Knowing How to Clean a Septic System


The concept of plumbing is older than some people may realize. In fact, the ancient Romans used lead-coated pipes to carry water, and their word for “lead” inspired the modern atomic symbol “Pb” for lead as well as the term “plumber.” Today’s pipes don’t typically have lead, though, and modern plumbing is more advanced than anything the Romans had. Most homes and buildings today are connected to public utilities and sewage treatment plants, but many rural homes are too remote to be connected, too. Instead, a rural property may make use of septic tanks and septic systems, and these are self-contained sewage treatment systems that return water to the natural environment. Of course, like any other plumbing, septic tank treatment is necessary, and septic services can help remove grime from the system or replace damaged parts. What is there to know about septic tank treatment today?

How the System Works

Knowing septic tank treatment methods also means knowing the basics of a septic system overall. A house’s pipes will flush dirty water down to an underground septic tank, which may be quite large and hold a few days’ worth of water all at once. This underground tank is home to bacteria colonies that break down solid organic waste, which results in particles settling to the bottom and forming a thick sludge. Fats and oils may float to the top, and there will be relatively clean water in between. After a few days of this, that middle water will pass through a filter grate and flow further into the system, branching out through a series of pipes. These pipes, which are in the ground’s top layer, have holes and nozzles in them that leach out water into loose dirt and gravel. That, combined with more natural bacteria colonies, filters and cleans the water even more and allows harmless clean water to re-enter the natural water cycle. This completes the process.

Septic Tank Treatment

What might go wrong with a septic tank, and what sort of routine care might it need? As mentioned earlier, thick sludge of wastes will build up on the tank’s bottom, and it has no means of leaving the tank on its own. Once the tank is one third to one half full of that sludge, the homeowner may call a septic pumping company and have an expert crew arrive on the scene. They will unearth the tank, open its hatch, and attach a tube that pumps up all of the sludge with powerful pumps in the truck. A homeowner may insert a long stick known as a “sludge judge” into the tank to measure how full it is.

If that tank is very old, however, it may start leaking, and that is a problem. A tank that is 15-20 years old or so can be dug up and replaced with a new one entirely, and professionals can handle this job once called. A new tank might also be larger than the old one, if the house’s plumbing uses have increased recently.

Routine maintenance and cleaning can also help. The filter grate in the tank might get clogged with grime, and water can’t pass through. The owner may remove and clean off that grate before putting it back, or replace it if the grate is damaged or proves too difficult to clean off. But it’s a bad idea to simply remove the filter to allow water to pass through, since this phase of filtration is important.

The pipes deeper in the system may get coated on the inside with grime and debris, which restricts water flow. If that happens, the owner may have the pipes dug up, and crews will use pressurized water to blast the grime out and clean the pipes before putting them back. Also, take note that motor vehicles should not be allowed to drive across the field where the pipes are, since a vehicle’s weight will compress the soil and gravel. That will clog up the system, and it’s troublesome to blast the soil free again. Lastly, waste such as tobacco, baby diapers, and moisturized hand towels should not be flushed down the toilet or sink, since they will not break down in the septic tank. Instead, they will clog the system.

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