Septic Tank Care and Feeding

Spring is the time of year when those of us who use septic tanks are more aware of them. As Erma Bombeck once said, "The grass is always greener over the septic tank."


I like to think of the septic tank as if it were a large compost heap. Both systems work pretty much the same way. They use natural bacteria to make the contents rot. If you have something, like a chemical, that you wouldn't put in your compost, you shouldn't put it in your septic tank.

Because I use a lot of detergent and cleaners, I find it helpful to add a product made for septic tanks to restore bacterial function. To my layperson's point of view, this is similar to a person who has taken antibiotics and needs to restore natural bacteria in the digestive system by eating yogurt. (No, yogurt isn't probably right for your septic tank. I'm thinking its different bacteria. lol) I don't use yeast. It does have something in it that "grows" but I'm not sure what it is. I don't think it's bacteria that makes things rot. We want the solids in the septic tank to break down and become watery so they can be flushed out into the earth via the drainage field.


I am careful about the type of toilet paper I use at my house. I always look for a brand that specifically states that its safe for septic tanks. My favorite brand is regular Scott tissue. One way you can tell for yourself if paper is safe for the septic tank is to see if it "melts" in water. If it can absorb a lot of water without "melting," I wouldn't use it. We want solids that decompose quickly so we don't need to get the tank pumped out. That's expensive.

I don't recommend a garbage disposal for households that use septic systems. I think they generate extra solids in the tank. Also, I don't flush solids from my cat's litter box for the same reason. I used to flush solids from baby diapers, but that was a very long time ago when people used cloth diapers.


If you reuse cleaning cloths, you need to think about what products you use to clean. Ammonia will kill bacteria in the tank, but vinegar wont. I'd say its a catch 22 because the antibacterial products that we have on the market are great for killing harmful bacteria in the home, but they're hard on septic systems. They kill bacteria there too. Consider dumping dirty water from your cleaning pail outdoors and not down the drain. Maybe you'd consider rinsing your rag with the hose before running it through the washer.

All these tips add up to a healthy septic system. Wear your thinking cap and you'll be all right.

Good luck!

By Carol from Wyoming, PA

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April 7, 20080 found this helpful

Thanks for the reference to Erma Bombeck. I don't have a septic tank, but maybe some younger people will pick up one of her books. She would give me a good morning laugh after getting my 5 kids off to school.



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January 30, 20130 found this helpful

Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you're a great author. Have a nice day!

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