What you should never put into your sewer or septic tank
Most homeowners have encountered a clogged drainpipe at some point in time. In most cases the clog could have been prevented by the homeowner. Often the main issue is grease. There are some best practices when it comes to drain lines in homes connected to municipal sewer as well as those connected to septic tanks.
Let’s first talk about the drain lines in any home, be it connected to a city sewer or a septic tank. Assuming your drain lines have been installed properly and with the correct amount of slope, water and solid waste should normally flow to the sewer or septic tank with no problem.
The ideal slope of a plumbing drainpipe is 3/16 inch of fall per foot of run. You may think more slope is better, but if you have too much slope, the liquids can outrun the solids as they move down the drain lines. You don’t want this to happen as solid material sitting in a drainpipe can start to build a clog.
Talk to any municipal sewer worker or septic-tank pumpers, and they’ll tell you that grease and the newer flushable wipes are probably their biggest nightmares. You would do really well to sop up all grease from your cooking pots and pans with used paper towels. Put these grease-soaked towels in your garbage. This means even wiping grease-covered plates with used paper towels before washing them. You want to minimize all grease from entering your plumbing drains.
You can use flushable wipes if you want, but don’t flush them. Put them in a sanitary garbage can in your bathroom.
You can go online and buy products that contain active bacteria that will start to eat grease that may be coating the insides of your pipes. It’s a great product that will also prevent septic tank leach fields from getting clogged with grease. Additionally, I recommend pouring 15 gallons of very hot water down the kitchen sink about once a month. Hot water does a pretty good job of dissolving grease.
Each week, I pour 10 gallons of water as fast as possible into the highest toilet in my house. As I learned in high school physics, this water creates a vigorous flash flood within the pipes and especially the horizontal building drainpipe below my basement floor. Not to be gross, but the best analogy I can give is imagine blowing your nose. You get just about everything out and the pipes are wide open.
Septic tanks are magical boxes if you use them correctly. In an ideal situation, the only thing that would enter a septic tank is what comes out of your body and any very tiny food scraps that might make it past a kitchen sink strainer. That’s all you should ever put in a septic system.
Mother Nature then takes over inside the tank. Natural bacteria start to eat the waste. When a tank is operating as it should, each time you flush a toilet and 1.6 gallons of water enters the tank, the same amount of partially treated wastewater leaves the tank headed to the leach field.
A leach field is almost always a network of pipes where the wastewater is distributed to a very well-drained soil that’s very sandy. The water seeps out of holes in the pipes and enters the sandy soil. Here other bacteria and oxygen work together to purify the wastewater.
Understand that the water that leaves the leach field becomes ground water. Once purified by the good bacteria and oxygen in the soil, it can almost be as pure as rainwater. I know this sounds hard to believe, but in many rural areas, a leach field from one neighbor is on higher ground than the neighbor below. The water naturally flows downhill on its way to the ocean!
You never want to put products containing chlorine bleach into a septic tank. Bleach is so strong it can kill the bacteria that eats the waste. Any other chemicals are bad, too. The same goes for paint. Never clean paint brushes inside a house and allow that water to enter the septic system.
It’s very important to have the septic tank pumped every two or three years. Know where the manhole is that gives the technician access to the tank. As crazy as this sounds, my neighbor’s manhole is buried about four feet under his driveway. I saw his house being built and the builder and plumber never installed risers to get the manhole closer to the surface. That’s a giant mistake!
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The key takeaways are to never let grease down the drain. Don’t put “flushable” wipes in the toilet, and use a product that contains natural, active bacteria (probiotic) to clean your sewer pipes regularly. Also, flush hot water down the kitchen sinks monthly, and pour 10 gallons of water into the highest toilet in your house weekly. If you have a septic system, never put products containing chlorine bleach into them. Get your septic tanks flushed every two to three years.
Culleoka Company, LCC
A little about Sonny Hobbs and The Culleoka Company
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