Category Archives: Septic System Tips

A Guide to Basic Maintenance on Septic Systems

Part of being a homeowner is maintenance. Unfortunately a lot of homeowners forget about the maintenance on their septic systems. Here in Wisconsin, homeowners are reminded every 3 years to have their system pumped and inspected. But what can be done between pumpings to keep the septic system in good shape?  Here are some tips:

Beware of excessive water use or leaky fixtures. The more the system has to work to keep up with a home’s usage, the quicker it will need attention.

Some clean-water source hookups, such as the sump-pump, can be routed away from the septic. But make sure it doesn’t dispense near the drainfield, adding unnecessary saturation to that area.  Keep down-spouts away from this area as well.

Be aware of improper landscaping around the tanks and drainfield.  Contact a local knowledgeable landscaper and/or septic service company for suggestions on this.

Avoid excessive use of anti-bacterial cleaners and strong chemicals that find their way down the lines in the sinks, tubs, and toilets.  These affect the healthy bacteria in the septic system that it needs in order to do its job.  And also realize that medications affect the septic system too.  Using a bacterial additive for the system can be very beneficial in these situations.

Keep up with regular maintenance by a licensed pumper. They should be emptying the tanks and looking over all the components, including the drainfield or mound, to make sure all looks good.


Renting a Home With a Septic System

Less traffic, more privacy, peace and quiet… and extra costs???

If you are looking to rent a home in the country — that is, away from city water — you are probably looking forward to a little more privacy and peace.  However, please keep in mind that a home away from town needs to have its own septic system or holding tank.  Be aware of this and ask your potential landlord what the arrangements will be when it comes to maintaining the system. 

If the home has a septic system (conventional, mound, etc.), it will have to be pumped every few years.  Who will pay for this service?  You or the landlord?  If problems arise and the system needs to be jetted or even replaced, how much of that cost are you responsible for?

Or if the home has a holding tank (a tank that “holds” the solid waste and water from the house) it will need to be emptied rather frequently, perhaps monthly depending on the household’s use.  Again, does the landlord expect the renter to pay for this service? 

Ask your landlord ahead of time!  Don’t go into a renting agreement without knowing this information!  It may mean extra cost that perhaps you now need to consider.  At the very least, when it is time to be pumped, your local pumper will appreciate knowing when you call from whom they will be receiving payment.

And ask them to show you in the yard where the covers are for the tanks!  This is good basic information to know. 

A Few Basics to Septic Systems

If you are a new homeowner, just moved away from city-sewer, or want to educate yourself on your system, here are a few basics to help you out:

  • Learn the location of your septic tank and drainfield, especially if your cover is underground.  If that’s the case, it will need to be dug up before your pumper comes.  (You can have risers installed to alleviate this problem.)
  • Your state may require that your system is pumped and/or inspected within a certain amount of time.  For example, here in Wisconsin, the requirement is every 3 years.  That maintenance is overseen by each county.  Any good local septic service will be able to explain how your county handles that requirement and what you will need to do as the homeowner.  However, each system is different and it may be wisest to pump more often.
  • Keep your system “healthy” by cutting back on antibacterial and antimicrobial cleaning products in the kitchen and bathrooms.  Using a monthly bacterial additive can also help in this matter.
  • Whenever you suspect a problem with your system, do not hesitate to call a professional.  Don’t try to fix it yourself.



Fabric Softeners: Friend or Foe?

Perhaps you’ve seen the influx of information out there about fabric softeners and their toxicity.  Have you stopped to wonder if they are also dangerous for your septic system?  Here’s something to consider: the chemicals used in these household products can kill the beneficial bacteria in your septic tank.  Not sure if you can live without the extra softness in your clothing and towels?  Try using half a cup of white vinegar (grain-derived, not petroleum-derived) per load during the rinse cycle.  This acts as a natural fabric softener.

And remember there are ways to jump-start that beneficial bacteria in your system!  Just ask us which bacterial additive we recommend and how you can get a free sample!

Will my water softener hurt my septic system?

A recent study showed that when your water softener is set to an efficient salt setting, it should not harm the septic system. It is recommended to keep the softener at a setting to use less salt, or update to more efficient technology. Extra salt in your septic system can increase your possibility for problems. Some plumbers have found emulsified grease in tanks and eroding concrete due to acidity from too much salt. As always, good maintenance can prevent many problems! When we pump out your septic, we are always looking out for potential issues so we can alert you before a problem arises.

Septic System Myths

Myth: “My neighbor/ friend/ etc. hasn’t had their septic pumped in 20 years! I don’t need to have mine pumped so often.”

Fact: These are VERY rare cases, when all conditions are perfect. Just because their system has had such good fortune, doesn’t mean yours will! Good maintenance is to pump every 1-3 years and add bacteria for a safe and problem free system. The State of Wisconsin does require pumping every 3 years.

Myth: Adding yeast to the septic will help prevent problems.

Fact: While yeast does help to break down a small percentage of waste (starches only), it will not help with the majority. In addition, it does not actually produce good bacteria, which aids in the liquefying process. So yeast may help in a small way, but is generally not worth the effort.

What causes odor in the “house” that smells like my septic tank?

  • Your roof vent that vents your plumbing could become plugged with leaves, debris, or snow in the winter. Check to see if it is clear.
  • Check your vent(s) on your drainfield for your septic system. Be sure they are free from plants, leaves, debris or snow.
  • Take a look at all your sinks and drains in the house and be sure to run water through them periodically, especially if they are not used often. The water that settles in the traps can evaporate and allow odors to come through.
  • OR you could have a septic system problem! If you have tried the above mentioned things, call us to check out your septic system!

How to Conserve Water

  • Repair leaky faucets. Just one leaky faucet can waste up to 4,000 gallons of water per month.
  • When buying a new shower head, toilet, washing machine or dishwasher, look for models that conserve on water use. 
  • Run FULL loads when running the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Use a toilet displacement device, such as a weighted plastic jug, to save up to 7 gallons per flush. 
  • Turn off water while shaving or brushing teeth.
  • Peel and clean vegetables or fruit in a large bowl of water instead of running the faucet. You could save 10-15 gallons of water!
  • Install faucet aerators. They can reduce water to up to 60% without sacrificing a strong flow.

Winter Tips for Your Septic Tank

  • Make sure to keep snowplows away from your tank and drainfield. The plows can compact soil or dig up the area around your system and cause damage.
  • When the temperatures drop, you may be concerned about your tank freezing. Completely avoid adding anti-freeze or any other chemicals that could harm the balance of bacteria in the tank. If your septic is used regularly throughout winter months, it will in most cases create enough heat to stay thawed. Although if we have a winter with very little snow cover to act as an insulator, it is wise to throw loose hay/straw or insulation around manhole covers and even the drainfield area or mound. Insulated covers are also available to protect against freezing.
  • If you tend to be away for long amounts of time in the winter, make sure your caretaker is aware of where the septic system is located in case of emergency.