Septic Do’s and Dont’s

Safety – Can a Septic Tank Spontaneously Combust?

This question is addressed in an article that appeared in the December 2016 issue of Pumper magazine, an industry publication.  Click here to read this very informative article.

Don’t Use the Toilet as a Garbage Disposal

One of the most important things to remember about your septic system is this:
“If you haven’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t eat it – don’t throw it into the septic tank.”
It will not break down properly and could cause your system to fail.  In the image below, the
long thing inside the red area is a rag that was apparently flushed.  It got tangled around the
pump, and the pump had to be replaced.  Very costly, and could have easily been prevented.

Burned Out Septic Pump

Another thing to keep in mind nowadays are all the so-called convenience products that
market themselves as “flushable”.  All sorts of handy-wipes and now the newest thing is
those pop-off toilet wand pads.  Don’t flush them!  They will clog your septic system and
end up costing you a lot of money in repairs.  Even municipal sewage treatment plants
are having issues with these.  Here’s an article that appeared in The Washington Post.

Click here to enlarge

Here’s an example that illustrates how some of these so-called flushable products don’t
break down and contribute to septic system failure.

Paper Floating in Tank

What you see inside that red circle are paper products that didn’t break down properly. They can clog your septic system and eventually cause a back-up into the house.

Here’s a list of things we recommend you do and not do to keep your septic system running efficiently.  American Septic Service, a Truly Green Septic company with over 45 years of experience in the septic business, can answer any of your questions when it comes to keeping your system from failing.  Call us at (845) 895-2501 or toll-free at (866) 999-1766.


  • The contents of the septic tank should be pumped every two to three years or when
    the total depth of sludge and scum exceeds one-third of the liquid depth of the tank.
    If the tank is not cleaned periodically, the solids are carried into the absorption field,
    or leach field as it’s more commonly referred to.  Rapid clogging occurs; premature
    failure follows and finally, the leach field must be replaced.  Pumping your septic tank
    is less expensive than replacing your leach field.
  • Detergents, kitchen waste, laundry waste and household chemicals in normal amounts
    do not affect the proper operation of household sewage treatment systems.  However,
    excessive quantities can be harmful.
  • Avoid the disposal of cigarette butts, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, handi-wipes,
    pop-off toilet wand scrubbers, plastics, trash, etc., into your household sewage system.
    Despite what they claim, these items are not readily decomposed.
  • Septic tank additives are not recommended.  Additives are unnecessary to the proper
    operation of household systems and may cause the sludge and scum in the septic tank
    to be discharged into the leach field, resulting in premature failure.  Some additives
    may actually pollute your groundwater.
  • Avoid garbage grinders. Garbage grinders substantially increase the accumulation of
    solids in the septic tank, as well as the solids entering the leach fields and pits.  Their
    disadvantages far outweigh the convenience they provide and are not recommended
    for households with their own sewage treatment systems.  If used, the septic tank size
    should be increased.
  • Connecting your laundry waste to a separate waste system (dry well or seepage pit),
    while not normally necessary, will reduce the load on the regular system and permit
    the survival of a marginal system.
  • All roof, cellar and footing drainage, and surface water must be excluded from the
    system. Drainage water can be discharged to the ground surface without treatment.
    Make sure it drains away from your sewage treatment system.  Roof downspouts
    should not drain toward the leach field.
  • Backwash from water softeners contains salt that can damage your leach field.  You
    should discharge this waste to a separate system or to the ground surface, away from
    your well and valuable vegetation.
  • Don’t plant trees around your leach field.  Roots from trees in the immediate area
    of the absorption lines may clog the system.
  • Keep swimming pools (above or in-ground) away from the leach field.

A few things (not a complete list) that should never go into the septic tank and leach fields.

  • Footing drains, ground water and sump pumps
  • Gutter or floor drains
  • Non-biodegradable products – chemicals and solids (tampons, cigarette butts,
    condoms, hair, bandages, rags, strings, coffee grounds or cereals).
  • Paper towels and handi wipes – no matter what the box or manufacturer claims!
  • No anti-bacterial soaps – biodegradable soaps only!  Do not use what are called
    “biocompatible soaps”.
  • Heavy dose and long-term use of Mr. Bubbles/Dow’s spray toilet cleaner or any
    other excessively strong cleaner.
  • Water conditioning backwashes/discharge from water softeners, purifiers,
    sanitizers or conditioners
  • Dehumidifiers and air conditioner discharges
  • Chlorine and chemicals in excess
    (1 part chlorine 5 parts of water is a good spray bacteria cleaner)
  • Hot tubs and jacuzzi discharges
  • Excessive laundry – loads should be spaced out.  While it might be convenient to do so,
    dedicating an entire day to doing laundry will put a severe strain on your septic system.
  • Water from leaking fixtures including sneaky leaky toilets.  Remember to dye test the
    toilet often to check for leaks in the septic system
  • Dirt and inert products.  Muddy clothes, fruits and vegetables should be dusted off
    before washing them.
  • Chemicals from x-ray equipment, even if diluted because they will re-condense in the
    disposal system and eventually pollute the underground environment which is illegal!
  • Disposable baby wipes, diapers, hand and facial wipes – NO MATTER WHAT THE
    MANUFACTURER SAYS!  Don’t put them in.  Dispose of them in a garbage can.
  • Hard toilet paper – use only soft toilet paper, they are closer to breaking down
  • Dead fish or small animals – REMEMBER, it’s a septic tank, not a cemetery.
  • Garbage disposal units discharge.  If you must have one, it should run through a
    separate tank first.  This is called a trash tank.  Once installed, it should discharge
    into the septic tank or a separate leaching system and not directly to the existing
    leaching system
  • Hair conditioners with heavy oils – if you use them, we need to know so we can do
    something to compensate with added or different bacteria (none if they are not
  • Latex, plastic or metallic objects.

If you haven’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t eat it – Don’t throw it into the septic tank!