More than 20 million homeowners across the country rely on a septic system to treat wastewater, especially in rural areas where homes are not linked to the public sewer system. If you are one of those homeowners, someone has likely tried to sell you on the idea of septic tank additives at one time or another.
For the majority of homeowners, septic additives are not necessary because a healthy septic system has everything it needs to perform its job of treating and getting rid of waste. In fact, some studies have shown that using septic tank additives can actually do more harm than good—to your tank, your drainfield and the surrounding groundwater. To understand why, it helps to have a basic knowledge of how septic systems work.
HOW DOES A SEPTIC SYSTEM WORK?
A conventional septic system consists of a tank, a drainfield and soil. Wastewater from your home’s bathroom, kitchen and laundry flows into the septic tank, where solids (sludge) are separated from liquids. Living bacteria within the septic tank help break down the solids.
The waste remains in the tank for one or two days before the liquids pass to the drainfield. The drainfield further filters the liquid until it passes into the soil where it can be safely integrated into the groundwater. When properly maintained, a standard septic system will function for 25 to 30 years.
THE FACTS ABOUT ADDITIVES
Everyone wants that magic bullet—an inexpensive fix that saves you time and money. Septic system additives claim to help refresh your system so that you don’t need to pump your tank as often recommended, but those additives may actually end up costing homeowners more money because of the potential damage to your overall system. Let’s look at the main types of septic system additives.
- Biological additives consist of bacteria and enzymes, which manufacturers claim will add a “boost” to newly installed systems or provide added support for overworked systems. However, the bacteria already in your septic system—which comes from the organic waste produced in your home—is sufficient enough to keep the process running smoothly without the help of additives. Basically, it’s what a septic system is designed to do.
- Organic solvents and inorganic compounds are far less benign. They typically contain harsh chemicals, acids or alkalis used to break down oils and grease as well as remove clogs. The problem? These additives can actually destroy the good bacteria that keep your septic system running smoothly. Not only that, but they can disrupt the separation process that happens inside your tank, which may end up contaminating the groundwater and surrounding soil. Particularly harsh products can also cause structural damage to your pipes and septic tank.
OF COURSE, THERE’S ALWAYS AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULE
Here in Arizona, a lot of homeowners are what we call “snowbirds.” They live here only part of the year, which means their septic systems are basically unused during the months they are gone—and that means the tank is not getting the helpful bacteria it typically would from everyday wastewater.
Infrequent use can cause solids to accumulate more quickly than normal in your septic tank, so in this case additives may be necessary. If you are a part-time homeowner, talk to Paradise Septic about our free bacteria treatments with a full clean and inspection.
NOTHING REPLACES REGULAR PUMPING AND ONGOING MAINTENANCE
The best way to keep your septic system running smoothly is to make sure you have it pumped every one to three years, depending on the size of your family. Pumping is necessary to remove the buildup of solids from the bottom of your septic tank. Experts also recommend the following maintenance tips to maximize the life of your septic system:
- Have your tank inspected annually. Routine inspections provide peace of mind and ensure a potential problem or issue does not get out of hand and cause major damage.
- Use less water. Excessive water use prevents the drainfield from absorbing water efficiently, which can lead to overflow problems.
- Space out your laundry. Doing all your laundry in one day puts tremendous strain on your drainfield. Gray water will go into your system all at once, and the ground won’t have time to absorb it.
- Throw your grease in the trash. If you put it down the drain, it can clog up the holes in the leaching field.
- Don’t treat your toilet as a garbage can. The more you flush things other than toilet paper and waste, the more often you will have to get your septic system pumped.
QUESTIONS ABOUT CARING FOR YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM? CALL THE EXPERTS
Paradise Valley Septic has been serving the Phoenix Valley and surrounding areas since 1958. From installation to repair, our experienced technicians support all aspects of your septic system and take pride in providing efficient, cost-effective solutions to meet your residential or commercial septic system needs.
Send us a message today or call 480-351-1725 to experience our grade ‘A’ service!