For homeowners with a septic system, it’s important to have a regular septic cleaning schedule. To protect ground and drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends residential septic cleaning every three years. Many septic system companies state that you can maintain a healthy system with regular septic cleanings every three to five years. In addition to cleaning, a septic tank inspection once a year will uncover problems and can save you thousands in cleanup and repair.
When waste goes into your septic system, it separates into three parts. The solids (sludge) drop to the bottom, wastewater floats in the middle, and a layer of scum rises to the top. Regularly scheduled cleanings prevent the sludge in your septic tank from building up and clogging your tank, leading to an overflow. Pricing for a standard septic cleaning ranges between $200 and $500, with the national average cost at $315. It’s easier, more cost-effective, and better for your home health to keep your septic tank maintained.
Experts agree that you should clean your septic system every three to five years for optimal system health and safe water. You should also have it inspected every year to catch minor issues before they become major. If you think you may be overdue for a septic cleaning, here are signs that you should call a pro immediately.
- You’re at capacity: If the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the bottom of the tank’s outlet or if the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet, your tank needs to be pumped, according to the EPA.
- It stinks: If you can smell wastewater, call a pro right away to clean your tank, pipes and field.
- Sewage backup: Raw sewage backing up into the pipes in your home is no fun. The pros can pump out your pipes, clean your tanks and clear any clogs, but it will be a complex and messy job.
- Pooling water: Water collecting around your tank or drain field can be a sign you need to clean your septic system.
- Super grass: If the grass above your septic system drain field suddenly gets vibrantly green and lush, the septic tank leak could be leaking sewage and fertilizing your lawn in unwanted ways. Call a pro to inspect it right away.
Nobody wants their septic tank to back up. Regular septic cleaning and pumping is important to keep your ground and drinking water protected from harmful bacteria. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends septic system cleaning every three years. The national average cost for a septic tank specialist is $315. Costs for septic cleaning may vary based on where you live, how large your septic tank is, and how long it has been since the last cleaning. If it’s been many years since you’ve had your tank cleaned, the process of breaking up and removing the solids may take longer and could cost more. Typical residential septic tanks range in size from 1,000 to 2,500 gallons. The price range for septic cleaning usually averages $200-$500, with varying by tank size. Repairs or replacement parts will also add to your cost. To keep your septic tank in good health between cleanings, only flush approved items such as toilet paper, and don’t rely on your garbage disposal for composting. Items that don’t break down easily (like lemon rinds or feminine hygiene products) can back up the septic system, leading to clogs and overflow. If you smell the unmistakable odor of sewage or can see sewage bubbling up above your drain field, call for a septic cleaning immediately.
Septic system professionals pump septic tanks. Pros in different states will have different licensing and certification regulations. Make sure the company you hire is licensed and certified, is a legitimate business, and has the appropriate insurance. Damage to your septic system could cost thousands of dollars in cleanup and repair, so it’s best to hire a qualified professional from the start.
Using an industrial-strength vacuum hose connected to a tanker truck, the septic tank company will pump out the contents of your tank. First they break up the scum of the top layer, then mix the sludge (on the bottom) into the wastewater for removal. To get all the sludge and scum from the tank, pros may use a tool called a septage spoon that loosens stubborn waste from the sides of the tank. After the tank is hosed down and empty, it is inspected for any cracks or leaks that could lead to trouble in the future. The waste in the truck is then transported and disposed of at a waste management treatment center, a cesspool or an approved dumping site.