How to Fix Septic Tank Problems

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Things You'll Need

  • Water-conserving appliances

  • Plumbing router

Septic system back-up

Septic system use is predominant in areas where municipal sewer systems are unavailable. The systems contain two major components, the septic tank and the field lines. When operating properly, these systems are almost maintenance-free. When problems arise, the entire system can fail and result in not only a messy situation, but also costly repairs. Fortunately, you can fix most septic systems problems if caught and properly treated early. A few key actions will help correct problems and keep your septic system working smoothly and efficiently.


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Basic Practices to Eliminate and Prevent Problems

Step 1

Limit the amount of water entering the septic system. Too much water will overwhelm the system and prevent it from operating properly. Do not allow drain lines such as roof gutters to drain into the area of the septic fields. Consider installing low-flow toilets to help prevent, as well as correct, problems with the septic system.

Step 2

Clear away plants or underbrush from above the septic tank and field line. Roots are a major enemy of your septic system and responsible for a large number of septic system problems. Lingering surface water or pooling is an indication of a clogged line. A plumbing router can be used to clear out roots and open up clogged lines. The main issue will be an access point at which to enter the line. Most systems will have an access port just outside the house foundation.


Step 3

Prevent unwanted materials from entering the septic system. Your septic system is intended to break down waste materials by using the naturally-occurring bacteria inside the waste. This bacteria works efficiently on the waste products but does not do as well on other items that often enter the system. Inspect the tank and if the solid waste occupies more than 35% of the tank have the septic tank pumped out and then limit any new influx of foreign materials.

Step 4

Ensure that poisons do not enter your septic system. Items such as gasoline, paint thinner, and strong household chemicals can kill the bacteria in your septic tank and thus render it useless. When the bacteria in your system is killed the entire process comes to a halt. Once you halt the influx of new poisons into the system, it will slowly begin to recover on its own. If too much solid waste has gathered it will be necessary to have the tank pumped out in order to allow a fresh start.


Your tank will need to be cleaned on average every three to six years. With regular cleaning you will help prevent many of the most common problems.


Never allow vehicle traffic over your septic system. This can result in crushed pipes and damaged components. Do not use additives. These are not necessary if your system is maintained properly.