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Septic Tank Maintenance Tips

Follow these tips to keep your septic tank system running smoothly and save yourself money on repairs.

Description: Septic System technician working
  • Have your septic system inspected every one to two years and cleaned (pumped out) every three to five years or more frequently, depending on the tank size and number of people using the system.
  • Never flush cat litter, coffee grounds, diapers, towelettes (even the‘flushable’ type), cigarette butts, tampons, condoms, grease, dental floss, baby wipes, paints, thinners, pesticides, oils, medicines, or excessive household chemicals.
  • Know your system's location. When you have the tank pumped, draw a diagram or map showing its location in relation to fixed points - corners of the house, steps, or fence posts. Ask the pumper to help you locate the drainfield. Note its location on your diagram, along with the location of your drinking water well. Keep this sketch with your septic tank records.
  • Place an easily movable item - a birdbath or decorative rock - over the tank lid to make it easy to find.
  • Protect the drainfield.
    • Add a barrier to prevent anyone from driving over the drainfield, which could break the tank lid and pipes and compact the soil, restricting oxygen flow. (Bacteria in the drainfield need oxygen.)
    • Divert down spouts and other surface water - especially irrigation sprinklers -away from the drainfield. Too much water can harm it.
    • Don't dig, build, or plant anything other than grass over the drainfield.
  • Conserve water. Reduce the amount of wastewater that must be treated and disposed of by your system:
    • Wash no more than one or two loads of clothes daily. Up to 53 gallons of water flood your septic system with each load, so it’s best to spread laundry out over the week.
    • Fix leaky faucets and toilets; over time, they can send hundreds of extra gallons of water through your septic system.
    • Use low-flow fixtures and appliances whenever possible. Low-flush toilets use between 1 and 1.6 gallons of water per flush and may reduce your water bill by up to one-third. Low-flow faucet aerators on sink faucets. low-flow showerheads and low-flow washing machines will also save water.
  • Do not use a garbage disposal. It adds up to 50 percent more solids to your septic tank, and your tank will require more frequent pump-outs.
  • Do not use caustic drain openers for clogged drains. Use boiling water or a drain snake instead.
  • Description: Example Maintenance Record
  • Make sure your water softener is not plumbed to wash back into the septic tank.
  • Keep good records, including a copy of your septic tank permit. If your home was built after 1990, your local DHEC Environmental Health office will have a copy, or you can order a copy by faxing us a completed FOI request.
  • Do not use septic tank additives, commercial septic tank cleansers, yeast, sugar, etc. These products are not necessary and some may be harmful to your system.
  • Use commercial bathroom cleaners and laundry detergents in moderation. Try cleaning toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs with a mild detergent or baking soda.

Important Warning

Be extremely careful around open or exposed septic tanks. Falling into a septic tank can cause death from suffocation or drowning. Even leaning over a septic tank can cause you to collapse.

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