Septic systems provide an onsite sewage system for properties that don’t connect to a public sewer. When properly maintained, they remain out of sight and odorless. Fortunately, there’s little required for septic system maintenance, and a well-constructed tank can last for decades without replacement.

If you own a septic system, there are a few things to keep in mind for your daily habits. Here are some simple guidelines to follow in order to keep the system running smoothly for a long time.

Septic System Dos

Know the location of your septic tank and drainfield. It can be helpful to keep a sketch of the system handy for service visits.

Schedule regular inspections from a professional. This should be done at least once every 3 years, but some systems require more frequent visit. Preventative maintenance is especially important for sewage systems!

Pump the tank every 3 to 5 years. A licensed professional should handle this, because you don’t want anything to go wrong.

Be aware of your water usage. If too much water runs through a septic system, it can fail. There are many factors that can help limit water usage:

  • Fix leaky faucets and toilets.
  • Install low-flow fixtures in sinks and showers.
  • Spread laundry throughout the week and run full loads.
  • Run water appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines at different times of the day.
  • Only flush toilet paper.
  • Drain roof runoff, hot tubs, and pools away from the drainfield.

Mind your landscaping. Grass and other short-rooted plants are great covers for septic systems. Don’t plant anything that will spread roots down into the system anywhere nearby.

Keep the system easily accessible. Risers allow for easier access to a septic system, which helps keep your yard from being demolished every time it needs to be checked. Consider having them installed.

Bring in professionals for repairs. Don’t try to do it yourself if your septic system fails. A licensed professional needs to get the job done. There can be legal issues involved, and you could hurt yourself in the process.

Septic System Don’ts

Don’t use a garbage disposal unless you are completely sure that your system can handle it. The added food waste and grease from a garbage disposal will stop up most systems.

Don’t treat it like a garbage can. Toilet paper is fine, but other solid items such as cigarette butts, diapers, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, paper products, grease/oil, etc. can stop up a septic system. Even items that claim to be “flushable” can be a problem, so play it safe if you don’t want problems later.

Avoid draining household chemicals into the system. Paint, motor oil, pesticides, and other chemicals can kill off beneficial bacteria in the septic system that break down solid materials. Some can also corrode the parts. Contact local waste disposal to find out how to properly remove such substances. Harsh cleaning substances might also be a problem, so use them sparingly.

Don’t put heavy objects on the drainfield. Remember not to park vehicles or place other heavy objects anywhere near the septic system. Don’t even drive over it. Also don’t cover the area with hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete, since it will need to be accessed regularly.

Be wary of septic system additives. Products that are advertised to deal with septic systems often cause more harm than good to both the system itself and the surrounding area. Some are even illegal to use because they can pollute groundwater. Check with your local department of health if you have any questions about additives.

Don’t let lots of water run into the drainfield. Make sure runoff from your gutters flows away from the drainfield. This also goes for other water sources such as hot tubs and pools.

It might seem like a hassle to take care of a septic system, and it does take a bit more thought than public sewage. However, once you practice following these guidelines to septic system maintenance it will become second nature in no time. Keep your septic system working great for years to come!