How To Break Down Solids in a Septic Tank

Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their septic tank, which can be stressful. You may be concerned that the solids in your septic tank aren’t breaking down quickly enough, and it’s affecting the capacity of your septic tank.

If you want to avoid spending extra money and pumping your tank too frequently, you’ll need to learn how to break down stubborn solids in your septic tank.

There are multiple ways to break down the stubborn solids in your septic tank. Septic stirring, yeast, hydrogen peroxide, and even rotten tomatoes can work to break down those solids and keep your septic tank at the proper capacity.

Finding the best method for breaking down solids in a septic tank isn’t hard. There are plenty of things around the home you can use, and this isn’t a chore you’ll have to take on too frequently. Let’s discuss the best ways to help break down solids in a septic tank.

How Do I Know If I Have Solids In My Tank?

Your septic tank will almost always have solids in it. The only time your tank won’t have any solids is right after you pump. The moment you flush the toilet, use your garbage disposal or rinse food particles or other matter down the sink, you’ll have solids in your tank again.

However, flushing the wrong items or not pumping frequently enough can cause a problematic accumulation of solid waste in your septic tank.

Causes Of Solid Waste Accumulation In Septic Tanks?

It’s normal for septic tanks to accumulate some solid waste. The bacteria in septic tanks can’t fully break down everything, so a thick layer of sludge accumulates in the bottom of the tank.

However, there are times when the build-up of waste is too much for your tank and affects its efficiency. When there’s too much solid waste in the septic tank, it can cause several problems.

Without enough room to break down more solids, the bacteria in your septic tank won’t function properly. This can damage your septic tank and lead to a costly repair bill.

The most common causes of solid waste overaccumulation in septic tanks are the disposal of too much waste, waiting too long to pump your tank, or disposing of the wrong items.

Disposing of too much waste generally refers to households with garbage disposal. Overusing your garbage disposal can send too much waste into your septic tank. If it’s unable to cope with large amounts of waste, or can’t break down certain food products, then this will cause problems.

Most septic tanks need to be pumped every 2-5 years, although this can vary widely based on how big your tank is, how large your home is, and how many people live in your home. Sticking to a regular schedule for inspecting and pumping your tank is essential.

Lastly, disposing of the wrong items can cause a build-up of waste. You should only be flushing human waste and toilet paper down your toilet. When it comes to your kitchen and other sinks, you should avoid rinsing any inorganic compounds down the drain. Otherwise, your septic tank will fill up too quickly.

What Happens When My Septic Tank Is Full?

When your septic tank is full, there’s no more room for waste in the tank. This can cause several issues, such as clogs, a backup of waste into the home, slow-moving drains, or water pools in your yard.

You’ll need to pump your tank every two to five years to avoid these issues. Waiting too long to pump your septic tank can cause severe damage to your septic system and lead to a costly repair bill.

Make sure you’re only allowing the right type of waste to flow into your septic tank, and try to break down the solids in your tank if it’s filling up too quickly.

How Do I Break Down the Solids in My Septic Tank

If you feel your septic tank is filling too quickly and isn’t properly breaking down solids, then there are plenty of methods you can use to help the process along. There are a few manual methods and several additives that can encourage the breakdown of solids in a septic tank.

It’s important to make sure you keep up with your septic tank’s maintenance, so learning these tricks can save homeowners a lot of stress and money. Here’s how to break down the solids in your septic tank.

Manual Break Down Of Solids

The first few methods we will discuss are how to break down the solids manually. There are three ways to break down solids in your septic tank manually: septic stirring, backflushing, and pumping. These methods are your first line of defense against an over-accumulation of solids.

1. Septic Stirring

As the bacteria break down the solids in your tank, it creates a sludge that settles in the bottom of your tank. Sometimes, large chunks get caught in this sludge and aren’t properly broken down.

Taking a long, strong stick or other tool and manually stirring the sludge in your tank will prevent the solids from settling to the very bottom and give the bacteria a chance to break it down better.

2. Backflushing

You’ll need a powerful wet vacuum to try the backflushing method. You use the wet vac to suck all the wastewater out of your septic tank and then spray the water back into the tank. The force of the water should dislodge solids from the bottom of your tank and break them up.

3. Pumping

There’s no way around the necessity of pumping your septic tank. Even if you use other methods to break down the solids, your septic tank will eventually fill up with sludge. When this happens, your best bet is to have a septic tank service provider come out and pump the tank. They’ll clear your tank of solids, and regularly performing this service will help expand your tank’s lifetime.


Most homeowners would agree that manually breaking down solids in their septic tank is one of their least favorite chores. It’s hard and dirty work, which is why many people prefer using additives instead. Here are some additives you can use in your septic tank to break down solids.

1. Active Yeast

Active yeast will interact with the bacteria and enzymes in your septic tank. It will help the bacteria and enzymes break down more efficiently, so this is a great method if you’re having trouble with a build-up of solids.

