids must be pumped out regularly.

Septic tank systems need to be pumped when the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the outlet tee or the top of the sunken sludge is within 12 inches of it (a septic tank has an inlet tee that brings wastewater in and an outlet tee that takes the waste out). You can use a septic system thermometer to check the septic system temperature to help determine the sludge/scum levels.

The more you can do to conserve water, the fewer times you need your septic tank pumped. For example, switch to low-flow shower heads and aerated faucets and spread out loads of laundry throughout the week instead of doing one big load at a time.

The Tank’s Size

A septic tank that is too small will fill up quickly. The sludge and scum that build up will slow down the bacterial digestion process and eventually cause your absorption field to fail.

The best way to determine how much waste your septic tank holds is to have it professionally inspected by a plumber or septic contractor. They can use original building plans or the owner’s manual to figure out how much waste the septic system is designed to hold.

If you’re looking for ways to cut pumping costs, try to manage water usage in your home and avoid flushing wipes, feminine products, or other non-biodegradable waste. You can also have a professional install an effluent filter on your septic tank to reduce solids that end up in the wastewater. These filters will need to be cleaned on occasion by a professional. Also, be sure to not cover or drive over septic tank and system components.

How often should septic be pumped? Contact us if you still have questions!

If you have any questions about how often your septic tank should be pumped, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to help you determine the best pumping schedule for your needs.

We also offer a free consultation service. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call us or send us an email. We will be happy to come to your home and assess your septic system and recommend a pumping schedule.

Thank you for your interest in our services. We look forward to hearing from you soon!