After your septic system is pumped, you may be wondering what to do next. There are widely held beliefs that something must be done to ‘reseed’ the septic tank, or reintroduce bacteria into the system so that it can work properly. There are varying suggestions on the internet for how to carry this out.
Once a septic tank is pumped, no further treatment is needed, and it should be used as normal. The act of using the system will reintroduce bacteria to it, and this is enough to make the system work again. Introducing additives has not been proven to make your system start more efficiently.
When there is no sewer system available, a septic system is an important feature for any home. This is why so much myth has grown around the subject – people care about their septic system! That is why it is important to have the facts straight so that you can properly maintain your system.
What to Do After Septic Tank Pumping?
When your septic system has been newly pumped, there is the feeling of starting anew. The sludge has been cleared from your tank, and there may be the temptation to either clean it or add something to it to get it started again.
We may think that we should treat the septic with something to disinfect it, so as to avoid having to get it pumped again soon. On the other hand, adding dead animals or yeast can make sense to us because, as we associate both with the process of fermentation and decay.
The truth is, you should do nothing. If the system has been pumped out, disinfecting it will kill the bacteria that are there to break down your waste. This may result in you having to get your system pumped again sooner! And adding things to ‘jump start’ your system, while intuitive, will do nothing to help your system.
When Should I Pump My Septic Tank?
So now you know what to do after the pump, but now you are probably curious how often you should pump your system. How often that is exactly will depend on a number of factors such as the size of your septic system, but you shouldn’t make a guess about it.
A septic tank inspector can look at your system and tell you when you should have it pumped. You should have your system inspected at least once every three years.
Don’t wait till your septic tank is full to have it pumped. Trying to wait till the last minute to get the most out of a pump can lead to waiting too long and having an overflow or breakdown of the system.
Finally, the best time of year to have your septic pumped is before winter. The reason for this is practical: it is much easier to fix at any other time of year. A helpful tutorial on this subject is available here.
What to Do After a Septic Tank Pumping
We stated above that you should do nothing once you have pumped your system. Your system doesn’t need anything else after pumping, but you should get it on a schedule for maintenance. This includes inspection and pumping, taking care of the system, getting familiar with its parts, and keeping an eye out for other issues.
1. Get on a Schedule
According to the EPA, “The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years.”
The timing of pumping varies depending on your household use, how much wastewater is used, and the size of the system itself. Establishing a regular schedule for inspection and maintenance should be your goal.
If the septic tank is not pumped regularly, it could lead to an overflow. This can cause the entire system to fail, leading to an expensive replacement of the entire system.
2. Take Care of the System
Aside from regularly pumping your septic tank, there are other ways to maintain your system. The first way is to be efficient with your water use, and the second is to watch your waste.
All the water you flush down your toilet or drains ends up in the septic system. The more water you send down the drains, the less efficiently your septic runs.
There are a number of ways to reduce your water use. These include taking care of your leaks, using high-efficiency toilets, and spreading out the days of the week you do your laundry.
You should also be cautious about what you are putting down the drain besides water. An easy rule of thumb to remember is that the only thing you should flush down your toilet is your waste and toilet paper.
3. Know the Parts of Your System
The four main components of your septic system are the pipe from your house, the septic tank itself, the drain field, and the soil. The pipe channels all waste and water from your home to the septic tank, which is usually buried somewhere on the property.
The tank holds on to the wastewater long enough to settle the solids and sludge before being passed on to the drain field. At the drain field, the soil treats the wastewater, removing contaminants and bacteria before it reenters the groundwater supply. By knowing these components, you can identify the source of issues that may come up with your septic system.
4. Check Other Possible Issues
An issue with the system can usually be identified fairly easily. A foul odor, your toilet backing up, or wastewater seeping out to the surface are some key indicators. You can also help avoid issues by checking your own habits.
Flushing down toxins will affect the bacteria in the system and reduce your septic’s effectiveness. This is also true of cleaning products. You can check on the label of your cleaning products to see if it is safe for your septic system.
Finally, if you have a garbage disposal system in your sink, don’t use it. This will help avoid forcing the septic system to process grease and solids from food waste.
Safe Septic Tank System Additives
While your septic tank does not require additives to start functioning, the question remains: Can they still be used, and are they effective? The answer to this is complicated.
Because of the lack of a standard testing method, there is some debate about this topic. In general, a well-maintained system that is being used correctly will not require the use of additives.
There are two types of additives that you can use in a septic system: chemical additives and biological ones. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid chemical additives.
The chemicals are likely to destroy the bacteria in your septic system and create bigger problems for you than they might help cure. These chemicals may also be carried forward to your soil. This can present a potential hazard to your yard and your health.
Biological additives, on the other hand, are likely to be more beneficial. Since your septic system is using biological organisms to break down waste, the introduction of more biologicals does not destroy this system. However, the introduction of too many of these additives may increase the risk of solids and contaminants being carried into the soil.
If you are considering using an additive, do your research on the product and consult with a professional. Consider alternative methods for correcting any perceived issues with your septic system before using additives.
For a more in-depth discussion on the matter, Ozaukee County, Washington has an insightful report that details the potential benefits and drawbacks of using additives.
The Benefits of Adding Good Bacteria To Your Septic Tank
With all that said, you may find yourself needing to add good bacteria to your system. The benefits of this are obvious: your septic system needs a healthy population of bacteria to function correctly. Without this bacteria, your septic system runs the risk of clogging up or overflowing.
An overly stressed septic tank can benefit from the introduction of good bacteria because it adds reinforcements to the bacteria that are already there. If you are uncertain as to whether your system is overly stressed, there is an easy test. If your septic system does not have enough bacteria to break things down, there will be a foul odor emitting from your tank.
And once again, if you are uncertain as to whether you need to add good bacteria or not, consult with an expert. They can help you determine whether adding it is right for you and how much to add.
When is the Best Time to Add Bacteria to Your Septic Tank?
The best time to add bacteria to your septic system is when it is overly stressed or overloaded. This includes when you’re aware of things being flushed down the toilet that should not have been.
This also applies to toxins that were rinsed down without consideration for the bacteria in your septic system. Additional bacteria will help replace what was lost and restore balance.
Do not use the addition of bacteria as a replacement for good maintenance or a way to avoid pumping. Your septic tank is a delicate system and needs proper maintenance and attention.
Ask a Professional
The bottom line is that when it comes to your septic system, you should always consult with a professional. An expert can help you establish a schedule for maintenance, or advise you on whether you should use additives, how much you should use, and what kinds to use. A professional can also suggest ways to keep your system healthy so that maintaining your system stays cost-effective.
Your septic system has a delicate balance to it. If it goes out, the signs of distress will become readily apparent. If you have questions or concerns, find a professional so that you can keep your septic functioning at its peak.
Septic systems are easy to forget about until an issue comes around. You can help avoid those issues by keeping your septic system well-maintained.
After you have your system pumped, use it like normal and set a schedule for your next septic inspection. Treat your system well and do not overstress it. Be economical in your water usage and keep your flushes to human waste and toilet paper.
If you are experiencing problems due to overstressing your system or you are considering additives, you should consult a professional immediately. Let them advise you on the best path forward before taking any action.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.