Published On: Thu, Oct 25th, 2018

Logistics of at Home Septic Systems

How to Maintain and Take Care of Septic Tanks

A home that operates with a septic system does not function in the same manner as one without it. Although your septic tank may seem merely a headache, understanding how it works will give you a firm grasp on what you need to do to cross it off your list of burdens. 

photo/ Alexandra / München via pixabay


There are three kinds of waste in your tank: effluent, or watery waste; scum, which is mostly oils and fats; and sludge, or solids. Once they reach the tank, they separate according to their density, with the sludge sinking to the bottom and the scum rising to the top. The effluent, which forms the bulk of your septic tank contents, breaks down with the help of the anaerobic bacteria within the tank and flows through a filter into an outlet pipe. 

The pipe carries the effluent into a large drain field and empties its contents through numerous holes into beds of gravel, which surround the pipe. Aerobic bacteria act on this liquid until the water, seeping through the gravel, becomes pure and returns to the earth and aquifer. 

photo Usien


While effluent leaves the tank, sludge and scum remain behind. Every two to three years, your system will require you to have a professional pump it clear of this matter. The easiest way to find out if your tank needs pumping is to use a Sludge Judge, a tool for measuring the amount of sludge in your tank. If 30% of your tank is full, it is time to pump. 

Before you even begin using your system, however, you should have an inspector examine it carefully. During this initial septic tank inspection, it is best to find out a few things: 

  • the frequency of future inspections
  • the adequacy of the system for your personal needs
  • the volume it can handle daily
  • whether it meets current codes

Periodic inspections will then keep its operating efficiency high. 

Potential Problems and Their Solutions 

There are various problems that can cause your septic tank system to malfunction, but taking preventative measures can minimize the risk of their happening to you. For example, avoiding use of the garbage disposal in your kitchen will help prevent clogs, and installing showerheads and toilets that lower the water flow will avoid flooding. 

Also, if certain materials make their way into the septic tank, they can cause damage because bacteria cannot break them down. For this reason, diapers, wipes, paper towels, and tobacco should go in the trash, not the toilet. Similarly, lint from synthetic fibers can enter the tank through the washing machine, which also will negatively affect the system. Using a filter when draining your machine can eliminate this problem. 

Septic systems do require more labor than their alternatives, but taking care of yours does not have to be the chore that it often is. With a little forethought and a bit of care, your system can serve you long and well.

Author: Chad Brown
Bio – Mr. Brown has worked in the new home construction marketplace for over 30 years both as a contractor and project manager.

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter

* indicates required

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.


Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter



At the Movies

Pin It