How often should a septic tank be pumped?

Jack Cacy

septic system cleanout

The most frequently asked question we get is “how often does a septic tank need to be pumped?” The answer is that it depends on how you look after your septic system and if you use a septic tank treatment to reduce sludge and solids. In this article, we cover what you need to know to plan your septic tank pumps and how to push out the need for a septic tank to be pumped by years with a simple, cost-effective monthly treatment that costs less than $9 per month that you flush down your toilet.

Septic tanks pumping frequency – what is the best

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While there are certain broad standards and in some counties regulatory standards that septic tanks must be pumped every 2 to 5 years, the fact is that you should schedule septic tank pumping of your septic system as frequently as it requires. The biggest factor in how often a septic tanks should be pumped is the sludge and scum levels inside the tank.

A septic tank is designed to let gravity do the heavy lifting. There are three main layers in a septic system:

  • Sludge – this is mainly solid waste and it sinks to the bottom of the septic tank and can include any non-degradable things like feminine hygiene products, plastics, paper towels etc.
  • Scum – made up mainly of soap scum, oil or cooking grease floating at the top of the septic tank.
  • Liquid – this is a watery mix of effluent waste that sits in the middle of the septic tank, below the scum layer and above the solid waste.


Many septic systems have two tanks the first holds the Sludge and Scum while the second holds the liquid. When your septic system is functioning properly, the sludge and scum remain in the first tank while the liquid mixture flows into the second tank and then out into the drain field. Unless you are using a septic tank treatment to break down the sludge and scum as part of your septic system maintenance, then the sludge and scum septic tank cleaning and septic pumping will need to be carried out frequently. See the article “What to put in septic tank to break down solids & grease” for more information.


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So then, how often does a septic tank need to be pumped?

If you have not had septic tank pumping done on your septic system in the last 3-5 years and you are not using a septic tank treatment to reduce the sludge and grease then your tank could be in danger of a costly failure.

If the sludge layers increase and fill up the first chamber, they can start to enter the second chamber if your septic system has one. The next step is that the sludge layers will move through your outlet pipe and into the smaller pipes in your drain field, blocking them. The drain field or leach field is a system of smaller underground pipes designed to slowly leach the treated water into the soil. If sludge and grease get into your drain field, this is a costly septic tank system repair.

Despite popular belief (and flyers from local septic tank cleaning companies), most septic systems do not need to be pumped every year. It is determined by the levels of scum and sludge in your septic system, not a set timeframe.

You can either check the levels yourself, this will mean making a pipe scum stick and a separate sludge stick. This is often beyond most homeowners on a technical level and also on a disgusting level when using them both. If you are interested in doing this you can read on this website how to construct both. The most practical way to tackle this job without getting human waste on you and all over the backyard is to get a septic service provider to inspect your septic system. You can call 888-814-2654 to get a free, no-obligation quote from a local septic tank cleaning company.


Most household owners pump too often and could save hundreds

Many homeowners who are new to septic systems or do not know how to carry out septic system maintenance, or let’s be honest don’t want to get dirty in their septic tanks will generally schedule septic tank pumping frequency too high. That is they will pump their septic tank out too often, costing more than they should be paying.

There is a septic tank treatment that was developed at a top US college and manufactured in the US. Costing less than $9 per month, this tiny 55 grams tablet with no nasty chemicals or bleach eliminates all smells from your septic tank in just 3 days.

It also breaks down and eliminates all organic sludge from your septic tank, including natural oils, grease and organic hydrocarbons and prevents back-ups, clogs, including corrosion.

Over 21,000+ septic tank owners have been using it already, and they are now worry-free because their septic system runs smooth and they save close to $500 a year because they don’t need to have their septic tank pumped anymore!


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How to Tell if Your Septic Tank Is Full

Having your septic tank overflow is a nightmare of many US homeowners. There is a difference between your septic system being full and overflowing. Overflowing is a sign of a septic tank blockage, most likely in the outlet pipe or drain field. If your septic tank is overflowing then call 888-985-3421 immediately to get a septic tank system check by a local septic professional.

If you would like to learn more on how to tell if your septic system is full or operating at a normal level so you know when to pump septic tank, learn more with this article “How to tell if septic tank is full“.


