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Do’s and Don’ts of Septic System Maintenance

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Septic system maintenance

Septic systems need routine maintenance by a professional and careful monitoring by the homeowner. Here are some handy do’s and don’ts for keeping your system performing at its peak (tips on aerobic systems here).

DO have your septic tank cleaned and pumped on a regular basis by a registered and licensed septic tank service company (and make sure they are disposing of the waste in a manner approved by EPA and TCEQ).

The longevity of a septic system depends on its usage and maintenance. The tank should be pumped and cleaned every 3 to 5 years, depending on the size and usage of the system. This is to prevent sludge from entering the drainfield, which can lead to system failure. When a garbage grinder is used, more frequent cleaning will be required.

DON’T treat the system as city sewer. Economy in the use of water helps prevent the overloading of a septic system that could shorten the life of the system and necessitate expensive repairs. Leaky faucets, running commodes and other malfunctioning equipment should be carefully guarded against.

DO maintain the area where the septic tank and drainfield are located. For a period of time after the installation, the soils will settle. Filling and leveling of the area should be maintained so that rain and surface water will not enter the drainfield and cause flooding. Use good soils for leveling.

Grass cover is required over the area of the drainfield. If you have an automatic yard sprinkler, set it for shorter periods of time so that you don’t flood the drainfield by over watering.

DON’T flush anything except toilet paper and wastewater. Items flushed down the commode do not disappear; they must be treated by the septic system. Things that harm your system include:

  • excessive use of garbage disposal
  • grease
  • too many cleaners
  • cigarette butts
  • diapers
  • wipes
  • feminine products
  • cotton swabs
  • paint
  • paint thinner
  • auto grease
  • antifreeze
  • unused medicine
  • etc.

DON’T build any structure over the tank or the drainfield. The structure will prevent access to the system for maintenance, reduce the ability of water to evaporate from the soil, and restrict air movement into the soil.

DON’T drive heavy equipment over the components of the system. Heavy equipment can crush the components and lead to expensive repair.

DON’T use additives. They are not necessary for a septic tank to operate, and some may even harm the system’s operation by liquefying the sludge in the tank and carrying it out into the drainfield, causing system failure. Natural bacteria are present in the wastewater to decompose the waste.

DON’T overuse soaps, detergents, bleaches, drain cleaners and other household cleaning chemicals, as they can harm the microbes living in the system. Use these chemicals moderation.

Learn more about septic systems by visiting our FAQ section. You can also give us a call or contact us online for more information.

For 86+ years, Van Delden Wastewater Systems has withstood the test of time as the leading Wastewater System company, providing San Antonio, Boerne, and the surrounding Texas Hill Country with services you can count on now and in the future. 

Call us for any of your wastewater systems needs and let our professionals help you with your septic installation and maintenance requirements: 210.698.2000 (San Antonio) or 830.249.4000 (Boerne).

8 thoughts on “Do’s and Don’ts of Septic System Maintenance

  1. It is ok to plant strawberry plants on top the drain field, the root system is not that deep so hoping it is ok to do so?

  2. Every now and again my system seems to put out some type of smell like sewage what is the problem. Also at least a quarter of my tank sits above the ground should I cover it

    • Is the smell outside or inside? If inside, you may have a clogged roof vent. If outside, perhaps the unburied tank may contribute if the lid is not sealed. We normally do not recommend sealing concrete lids as it makes them hard to open for maintenance. We don’t have tanks exposed like that around here, so you may want to contact the installer or local service person.

  3. Do you need to change sprinkler timer according to the season? What is the ideal time to activate the sprinklers?

    • You do not need to change your aerobic system timer according to the season (at least not here in the San Antonio area…not sure if there are advantages to doing that in other regions). If you have a timer, your system is usually set to spray after midnight (between 12am and 5am usually).

  4. My clothes washing machine discharges to my septic system. Will this cause any concern long term?

    • Every county and state have different regulations, but in Texas the washing machine is required to be connected to the septic system (unless it meets certain criteria). Check with your county for your local regulations.

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