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How Often Should You Pump?

septic tank
"How often do I need my septic tank pumped?" is a common question among homeowners. While everyone would be relieved if there were a definite answer, that's just not the case. Your septic tank needs pumping once the solid waste builds up to the extent that it's limiting the tank's capacity for liquid.
There are many different factors that affect the rate at which a septic tank fills up, and considering how these factors apply to your situation is the best way to determine how often you need your tank pumped.

Do You Have a Garbage Disposal?

If you have a garbage disposal and use it often, you are sending much more solid waste down your pipes than the average family without a disposal. This food waste takes longer for bacteria to break down than human waste, since the food has not already been digested. Most homeowners with disposals need to have their tank pumped every year, but if you use your garbage disposal only occasionally, you may be able to wait a little longer.

How Many People Live in Your Home?

Septic tanks are usually sized based on the number of bedrooms in a home. So, a two-bedroom home is typically fitted with a tank that handles the waste from two or three residents. A home with four bedrooms may be able to handle waste from five or six people.
If you have more than the expected number of people living in your home, you'll need to have your tank pumped more often. For example, if you have five people living in a two-bedroom home, the small tank is probably going to fill up quickly and need pumping every year or two.

How Good Are You About Flushing the Right Things?

When you have a septic tank, you should really be flushing only the three P's: pee, poop and paper. If you're good about following this rule, you should not need your tank pumped as often. But if you flush a lot of tampons, wet wipes and other items, these items are going to build up in the tank and lead to the need for more frequent pumping. Such items just don't break down as easily as toilet paper.

Do You Use a Septic Additive?

Bacteria in your septic tank break down the solid waste into tiny particles that get rinsed out into the drain field. There are bacterial additives that you can add to your tank every month or so. These substances increase the levels of bacteria so that solid waste breaks down more quickly and your tank fills up more slowly. If you use a bacterial additive, you may be able to wait a bit longer between pumping appointments. If you don't use additives, you'll need to pump more often because the waste will build up faster.

What Do You Use to Clean?

Do you use a lot of harsh cleaners in your home, or are you more of a natural-cleaner person? While a little bleach every once in a while won't do much harm, heavy use of bleach can kill off some of your septic bacteria, causing your tank to fill more quickly.
Drain cleaners are much worse than bleach — just a teaspoon can drastically reduce bacterial levels. If you want to increase the time between pumping appointments, relying on natural products for much of your cleaning is a good move.
The best way to know how often you need your tank pumped is to think about the factors above and give your septic care professional a good summary of your septic tank use. If you need your tank pumped, give Tom's Sewer and Septic Service​ a call. When we arrive to clean out your tank, we'll evaluate how full it is, discuss your use habits and tell you about how long you should wait before your next pumping appointment.