My septic tank never needs emptying

Septic Tank Dude Author at Septic Tank Dude
Jack has been working all of his life in the septic tank maintenance, cleaning and pumping business. In 2020 when COVID hit he decided to retire from pumping septic tanks and use his knowledge to help out readers of Septic Tank Dude. Jack has a wealth of knowledge to share on septic tanks, leach fields and much more.
Jack Cacy

sewer system needs cleaningWe’ve all had that neighbour who pops their head over the fence when you’re getting your septic tank pumped and brags that their septic tank has never needed to be emptied or they have never pumped their septic tank. Septic systems are not the most common topic of discussion between friends or family, so in this article, we will answer the question next and then tell you how you can extend the amount of time between septic system pumps and save you a lot of money in the process.


If properly looked after, a septic tank can last 20+ years. Septic tanks are designed to separate scum (grease), liquid effluent and solids or sludge. Unless you are using a septic tank treatment to break down solids and sludge, you will need to have your septic tank pumped out every 1-5 years depending on usage and if you have a garbage disposal. If your septic system collects too many solids you are at risk of damaging your tank and leach field by clogging it with solids.


While 1-5 years is what septic tank professionals recommend, this will depend on how you look after your septic tank and more importantly what you put down your drains, toilet or shower. Read on to see how you can delay a costly septic tank pump and potentially save yourself $300 to $500 for each septic tank pump and clean.

don't wait for your septic to fail, prevent it


What happens if you don’t pump your septic tank

As mentioned above a septic system functions by separating out all waste into three main layers; scum layer, liquid effluent layer and sludge layer. The scum layer is what floats on top of the septic tank and mainly includes soap scum and grease or oil. Sludge is solids from poop or a garbage disposal shredding plant waste and fruit or vegetables.

The bacteria in the septic tank do break down this sludge, but in 90% of septic systems, they do this very slowly, too slow to make a real difference. This is why smart homeowners use a monthly septic tank treatment for less than $9 per month. This tablet that you flush down the toilet once per month not only adds the right bacteria to your tank but provides them with the oxygen needed to survive and break down much more sludge from your tank.

If you don’t pump your septic tank the sludge will build up over time will have two main consequences:

  1. Reduced holding capacity – If your tank is 50% filled with sludge and solids, you will only have 50% of the useable space in your septic tank for wastewater from your showers, flushing the toilet, doing dishes, household laundry etc. This can lead to your septic system becoming overloaded or overflowing.
  2. Blockages and expensive repairs – Sludge and solids should remain in the first chamber of a septic tank. If you don’t have your septic system cleaned, the solid material or solid waste coluld move into the second chamber and potentially into your leach field or drain field. Drain fields are designed to distribute the semi treated wastewater underground. The drain fields have a network of small perforated pipes and are prone to blockages if sludge makes its way into the drain field. As the drain field is underground, this can be a costly repair by a septic service company or potentially lead to the need to replace the drain field. This can also lead to standing water and sewage smell or septic odor in the backyard and house.



How to look after septic systems

You have probably heard the saying that prevention is better than a cure. When it comes to curing (fixing) your septic system, this can be very costly. For most US households, their septic system is one of the properties most expensive items. Prevention of a system failure and regular pumping can be as simple as proper maintenance, watching what you put down your kitchen sink or drain water and ensuring your septic tank is sized properly for your house.

  • Septic system maintenance – You can pay for a septic professional to check your system every quarter or every year. A much more cost-effective alternative to control the sludge and scum levels is to use a septic tank treatment that is proven to remove clogs and clean a septic tank. At the time of writing this, the company provides a 60 day money-back guarantee on this treatment. Also read this article to see when your septic tank needs to be pumped – How often does a 1000 gallon septic tank need to be pumped?
  • Correct septic system size – It is important that the septic tank is not only functioning properly but is also the correct size for the household. A 1,000-gallon septic tank is designed for households with 1-3 bedrooms. However, if you have two families living in this 3 bedroom house, then it may be too small for usage. In this case, you will need to pump the septic tank more often. If your septic tank is only 750 gallons for a 3 bedroom house, it will quickly become overwhelmed and require septic tank pumping regularly.
  • Treating your tank well – You have heard the saying garbage in, garbage out. What you put in your septic tank via your toilets, drain, sinks etc will affect how your septic tank operates. A garbage disposal used too much can put too much organic matter into your tank. Read this article on “Can you have a garbage disposal with a septic tank“. Other items that should never go into household septic tanks are; baby wipes, paint thinners, harmful chemicals, the wrong type of toilet paper excessive organic waste, plastics or metal.


household owner with septic tank treatment


Frequently Asked Questions

What type of septic system needs emptying less

There are several types of septic systems in US homes. Each septic system serves a different purpose or different use case. The septic system that is best at breaking down the human waste and sludge is the aerobic treatment unit septic system. Read that page to learn more about this septic system that has air injected into the sewage to allow aerobic bacteria to work faster to break down the solids. A good article to learn more about how you can do this with your septic tank is – What to put in the septic tank to break down solids & grease.


What happens when your septic tank is full

A full septic tank does not mean that you have too many solids in your septic tank. Every septic tank has a normal operating level. You can read more on this topic in this article – How to tell if septic tank is full.


Should you get your septic tank pumped?

In conclusion, your septic tank will need to be pumped to keep the septic tank functions working properly. There are ways of extending the amount your tank needs to be pumped and avoiding regular pumping which can be expensive. A septic tank treatment and watching what you put down your drains and toilets are the two most effective ways to make this happen. If you are experiencing septic problems or odor problems then it is probably time you got a quote from a septic professional to look at your system, but maybe try the cheaper maintenance tablets before you call the professional.


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