Maintaining a Safe Septic System

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Why Nobody Can Tell You Exactly How Often To Pump Your Septic Tank

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How often should you pump your septic tank? If you have a home on septic, then this is most certainly a question you've asked a fellow homeowner and maybe even your plumber. You may have been frustrated or confused when the response you got was "it depends." You wanted a clear answer — like every year or every 5 years. But the reason nobody can give you an answer like this is that the necessary frequency of pumping really does depend — on a bunch of different factors. You pretty much have to weigh those factors and how they apply to you, and then make your own best judgment as to how often you need to have your septic tank pumped.

So, without further ado, here are the factors to consider as you determine how often your septic tank needs pumping.

How many people live in your home, relative to its size?

When septic companies install a septic tank, they size the tank based on the expected number of people who will live in a home. For instance, they expect 3 - 4 people to live in a 3-bedroom home. If you have more people living in your house than you have bedrooms, then the tank will fill up faster than intended, and you will need to have it pumped more often. If you have fewer people in your home than you have bedrooms, then you won't need it pumped as often. The default when a home is occupied as intended is about every 3 years. With fewer people, you may be able to go 5 years. With more people, you may need to pump every 1 - 2 years.

Do you have and use a garbage disposal?

If you use a garbage disposal, you need to have your tank pumped more frequently since that food waste will build up in the tank and is really slow to break down. Most people actually need their tank pumped yearly if they use the disposal on a regular basis. 

Does anyone flush anything they shouldn't?

When you have a septic tank, the rule is supposed to be that only the "3 Ps" get put down the toilet: pee, poop, and paper. If anyone is flushing tampons, cotton swabs, or other items, you need to pump your septic tank more often — probably every one to two years — because these items do not break down fast at all.

Consider the guidelines above to get a better idea of how often you need to pump your septic tank. Once your septic professional has done it a time or two, they can let you know if you can let it go a little longer next time or not.

Contact a local septic tank pumping service to learn more.