3 Things That Hurt Good Septic Tank Bacteria

Bacteria and enzymes are constantly trying to keep the balance inside your septic tank. Avoid these three mistakes that hurt that important bacteria.

1. Avoid septic tank additives

 There are many products available that claim to improve the function and longevity of your septic system, but they should be avoided.  Usually, they are either bacteria and enzymes that claim to speed up natural breakdown, organic solvents that can quickly breakdown solids, or inorganic compounds that are similar to drain cleaners and can breakdown the contents of your septic tank.

Not only are these additives unnecessary, but they can sometimes be harmful to your septic system.  The bacteria needed to breakdown solids in a septic system are present in human feces and because waste from your toilets (as well as every other drain in your home) empties into the septic tank, additional bacteria are unnecessary.  Some of the harsher septic tank additives not only interfere with natural processes in your septic system, but can also contaminate ground water and corrode your septic tank.

Another risk when using septic tank additives is that they lead to clogs in your leach field.  In your septic tank, wastewater separates into an oil layer, a liquid layer, and a solid layer.  If you put additives into an already overloaded septic tank instead of having it pumped, the additives can allow the solids to be re-suspended in the effluent (water layer).   This can allow them to travel to the leach field where solids can cause costly clogs.

2. Be careful what you put down the drain

Everything you put down any drain in your home eventually ends up in your septic tank.  This includes sinks, showers, toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers.  Solids and some types of cleaning products can disrupt your septic system, so you need to be careful of what you put down the drain.  Solids that should never go down a drain include: diapers, personal hygiene products, coffee grounds, dryer sheets, baby wipes, and garbage.

Avoid using a garbage disposal because using it often can make your tank fill up quickly and require maintenance more often.  Liquids that you should never dump down a drain include: motor oil, cooking oil, and alcohol.  Because detergents also end up in your septic tank, be careful what type you use, only use the minimum amount, and only run the dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.

3. Avoid hydraulic overload

Another thing that can disrupt your septic system is using too much water.  If a very large amount of water enters your septic tank in a short amount of time, it can result in hydraulic overload.  Hydraulic overload is usually the result of inefficient fixtures, running toilets, or doing many consecutive loads of laundry.  The purpose of your septic tank is to give solids and chance to settle and bacteria time to break down the solids.

When there is too much water running through the system, there is insufficient time for solids to settle and for bacteria to do its job. It can also lead to surface ponding and damage to your septic system.  You can help avoid hydraulic overload by ensuring that your septic tank is the right size for the number of people in your home and not wasting water.

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