Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SEPTIC TANK QUESTION

We've lived in the city all our lives.  Even growing up, as I moved around with my parents, we lived in large cities with full city sewer and water, so I never had to help with anything involving a septic tank or overheard my parents talking about how to take care of it.
How a septic system works
Flash forward to now and we have the farm, with its small septic tank.  Only one shower, one toilet, and no dishwasher, washing machine or disposal.  I've of course learned what can't ever be put into a septic tank and, from the above picture, how it all works and is all connected together

My question though is this: What SHOULD we put in there to keep it healthy?


I see all sorts of stuff on the market, name brand things that all say they are the "best product to use".  Then I've read online that just plain old yeast is good to flush down the toilets periodically, or a mix of yeast and sugar.
Dry Yeast
So my question is, for those of you on septic systems, what advice, home remedies, store bought miracle substance, good old fashioned advice do you have for someone new to the world of septic tanks?  Remember, for now it's only being used on the weekends, but every time I'm out there, I was wondering if I should regularly drop something in (good bugs?) so the system stays healthy?

Good Bacteria
UPDATE:  Thanks for all the awesome replies (and keep 'em coming!).  Tomorrow is my blog day off and I just got home a bit ago (long day) so I'll reply to each of you on Friday.  Thanks again!!

43 comments:

Linda said...

That picture is kinda icky, LOL! Thank goodness the well & water table are several hundred feet down and the septic field only about 3 feet down. Now with no washing machine, dishwasher or garbage disposal and just one bathroom and two(?) people you shouldn't have too much trouble keeping the tank in good health by just leaving it alone. You can use store bought remedies like Rid-X if you are concerned about it. I would have the tank inspected (or do it yourself) just to make sure everything is A-OK and for a reference point in future.

Texan said...

You really don't need to put anything in it. Try not to go bonkers using bleach, using it in your white laundry won't be to much. But if you use it tons to clean with switch to something else. We all know not to pour grease down our drains it clogs, well its not good for your septic either. Have it cleaned/emptied once in a while. That runs a couple hundred bucks where we live more or less depending on the size of the septic tank. We just had our cleaned out after 8 years. The guy said it was as it should be, no issues. We have the kind with a leach field not the new aerobic ones that spray the water above ground, those are a different animal that require different care. Hope this is of some help.

Jenny said...

Use RidX once in a while and you should be fine. Don't put bleach as it kills good bacterias, avoid oils both cooking and motor, harsh chemicals and other cleaners if you can. I clean my pipes with baking soda and vinegar - toss a cup of soda and flush it with white vinegar to remove residue and prevent clogging. we don't toss any food leftovers in the pipes because it goes to compost anyway.

Tonya @ My Cozy Little Farmhouse said...

We don't have septic at this house but our old house did. We used RidX and only had to have septic tank pumped 1x. It wasn't very expensive>

http://www.epa.gov/owm/septic/pubs/homeowner_guide_long.pdf

http://www.shelterpub.com/_shelter/ssom_additives.html

Anonymous said...

I've had a septic tank all my life and I live on a farm also. I don't put ANYTHING in the holding tank since it has all the "stuff" it needs to do it's thing. I recently had the septic pumped out after 19 years. It needed it and that is the only thing I would suggest if yours needs it. Just call a place that does that (yellow pages, septic tank cleaning). cost is not much (couple hundred) but well worth it.

Annie*s Granny said...

Texan and Anonymous are right on. Don't waste your money on anything to "help" the decomposition. Just keep grease out of it and, with only two of you and the occasional use, you shouldn't have to have it pumped out for years and years. In this state, and in AZ (where we just sold property), the tank has to be inspected at the time of sale. If yours wasn't inspected, it might be worth it to have it done just to make sure it's working properly and doesn't need to be pumped out. In some places there aren't stringent rules in place for septic systems, and some have gotten away with using old oil barrels and other odd things....even to burying old car bodies to hold the waste!

AnywhereEden said...

I think my Dad had his pumped once in like twenty years. An inspection is a good idea though, just to be sure it hasn't already been twenty years. Most of those products are just designed to make money off people who don't know how their septic works. It is a stable system on its own, and shouldn't need any particular care. You just don't want to kill the bacteria that are doing all the work of breaking down waste for you. Ask the inspector about how to know if there is a problem too, he may be able to give you some clues so you'll know if something's wrong before it's too late.

Anonymous said...

