A Homeowner’s Guide on How to Clean a Septic Tank

Your home is your castle. When you walk in, pleasant sights, sounds, and smells should greet you.

But what happens when you walk through the front door, and the caustic smell of sewage accosts you instead of the pleasant smells of home? If you live in a remote area without city sewage services, you most likely need to clean your septic tank or have your septic tank cleaned.

Cleaning a septic tank requires expertise, patience, and a strong stomach. Keep reading to learn the basics on how to clean a septic tank and get your home smelling as it should once again.


Basic Septic System Construction

Before you tackle cleaning your tank, you need to understand the basics of septic system construction.

Your septic tank is an underground tank designed to hold hundreds of gallons of wastewater. Typical septic tanks for homes range from 750-gallon tanks up to 1,250-gallon tanks.

Your main plumbing line runs from your home to the septic tank. All of your wastewater drains directly into the septic tank through this mainline.

When the water enters your septic tank, it naturally separates into three parts.

  1. The solids or sludge sink to the bottom.
  2. The water stays in the middle.
  3. The fats and oils rise to the top, creating a scum layer.

Bacteria in the tank naturally break down the sludge and turns it into liquid.

From the top of the tank, a pipe should stretch out into an empty space in your property. This part of your property is your drain field.

Wastewater flows into the tank and then through this pipe. The water flows into the drain field where soil filters out the contaminants, preventing them from contaminating drinking water.


How to Clean a Septic Tank


How to Clean a Septic Tank

If you’re not familiar with septic systems, you can cause more problems than you solve. So approach cleaning your septic system carefully. Here is one idea for a simple, natural cleanse for your system.

Basic Toilet Flush

If you have a toilet that is not flushing completely, you may have a problem with the septic system beyond it. Since you most likely don’t have the tools to clean out the pipes, you can approach the issue with some basic household ingredients.

  1. Mix a quarter cup of baking soda with a half cup of vinegar.
  2. Pour the mixture directly into the toilet.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. The mixture will fizz in the toilet and break down dirt and grime.

This mixture will clean the grime off your toilet bowl. Flush the toilet to allow the mixture to clean the pipes from the toilet to the septic tank. Because you’re using a natural solution, you won’t disrupt the bacteria in the septic tank.

Natural Septic Tank Treatment

This treatment will help maintain the bacteria in your septic tank.

  1. Boil a half-gallon of water.
  2. Add 2 cups of sugar.
  3. Let the mixture sit until it is room temperature.
  4. Add 2 cups of cornmeal, and let it absorb the water. Mix the water and cornmeal once the cornmeal has absorbed the water.
  5. Add 3 packets or 7 1/2 teaspoons of dry yeast.

Pour this mixture into the toilet and flush it. Let your tank fill, and flush the toilet a second time. You need two flushes to make sure the mixture flushes all the way to the septic tank.

This treatment will help restore the bacteria to your tank. You can complete this treatment every six months or so if you suspect the bacteria in your tank isn’t doing its job.

When to Call a Professional

There are a few telltale signs that you need to call a professional to pump your septic tank. You cannot and should not pump the tank on your own. Even if you find the proper equipment to pump out the waste, you need to find a place where you can legally dispose of it.

Professional septic tank cleaners and pumpers know how to care for your system. Trust them.

Here are a few signs that you need your tank pumped:

  • It’s been more than five years. You should have your tank inspected annually and have it pumped at least every three to five years. If you have a smaller tank, you will need to have it pumped more often.
  • Your pipes are gurgling. If you can hear gurgling through the walls of your home, call a professional. Your pipes will backup and leave sewage inside your home, where you do not want it.
  • Your toilets aren’t flushing. If your toilets are not flushing efficiently, you need to call an expert to make sure your septic tank isn’t full. Again, you do not want sewage backing up in your home.
  • Your house stinks. If there isn’t adequate room for the gasses in the tank, they will begin to flow up through your drains and your toilets.
  • Your drain field is lush. When your septic tank is full, the drain water will have more fertilizer in it than normal, making the drain field especially lush and green. Your drain field should look the same as the rest of your lawn.

Once you’ve called an expert, you can do a few things to start the process.

First, you need to find your tank. Find the sewer pipe in the lowest level of your home and then follow the direction it takes from the home. The tank should be somewhere beyond the foundation of your house and in that direction.

Then dig out the top of the tank. If your tank is underground, remove the dirt from the top of the tank to find the access port lid.

At this point, you can let an expert take over. A professional septic tank cleaning company will inspect your tank for cracks and then pump out the tank, giving you peace of mind for another year until it’s time to call them back out for an inspection.

Do not neglect regular inspections. Old and broken lines are one of the major causes of sewage backup. A septic tank expert will be able to spot problems before they can cause major damage not to mention health problems.

Septic tank cleaning takes some real expertise not to mention certification and licensing. For a more thorough explanation and estimate of cost, check out more here.

Waste No More

We will always need a place for waste. Now that you know how to clean a septic tank, you can rest easy.

If you found this article helpful, keep visiting our blog. We have articles that teach and inform, giving you the advice you need for home maintenance.

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