How to Clean a Clogged Leaching Bed

A leaching bed disperses wastewater after it exits the septic tank.
A leaching bed disperses wastewater after it exits the septic tank. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

A leaching bed, also known as a septic drainfield or leachfield is an integral part of a septic system. Partially-treated wastewater flows from the septic tank into the leaching bed. A properly-functioning leaching bed, which often consists of distribution pipes atop gravel beds and an adequately thick layer of soil, uses good bacteria to treat contaminants before they can run off into ground or surface water. Leaching beds can simply fail naturally after many years and then require expansion to continue functioning. However, a leaching bed can become clogged or drain poorly for a number of reasons ranging from a buildup of waste to soil compaction or certain wintertime conditions. Often, treatment of a clogged leaching bed can only be performed slowly. The cause of the malfunctioning must be addressed and flow should then be reduced until good bacteria can remove any buildup and the system recovers.

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Pump the septic tank. This and any other measures that will reduce the volume of flow to the leaching bed will allow faster system recovery.

Lower the volume of water used. Limit the number of laundry and dish loads performed as well as the number and duration of showers. Repair any running toilets or leaking faucets.

Avoid using any harsh chemicals. Switch to cleaners that will not interfere with the bacteria that are breaking down clogs.

Stop using the garbage disposal.

Trim grass shorter or remove snow from on top of the leaching bed. This will increase the amount of sun that reaches the bed and decrease the amount of snow melt that will saturate the soil.

Improve drainage in the landscape. Ensure that no runoff from elsewhere in the landscape is directed onto the leaching bed.

Remove any tree roots that could be interfering with the pipes.

Use the septic tank as a holding tank if the clog is stemming from a frozen ground that does not permit drainage. Once the ground thaws, restore the flow to the leaching bed.


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