Septic Tank cleaning or pumping

Frequently Asked Questions

I had my septic system pumped but it is full again

For more information on this question see the full article “Just had septic tank pumped and full again!


How do you know when it’s time to pump your septic tank?

This is a very good question and one that we hear often. Most long-time owners of septic systems will tell you that the only real way to know when it’s time to pump your tank is to have your tank pumped at least once each year. The biggest reason for this advice is that most people don’t even know when their tank was last pumped.

Since most septic tanks are buried down in the ground, they’re out of site and out of mind until it’s time to pump them. By having your septic tank checked by a professional you will avoid the high cost of a septic tank be pumped prematurely.


How long can you go without pumping septic?

The question should not be how long can you go between getting your tank pumped, it should be how do you monitor your septic system and how do you maintain your septic system. If you are using a septic system maintenance treatment you will be able to go much longer than if you do no septic system maintenance.




Is it necessary to pump septic tank?

It is not necessary to pump your septic tank unless you notice the following:

  1. Sludge on the bottom of the tank
  2. A high water level in your holding tank (indicates not enough drain field activity)
  3. Low levels on your pressure gauge (indicates that all water has exited system and solids are sitting in tank)


How often does a 1000 gallon septic tank need to be pumped?

Septic tank size is not the indicator of when to get a septic tank pumped, it is normally how many people use the system. For example, if you have a 1000 gallon tank in your house and 5 people are using it, then the septic tank will need to be pumped more often than if 2 people were using it.


How do you know when your septic tank needs pumped out?

Unfortunately, most people will find out the hard way with either their outlet pipe and leach field pipes blocking and septic system over flowing or a sewage backup into the house with household waste coming through the drain pipes, washing machines, kitchen sink, toilets and shower.


What happens if you don’t empty your septic tank?

Your septic tank only needs emptying to remove the solids and scum, if your septic tank is correctly maintained then your solids should not build up. If you do not pump out the solids then they are allowed to accumulate in the septic tank which can possibly cause an environmental problem when it is time to drain the tank, plus if the sludge/scum accumulates in your drain field lines it will also plug them up or at least put stress on them.

Please remember that as long as you maintain your septic system, this will allow it to work effectively and efficiently without any problems or worries of having a septic back up into your home. For more information see this article “What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Septic Tank“.


Can you pump a septic tank too often?

You can pump a septic tank too often, but this is not very common. The main reason it is done more in Florida and other states is the water in these areas contains a high level of phosphorous which causes a build-up of solids in the septic system.


How often are you supposed to pump septic?

The only you are required by county regulation for septic pumping is if your county or state mandate a certain pumping frequency.


Do you really need to pump your septic tank?

This will depend on what you put into your septic system. For example if you have a kitchen garbage disposal you will need to pump your tank more often. A garbage disposal put more solid waste into your septic system. If you use your garbage disposal frequently then you may need to increase your septic tank pumping frequency.


Once I have had my septic tank pumped what next?

There is a lot you can do after your septic system has been refreshed or your septic tank pumping has occured. Read this article for more information – “What to do after septic tank is pumped“.


How do you know if your septic tank needs cleaning?

Periodic maintenance cleaning of your septic system works as well as any sump pumps, aerator, treatment plant and drain field is a good idea. When you get your septic pumping service ask if you can get your septic tanks checked or cleaned at the same time to save a call out fee for a different provider. The best time to get your tank cleaned and equipment inspected is when the service professionals have removed the sludge layer, liquid waste and scum layer. They will also be able to answer any questions like what is the best toilet paper to use in your septic system, inspect any slow drains replacing existing toilets or inspecting rainwater drainage systems or other rainwater drainage systems. To get a quote on this work call 888-814-2654 and make sure you have your septic tank size for your septic systems.


How much does it cost to empty a septic tank?

This will depend on the size of your tank and what is in it. There is a big variety between states but Generally cleaning a septic tank costs $200 – $500 or more per hour for this service plus clean out truck fees, disposal fees and mileage charges.


So hopefully this article has answered the question how often empty septic tank or how often do you empty a septic tank! Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or would like an article on a certain topic.


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Related article – Septic Tank Sewage Odor Inside & Outside Why The Sewage Smell In House?

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