Active Yeast

Just pour ¼ or ½ of a cup of active yeast into your toilet and flush it. For best results, wait a few hours before taking a shower, running your dishwasher, or doing a load of laundry. This will give the yeast a chance to sit in your pipes and get to work.

2. Rotten Tomatoes

Using rotten tomatoes is a neat trick that will help your septic system break down organic materials. You’ll need three or four rotten tomatoes cut into very small chunks. Grind them down your garbage disposal, and run plenty of water, so they don’t clog your pipes.

Rotten Tomatoes

The tomatoes have pectinase, which is a protein that’s very effective at breaking down pectin and plant cell walls. This is a great way to eliminate an accumulation of solids caused by too much food going down the garbage disposal.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide

Using hydrogen peroxide was a common recommendation for breaking up solids in a septic system. The bacteria in your tank need an aerated environment to break up solids effectively, and hydrogen peroxide can help create that environment.

Hydrogen Peroxide

However, service professionals no longer recommend this method because hydrogen peroxide can harm your soil and cause issues with your drain field. If you decide to try this method, you need to make sure the hydrogen peroxide is very diluted.

4.   Inorganic Acids

Plenty of septic tank treatments are available online and in big stores that use powerful inorganic acids as their main ingredient. These treatments are very effective at removing any type of clog in the septic system and breaking down solids, but they aren’t the safest method.

Inorganic Acids

Treatments using inorganic acids can cause serious damage to your septic system. It could harm your pipes and the walls of your septic tank, which could lead to raw sewage leaks.

5.   Chemicals

Chemical additives are another option that comes with some risks. Some chemical additives used for septic systems include baking soda, sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide. Most service professionals actually recommend against using chemical additives to break down solids in your septic system.

While chemicals can be effective, they can also kill the vital bacteria in your septic system. Without that bacteria, the solids in your septic tank won’t get broken down without constantly having to add chemicals. Over time, this will destroy your septic system.

6.   Pumping

Pumping your tank is really the only recommended way to deal with solids in your septic tank. A trained service professional will come out and complete the task for you. Homeowners should keep a record of each time their septic system is pumped so they can stick to a regular schedule.


How Long Does It Take for Solids To Break Down in a Septic Tank?

Septic tanks that are in proper working order and aren’t experiencing any clogs or other issues do an excellent job of breaking down solids within 2-4 days. The bacteria in the septic tank needs about 2-4 hours to germinate after pumping. So long as the temperatures and conditions inside the tank are ideal, the bacteria will multiply and reach their maximum potential within 2-4 days.

If you’re using other methods to break down solids in a septic tank, then the amount of time needed for them to break down will vary. Manual methods should break up the solids very quickly.

However, the additives we’ve suggested may take a few days to help break down solids. Also, it’s important to remember that some methods aren’t recommended and could damage your septic system.

The best way to help break down solids in a septic tank is to let the bacteria in the tank do their job and contact a service professional to pump your tank regularly. Depending on how many gallons your tank holds and a few other factors, you can expect it to take between 20-40 minutes for a service professional to pump your tank.

How Do I Take Care Of My Septic System?

Homeowners dealing with a septic system for the first time can find the whole process intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Septic systems are made to maintain themselves except when they need to be pumped.

There are a few things you should do to take proper care of your septic system. As long as you inspect and pump frequently, maintain your drainfield, use water efficiently, and properly dispose of waste, then your septic system should keep running smoothly.

It’s recommended homeowners have their septic systems inspected at least once every three years and pumped every 2-5 years. You can install faucet aerators and high-efficiency toilets to ensure you’re using water efficiently.

Proper disposal of waste really comes down to keeping garbage out of your septic system. You should only flush human waste and toilet paper down your toilet. Make sure you’re not over-using your garbage disposal, and don’t rinse things like cooking oil or chemicals down your sink drains.

Finally, maintaining your drainfield comes down to making sure the pipes and septic system remains undisturbed. Don’t drive or park on your drainfield, and make sure you plant trees far enough away, so their roots don’t grow down into the septic system. A service professional can help you determine a safe distance for this.

Call Professional

Septic systems are a necessary part of maintenance for many homeowners. While it can be tempting to find solutions to issues with your septic tank yourself, it’s not recommended.

Minor accumulations of solids can be remedied by the methods we mentioned above, but it’s in your best interest to call a professional whenever you encounter a problem with your septic system. They have the right knowledge and tools to get the job done without harming your septic system.


Dealing with an accumulation of solids in your septic tank can be a huge headache for homeowners. If it’s a minor issue, then the manual techniques and additives we mentioned above can help break down the solids.

However, proper care for your septic tank and having it pumped regularly is truly the best way to break down solids in your septic tank. Make sure you contact a professional if you have any issues with your septic system because it can save you an expensive repair bill in the long run!

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