Septic Tank Secrets

Septic Myth #1: It Makes No Difference What You Put Down the Drain
What you put into a septic system is quite important.

While septic systems can be quite reliable and easygoing, throwing chemicals down your drain such as drain cleaner, disinfectants, and solvents will reduce or destroy the bacteria that digest sewage, raising the risk of system failure.

For a short period, one cup of household bleach, for example, can destroy all beneficial microorganisms in a 1,000-gallon septic tank. These microorganisms will eventually re-establish themselves, but only if some sewage is not digested.

Another major no-no? Ground coffee. They are difficult to digest and may enter your leaching bed, where they may cause to system failure.

Water and sewage are the only two substances that can be securely disposed of in a septic system.

toilet bowl septic tank secrets

Septic Myth #2: Flushing a Dead Mouse Down the Toilet Is Beneficial to a Septic System
According to some, a dead mouse has certain microorganisms that boost septic system performance. This is incorrect. Every time you flush the toilet for any reason, you introduce a new infusion of helpful microorganisms.

While the ancient mouse method appears to be clever and soothing, a few ounces of dead animal provides nothing necessary that isn’t already provided by other sources.

If you want to flush dead mice down the toilet, you’re not doing your septic system any favors. In truth, septic additives in general (even “natural” ones) are at best dubious. (See Myth No. 1.)

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Septic Myth #3: A septic system cannot be expected to last more than 20 years.
To be honest, many septic systems continue to function perfectly after two decades of operation. I know this because I’ve met several people who have systems that are more than 20 years old. So far, the oldest I’ve seen is 49 years old and still working well.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, septic systems have failed after only five years of use. Working life of a septic system has considerably more to do with management than with any arbitrary lifespan assumption.

To increase the chances of your system lasting a long time, have it pumped every two or three years, avoid throwing toxins down the drain, and keep the leaching bed mowed and free of anything other than grass.

Septic Myth #4: Clogged Septic Systems Require Replacement
Many clogged septic systems can be repaired with maintenance, so replacement is not always required.

Three of the most prevalent causes of blockages are indigestible sewage particles entering the leaching bed, slimy biomat growths blocking the perforations in the perforated leaching pipes, and tree roots physically plugging the leaching pipes.

Instead, consider “jetting,” which entails placing access ports on the ends of the leaching pipes so that an internal pressure-wash can be used to empty them out. There’s no reason why a septic system can’t operate perpetually if the leaching pipes and bed are periodically blasted internally with high-pressure water.

Other than having the septic tank emptied every few years, jetting is the most straightforward and effective way to restore a broken or failing system. I’ve seen a septic system that was so blocked that there was 12 inches of raw sewage lying above the top of the tank, but it worked fine for years after the leaching pipes were jetted.

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