How Often Should You Clean a Septic System?


Proper and routine cleaning is essential to keeping a septic system working properly. A number of items determine how often a septic tank needs to be cleaned. These include the number of people using the system, the size of the septic tank and the way the system is used.

When Is A Septic Tank Full

  • Your septic tank will constantly be filled with water. This is normal and is not an indication of the tank's need for cleaning. As waste enters the tank it is broken down and drains into the field lines where it is absorbed into the soil. Certain materials do not break down or do so at a slower rate. These materials tend to settle at the bottom of the tank.
    Over time this sludge takes up more and more of the tank's interior. When the tank is more than 35 percent filled with sludge, it can begin to allow solid waste to enter the field lines or clog the inlet from your home. At this point the tank should be emptied.

What Causes Sludge

  • The sludge which must be cleaned from the septic tank can be caused from a number of sources. Solid waste from garbage disposals are extremely bad for your septic system. If your home is on a septic system, you should avoid using a garbage disposal.
    Using harsh chemicals such as drain cleaners can affect the ability of items to be broken down within the septic system as well. A septic tank will need to be cleaned less often if the homeowner conserves water and limits the volume of water entering the septic tank. Wash only full loads of clothes of dishes, and install water-conserving shower heads and toilets.

Cleaning The Tank

  • The average septic tank will need to be cleaned every three to five years. This number can vary widely depending on the size of the tank and the number of people using the system. With three people in the home, a 1,000 gallon tank would need to be emptied approximately every 3.7 years. If the same home has a 1,500 gallon tank, it would need to be emptied every 5.9 years. The same 1,500 gallon tank with only two people living in the home would only need to be emptied approximately every 9.1 years.


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