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Understanding Septic Systems: Maintenance and Care

Professional plumber draining a septic tank
Understanding Septic Systems: Maintenance and Care

When it comes to managing your home or business efficiently, understanding how your septic system functions is crucial. Septic systems are an integral part of many residential and commercial properties, especially in areas not served by municipal sewage systems. Skagit Plumbing has been Mount Vernon’s number-one plumbing company since 2014. We provide solutions for septic tanks, sump pumps, water heaters, and more, so we can be your one-stop-shop for all of your plumbing needs and questions! 

While the right maintenance and care can safeguard your septic tank, some issues will require expert intervention. To learn more plumbing tips and tricks on caring for your septic system or to speak to a septic professional, contact us today!

How Wastewater Flows Through a Septic System 

A septic system uses a combination of natural processes and technology to treat wastewater from household plumbing. This includes all the water from bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. The typical two-compartment septic tank includes the tank itself and a drain field. 

The septic tank digests organic matter and separates floatable matter (e.g., cooking oil and grease) and solids from the wastewater. Soil-based systems discharge the liquid (known as sewage effluent) from the tank into a series of pipes buried in a leach field or special units designed to slowly release the liquid effluent into the soil.

What’s the Sitch on Septic Tank Additives? 

Septic tank additives are marketed with claims that they improve the efficiency of septic systems by enhancing the breakdown of waste. However, their actual benefits are widely debated among experts. 

Natural bacteria present in wastewater are generally sufficient for breaking down organic material in septic tanks. While some additives, which introduce enzymes or additional bacteria into the system, might temporarily boost microbial activity, there’s no conclusive evidence that they reduce the need for regular pumping. In fact, certain chemical additives can disrupt the natural processing and potentially harm the system, leading to more serious issues like soil contamination in the drain field.

Facts About What You Flush 

To be successful with your septic system care strategies, you must understand that everything you do in your home that sends water down the drain affects the septic system. A large part of maintaining your septic system involves being cautious about what goes into it. Everyday items like food waste and toilet paper can clog up the system and potentially lead to failure. 

Septic tanks process not just toilet waste but also wastewater from showers, sinks, dishwashers, and washing machines. Avoiding excess household chemicals like drain cleaners, which can kill the beneficial bacteria that break down solids, is crucial. Similarly, items that are non-biodegradable or hard to break down, such as cigarette butts, feminine hygiene products, and even certain brands of thicker, plushy toilet paper, should never be flushed down the toilets.

Septic System Maintenance

Routine maintenance also includes periodic checks and pumping. The average household septic system should be inspected by a professional at least every three years. Systems with mechanical components, such as pumps or mechanical float switches, may require more frequent inspection. The typical tank should be pumped every three to five years, depending on use and household size. Regular pumping ensures that solids will not flow from the septic tank into the drain field. Solids can clog the drain field, which is one of the most expensive components of the septic system to replace.

While it’s clear that certain items shouldn’t end up in a septic system, it’s also important to consider the impact of a garbage disposal. Adding a garbage disposal increases the amount of solids in the tank, requiring more frequent pumping. For this reason, some septic system experts advise against using garbage disposal entirely. If you do use one, choose a model that is septic-safe and chops waste into very fine particles.

The Role of a Reliable Septic Service Provider

Although some aspects of septic system maintenance can be handled by the homeowner, such as reducing water use and monitoring what goes into the system, professional septic service providers play a crucial role. These experts have the tools and knowledge to assess the health of your system accurately, perform necessary repairs, and execute the kind of deep cleaning that only a pumped system can achieve.

Professional services are especially important for components like the baffle — the part of the septic tank that prevents solids from entering the outlet pipe that leads to the drain field. A malfunctioning baffle can lead to system failure, which is often an extensive repair.

Proactive Care Plans With Skagit

At Skagit Plumbing, we understand the intricacies of septic systems and are dedicated to helping our clients maintain their systems to avoid the inconvenience of malfunctions or failures. Our maintenance plans keep your system running smoothly, protect the environment, and help you save money on potential emergencies.

For both residential and commercial clients, we recommend scheduling regular inspections and pumping to ensure your system functions at its best. Being proactive about your septic system’s maintenance is the best way to ensure it stays operational for years to come. If it’s been a while since your last service, or if you’re experiencing issues with your system, don’t wait for a failure. Contact us today to schedule a service and rest easy knowing your septic system is in good hands.