How Often Should a Septic Tank Be Cleaned?

If you live outside of a major city, your home probably has a septic system.

The Septic Tank

The primary component of this system is the septic tank itself. Buried in your yard, the septic tank is all too often out of sight, out of mind. The tank needs to be checked on a routine basis and cleaned as required.

Most modern septic tanks are made of concrete. Older models were sometimes made of metal, but these are now very rare. The tank receives all of the waste and water from your home's plumbing and breaks down much of the waste before it exits the tank in a liquid form. When the tank becomes too full, solid pieces of waste can be sent to the field lines or can clog your system entirely.

Inspecting the Septic Tank

The top of the septic tank will have an inspect hatch/opening. You will need to dig done to the top of the septic tank and locate this hatch in order to inspect it properly. This should be done annually in most homes.

Determine If Cleaning Is Necessary

Once the hatch is open, measure the height of the septic tank from bottom to top. Then measure the height of the solid waste which has accumulated at the base of the tank. If the solid waste occupies 35 percent or more of the tank, it needs to be cleaned.

How Is Cleaning Accomplished

Cleaning your septic tank is a job for professionals. There will be restrictions on where and how the solid waste can be disposed. A professional will come to your home and, using a large tanker truck and a powerful vacuum, will empty the septic tank. Do not be alarmed if the tank remains full of water, this is normal. You are not concerned with the amount of water in the tank, only the solid waste.

How Often Cleaning Is Required

How often a septic tanks needs to be emptied depends on the number of people living in the home, the amount of water being flushed into the system as well as other factors. As a general rule, septic tanks should be emptied every 3 to 5 years. Some homeowners empty their tanks annually to keep any potential problems at bay. This is normally overkill, as every 3 years is considered very adequate.

About the Author

Tom Raley is a freelance writer living in central Arkansas. He has been writing for more than 20 years and his short stories and articles have appeared in more than 25 different publications including P.I. Magazine, Pulsar and Writer's Digest.