Make Sure Your Drain Usage Isn’t Harming Your Septic System

water flow into the drain in the kitchenYou probably know that drain clogs are a very real problem that can happen to anyone. But did you know that watching what you put down your drains is also a critical component of septic system health? In fact, forming positive drain usage habits is one of the key ways you can care for your septic system (in addition to having it inspected and pumped regularly).

But while you probably know that you shouldn’t put big or solid items down the drain, you may not realize just how many common waste items those categories encompass. And there are other considerations when it comes to drain use, too. Here are three questions to help you analyze what you put down your drains and make sure it doesn’t cause problems for the drains or your septic system.

1. Do you ever use the drains to dispose of solids?

Even small solid items can build up and form drain clogs. If they get all the way down the drain to the septic tank, they can cause problems there as well. Solid items that float, for example, can be a big problem because they won’t sink down to the bottom of the tank with the rest of the solid waste (which is how the septic tank is designed to work).

Instead they’ll float to the pipes that lead out to the drainfield, and if they collect there or enter the drainpipes they can cause blockages in the drainage system and inhibit the septic system’s ability to process waste.

To avoid this type of problem, it’s best not to send anything solid other than human waste (and of course toilet tissue) to the septic tank. This means no flushing cotton balls or swabs, toothpicks, paper towels, “flushable” wipes, or baby wipes.

Additionally, you should avoid using the food disposal if you have one. Food that’s disposed of in the septic system tends to build up as solid waste and make the tank fill up faster so that you have to have it pumped more often.

2. How often do chemicals go down the drain?

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this, but your septic system only functions because of the thousands of microbes in its tank. If the tank becomes too “sanitary,” it won’t be able to break down waste. Because of this, it’s not recommended to put chemicals into the system.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use bleach. It just means that you should avoid excessive use–things like, for example, bleaching loads of white laundry on a daily basis. And you shouldn’t think of the drains or the septic system as a universal disposal system; instead, dispose of excess cleaners, medications, paint, and similar items at a hazardous waste facility rather than in your septic system.

3. How much water goes down your drains each day?

Too many solids can overwhelm your system, but too much liquid can be problematic as well. The amount of liquid your system can handle at a time depends on its size, but as a rule you should be careful not to use excessive amounts of water when the system is already bogged down (for example, don’t do a month’s worth of laundry during a record rainfall). You can check county records at your local building code office if you don’t know how many people your system is rated for.

These three questions can help you perform a self-audit of your septic and drain usage. For more information about how to avoid clogs in your drains and septic pipes or for maintenance and repair information, contact us today.