Many septic tank additives claim to reduce the time and money required for maintenance. But with a lack of regulation or standardized testing and an abundance of misinformation, it is easy to walk away with more questions than answers. Do septic tank additives work? If so, do you need them? Exactly how does your septic system work? Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision.
What are the supposed benefits of additives?
Septic tank additives claim to provide a variety of benefits. Some additives pipes while others break down fats, oils, and greases. Others advertise the ability to improve the bacterial flora in septic tanks and drain fields, limit solid biomass, or even reactivate a dormant system. And others will even claim that regular use of the additive will remove the need for pumping or cleaning the septic system at all. Basically, the alleged benefits can often be reduced to a single purpose: to promote a viable, healthy septic system.
Do septic tank additives work?
While there is plenty of debate surrounding the effectiveness of septic tank additives, it is generally best to avoid using any additives at all. Septic tanks are most effective when the bacteria already present in the tank are working without outside interference. In fact, enough cases of failed septic systems have arisen, that many states have banned them altogether.
Septic tank additives will generally be inorganic, biological, or organic in nature. Inorganic additives are typically strong acids or alkalis, which are extremely harmful. Not only do they cause corrosion and leakage in concrete systems, they also harm the bacteria needed to treat the wastewater resulting in raw sewage flowing directly into your drainfield.
Biological additives are either enzymes, bacteria, or a combination of the two. They enhance the existing bacteria in the septic system, especially in the case of a new or dormant system. While septic systems do need bacteria to be effective, simply using the system will provide all the necessary bacteria. If any bacteria has died off due to the presence of a harmful substance or chemical, new bacteria will likely be killed by the same substance. Even yeast, a commonly accepted additive, can cause so much frothing in the septic tank that solids are forced into the leach field rather than settling to the tank bottom.
Organic solvents are typically degreasers or other chemical cleaners intended to break down oils, fats, and grease. While these chemicals perform their function well, they’re harmful to the essential bacteria in your septic system and can also contaminate groundwater.
Regardless of an additive’s claims to eliminate the need for pumping your septic tank, no additive exists that will break down the minerals, synthetic fibers, plastics, and other solid waste found in sewage. They will continue to accumulate at the bottom of your tank until a septic pumper removes them. Because the build-up of sludge is inevitable, most jurisdictions require that you regularly pump your septic tank. So, no matter how much you spend on septic tank additives, you’ll still need to follow these maintenance regulations.
What are the best practices for a healthy septic system?
The best course of action for maintaining a healthy, long-lasting septic system is to routinely schedule proper maintenance. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends some best practices beyond routine maintenance and inspection. Homeowners can promote a healthy septic system by conserving water with high-efficiency toilets and showerheads.
Also, be sure to properly dispose of waste. Remember that everything you flush down the toilet eventually makes its way to the septic tank. Be sure to discard items such as wipes, diapers, and feminine hygiene products in the trash. You can find more tips for maintaining your septic system in one of our recent posts. If it seems your septic system is backing up, you’ll find some helpful next steps here.
Who should you call for septic issues?
Norway Septic Inc. is a service-oriented company dedicated to providing excellent septic tank cleaning and septic tank pumping services to homeowners and business owners in the Michiana area. We take pride in doing the job that others leave behind. Our motto stands, “they pump, we clean!”
Call us if you suspect that there are problems with your septic system or if you need septic replacement parts like septic filters. With over 40 years of experience, we know septic systems and can handle just about any septic emergency.