We have a property with a septic system that is only used occasionaly. I feel better flushing a dose of Rid-X 3-4 times a year, since there are no other "deposits" on a regular basis. Not very expensive, and better than dealing with a non-functioning tank unexpectedly.

judydee

kymber said...

i have to agree with several others here who have recommended NOT to add anything to it. it simply doesn't need it. are you still in contact with the previous owners or their family members? contact them and ask if they ever had a prob with the septic tank and ask if they ever had it pumped. if they haven't - you might want to have someone come and take a look at it. but only if you feel the need. this may seem a bit hillbilly but the people here say that unless your yard is floating in stuff - then your septic is fine!

your friend,
kymber

Sue said...

I've had septics in my life for over 30 years. You don't have to add anything. But NEVER EVER use bleach---EVER. And really, take it easy on any cleaners--it's not necessary. Hot water and a mild dish soap clean anything.

dianefaith said...

One warning: do not plant trees on/near the septic tank drain field. The trees will grow like crazy and while you're congratulating yourself on your green thumb, the field lines get clogged with roots. At least that's what happened to us.

Shannan Deshazer said...

Oh I so relate to what you are saying. I, too, always lived in the big city with city water and city sewer. We hope to live on acreage soon and I will be dealing with the things you describe here. I'm curious as to waht people say too!

laura@imnotatrophywife.com said...

When you bought the house did you find out when the septic tank was emptied? That's really the most important maintenance issue.
With the little use you have currently, you guys should be good to go (no pun intended)

laura@imnotatrophywife.com

Kelly said...

We've never put anything in our system. Check on the regulations on having your system pumped. Here we are required to have our pumped every 3 years. We must submit a certificate from the pumping company to the county.

We did give the pumping guy a shock that he had never seen. My mentally ill, fetal alcohol, bi-polar adopted kid was supposed to sell candy bars for football. King sized candy bars at that. Well.... he didn't. He ate them flushed the wrappers down the toilet. Don't know how it didn't plug the toilet because it plugged the hose of the septic pumping system!!! That was a new one on him. He said he had seen lots of things in his time, but not that.

farmer_liz said...

We don't put anything in our system, and don't use any chemicals, even those that say "save for septic systems". We also pump all "grey water" (bath and washing machine) onto the garden instead of the septic, to reduce the load on the septic. Unless the systems are designed differently in the US, I think your picture is missing the evaporation of water into the atmosphere as well as the drainage downwards. We knew our tank needed to be emptied when our evaporation trench/drain field started to get soggy. If you leave it too long it can get clogged with too much solid matter in the overflow. Its probably worth just getting a septic pumping person in to check it out, they can tell you what condition its in. Ours charge per litre removed as well. Good luck!

ladyhawthorne said...

Another option you have is to reroute the gray water from the sink, shower and washing machine to water your property. My folks did that and it saves a bit on the bill.

M. Catherine Friend said...

Just one thing to add to all the excellent advice: in addition to being sparing with the bleach, avoid antibacterial soaps. You shouldn't need to put extra buggies in if you're not killing them off. It's a septic tank. Trust me: there's LOTS of bacteria in it.

jambaloney said...

lots of great advice - i would echo in particular ladyhawethorne - divert the gray water elsewhere - as people said - keep off anything anti-bacterial, you should be fine...
cheers!

1st Man said...

Ha, it is kind of icky when you think about it huh? Of course, ours is also about 200 ft down so that's good. Yes, it's just going to be two of us, so it should be good. We did get it inspected and it was fine. The lady ("Ma") that lived there before lived alone and did the same thing, no dishwasher, etc. Thanks for the info!

1st Man said...

Hmm, 2nd Man does use bleach on occasion, I'll have to tell him to hold it down, ha. He probably uses vinegar more often. I believe it was emptied/cleaned out a few years ago, and since it was just one of her, we should be ok. Of course, over the last year it hasn't been used much either (not sure if that's good or bad, ha). Thanks again for helping it was great!

1st Man said...

Baking soda and vinegar, great idea! I will buy some of that this weekend and use it out there. We'll go gently on the cleaning supplies. And definitely going the compost route! Thank you.

1st Man said...

Thank you for those links, I appreciate it!!

1st Man said...

Thank you. Nice to know it sort of just does it's own thing, ha. I should however, get some numbers on 'standby' just in case we ever need it on short notice.

1st Man said...

We didn't have to have an inspection before closing but we did have it inspected though on our own and it was fine then. I just never asked what or how to take care of it, ha.

