How to Know When to Have Your Septic Tank Emptied

A worker crouches about a septic system lid in order to get the septic tank emptied.

Owning a home that is a bit off the beaten path or just outside the hustle and bustle of the city can come with more freedom and privacy, but it also comes with more responsibilities. This is especially true for homeowners whose properties rely on a septic system to process household waste. Knowing when to have your septic tank emptied can be challenging, especially if you’re the new owner of an older home with a septic system. Regular maintenance and pumping are both essential aspects of not only keeping your system running smoothly and preventing unpleasant backups but also protecting the safety of your drinking water. 

Understanding Your Septic System

Before delving into the particulars surrounding when it’s time to have your septic tank emptied, it’s important to understand how the system works at its most basic level.

Your septic tank is a crucial piece of home infrastructure and serves as the primary holding chamber for all the waste that flows through the drains and down the toilets in your house. This tank’s solids settle to the bottom while oils, greases, and lighter particles float to the top.

Next, beneficial bacteria in the tank break down the organic matter, turning it into an effluent that seeps into the drain field, where further treatment naturally occurs. However, disruptions to the delicate microbial balance inside your septic tank can complicate the process. 

Signs It May Be Time to Have Your Septic Tank Emptied

Here are signs that indicate it is time for your septic tank to be emptied: 

  • Slow Drains and Backups

    Does your morning shower feel more like an ankle-deep bath thanks to a slow-moving drain? If sinks, toilets, or showers are draining slowly or, worse, experiencing backups, it’s a good sign that your septic tank could be reaching its capacity. As the tank fills and there’s less space for wastewater to accumulate, plumbing fixtures are less able to drain adequately. 
  • Foul Odors

    Bad smells are a warning sign in a variety of situations but are particularly important when dealing with a septic system. If the area around your tank or drain field actively smells unpleasant, it can indicate that the tank is full or that there is another problem elsewhere in the system. 
  • Beautiful Grass

    A bright green patch of lush grass is perfect when your entire lawn looks that way. But when a single patch has the perfection of a golf course green and it happens to be near your septic system, then it’s actually more of a red flag than a green lawn. Excess nutrients from untreated wastewater act as fertilizer for the grass in the affected area, causing the grass to live its best life as your filling septic tank waits to wreak havoc. 
  • Standing Water

     Any pools of water or areas of standing water around your septic tank’s location can indicate that your tank is full and not draining properly. Because this water may contain untreated sewage, it can pose health and environmental risks. 

The Importance of Regular Septic Tank Pumping

If none of the above signs and symptoms sound like something you want to encounter, then this is a great time to contact a local septic professional to schedule a septic pump inspection. Because the frequency of pump-outs will depend on a wide range of factors, from the size of your household to the size of the tank itself, it’s crucial to work with professionals to determine the best time to have your septic tank emptied. 

If you’re unsure about the last time your septic tank was inspected, or you feel concerned about potential trouble signs you’ve noticed, Sunset Septic can help. With more than three decades serving Waukesha County and the surrounding area, they can help you avoid the unpleasantness of septic troubles.

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