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. So let’s answer once and for all, do septic additives work?
What are septic tank additives?
The purpose of septic tank additives is to “aid” your septic tank’s process of breaking down waste using natural bacteria. The problem is that some additives are too firm and kill the good bacteria your septic tank produces. Other septic additives “boost” the good bacteria in your septic tank. Septic tank additives come in 2 primary forms.
Biological additives comprise natural bacteria marketed to help “break down” sludge in your septic tank. Supposedly, you will not have to pump your tank as often by breaking down the sludge faster. However, nature knows best and usually doesn’t need help from biological additives. The waste in your septic tank contains all the anaerobic bacteria necessary to break down the solids. Adding more biological additives does not necessarily harm, but it doesn’t help either. It certainly won’t keep you from needing to pump your tank.
On the other side of the coin, we find chemical additives. Drain cleaners, chemical degreasers, and even products for your toilet or sink can all have a nasty effect on your septic tank. Harsh chemicals kill good and bad bacteria, disrupting the natural breakdown in your septic tank. They can also spread bacteria from your tank to your soil, compromising the safety of your drain field.
How do additives affect your septic tank?
Research says that most septic tank additives do very little (if anything at all) to improve the performance of your overall system. Some additives can even harm the functionality of your septic tank. How does that work? Keep in mind that septic tanks treat wastewater naturally using good bacteria. Since most additives exist as “bacterial cleansers,” they enter the tank and destroy the good bacteria that help break down solids naturally.
That said, not all additives are entirely pointless. For example, some septic tank additives help boost the natural bacterial treatment of your wastewater. In that case, the additive complements the biological function of the tank. As long as it’s the right additive, it can aid an overworked septic system, such as big parties, during high use.
At best, septic additives can slightly increase your system’s performance, and at worst, they can significantly lower it. For this reason, it is imperative to do your research. Before investing in additives, it is a good idea for you to consult a professional and figure out exactly how the additives will help you.
Do septic tank additives work?
While plenty of debate surrounds the effectiveness of septic tank additives, it is generally best to avoid using them. Septic tanks are most effective when the bacteria in the tank are working without outside interference. Enough cases of failed septic systems have arisen that many states have banned them.
Septic tank additives will generally be inorganic, biological, or organic. Inorganic additives are typically solid acids or alkalis, which are incredibly harmful. They cause corrosion and leakage in concrete systems and 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. They enhance the existing bacteria in the septic system, especially in the case of a new or dormant system. While septic systems need bacteria to be effective, simply using the system will provide all the necessary bacteria. If any bacteria has died off due to a harmful substance or chemical, the same substance will likely kill new bacteria. 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 chemical cleaners intended to break down oils, fats, and grease. While these chemicals perform well, they harm the essential bacteria in your septic system and can 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 accumulate at the bottom of your tank until a septic pumper removes them. Because sludge build-up 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.
How to Improve Your Septic System
While septic additives aren’t a cure-all in the first place, they’re entirely pointless if you don’t do the following things for your septic system. Even if you don’t plan on using septic tank additives, employ the following tips to prevent major septic system problems from occurring.
Watch what you flush.
The only things you should be flushing down your toilet are wastewater and toilet paper. Do not flush baby wipes, paper towels, diapers, tissues, feminine products, or anything else down your toilet. These items can clog your pipes and result in costly repairs. Septic additives won’t do much to help you if you aren’t treating the system with care.
Check your system regularly.
While there’s no need to perform a daily, in-depth study of your septic system, you should periodically check up on it to ensure everything is running smoothly. Don’t just assume it’s doing its job without glancing at it every once in a while.
Schedule routine maintenance.
Finally, the most important thing you can do for your septic system is to schedule annual tune-ups by a licensed professional. Routine maintenance catches potential problems before they have time to do more damage and rack up expenses. Take the time to find a company that cares about your home comfort.
Who should you call for septic issues?
Norway Septic Inc. is a service-oriented company that provides excellent septic tank cleaning and pumping services to homeowners and business owners in the Michiana area. We take pride in doing the job that others leave behind. Call us if you suspect problems with your septic system or 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.