Side note, "old car bodies"? Yuck!!!

1st Man said...

I was just worried that since it hasn't been used as regularly, there might not be enough "good stuff" in it and wasn't sure if I should do something to add to it. Thank you for the tips!!

1st Man said...

See that's what i wasn't sure of either, because of the lack of use. Might get some Rid-X just to be on the safe side? Thank you!!

1st Man said...

please, not hillbilly at all, ha. If I saw stuff floating in the yard, yeah I'd be freaked out haha. Yes, in fact 2nd Family that lives at the other end of the property ("Ma's" daughter/son in law) were there when it was installed and know a lot about it. No problems that they know of. Dang, now you got me on the 'dont add anything' side of the fence again, LOL! Thanks as always Kymber!!

1st Man said...

Thank you for the bleach reminder. We do use it on occasion, but better to just eliminated it completely huh? We don't use it all the time but do on occasion. You know, you are so right, simple hot water, dish soap, some vinegar, you can clean anything, ha.

1st Man said...

OOOH, great idea, I do know where the 'field' is, but not the exact parameters, I need to ask about that. I think the family at the end of property knows. I'll ask. thank yoU!! :-)

1st Man said...

Yay, I'm glad to know we're not the only newbies who don't know this stuff but feel like we should, ha. I hope you learn like we do!! And I hope your day for acreage comes soon!!!

1st Man said...

"Good to go", I about fell off the couch, pun might not have been intended but it was funny!! Yes, it was emptied a few years ago, so I guess we'll stay good to go, ha . ;-)

1st Man said...

I'm sorry about what happened to yours, I bet that guy still tells the story of that one, ha. No requirements here so that's good. Thank you!!!

1st Man said...

You know, that did cross my mind. It might not really be in the budget now but I love the "green" aspect of that idea. Thank you for the suggestion, it's now percolating in my head, ha.

1st Man said...

OOOH great idea, I never thought about that. Hmmm....we use Dial antibacterial in the house now and I just automatically took a bottle out there. Thank you!

1st Man said...

Thinking about that! And thanks for the info about the antibacterial, need to rethink my shopping for out there, lol. Thanks for the comment Jambaloney! Always appreciated!!! ;-)

Country Life said...

We have never added anything to our septic and hubby and I have had our farm for 23 years, we bought it from my parents and they got it in 1962 they also never added anything. Hubby and I though did reroute our water from the kitchen sink and washing machine to drain out by our fruit trees, so I do watch what I put down the kitchen sink and put into the washer. This does also releave the septic it now only gets from the bathroom, but to date (knock on wood) we have never had any problems with the septic. Last summer we did have to replace the line running from the house. We were doing some work with a big rig and crushed a piece of pipe (it was over 60 years old) So we replaced all the drainage line from the tank to the drain field.
Kim

Anonymous said...

NEVER use RID-X! It will clog your drainfield causing expensive repairs.

Here's a good place for information on what to do, and what not to do, to a septic to keep it healthy:
http://www.orenco.com/sales/homeowner_basics/index.cfm
Look on the right side of this page under "Documents" and click on "Homeowners Manual".

Good luck!

1st Man said...

Wow, if that's not an inspirational story I don't know what is. Sounds like just leaving it alone (except for minding what goes down the drain of course) is all you really have to worry about. I like the idea of the kitchen sink water going outside. Of course, our fruit trees are/will be scatter around, so not sure where I would make it drain, ha.

Thanks for the comment and the reassuring words!!!

1st Man said...

Thank you so much for that link. And the advice against ridx, ha. Seems like the majority says to just pretty much leave it alone and let it do its thing huh? Thanks again.

john fair said...

Diagram of septic tank is very helpful for clear understanding. It clearly shows where the drainfield and septic tank is located in the soil. Regular septic tank cleaning and pumping will reduce the risk and functions effectively.

Richelle Loughney said...

I wouldn't advise you to put something in your septic system to make it function better. Putting something might only cause your pipes to clog or even end up damaging your tank. My advice is to prevent using too much bleach or drain cleaners, as these two may kill the good bacteria inside your septic tank, and if ever that happens, sludge or bad bacteria may begin to thrive.

1st Man said...

Thank you for the advice. It's all new to us, ha. I've heard about the bleach and such. I'm thinking just vinegar and natural stuff, huh? Thanks for stopping by!!

1st Man said...

Thank you, I realized I missed this comment back in June. Thanks for the tips. Come back soon!