Keeping Your Septic System Happy
Keep It Thirsty
In the Nick of Time
Think your toilet is running on, or leaking, but you're not sure? Put a couple of drops of food coloring in the tank. The darker the water in the bowl, the faster the water is leaking from the tank.
One of the best things you can do to keep your septic system healthy is to minimize the amount of water that flows into it in general, and not overload it at any one time. Here's how:
Space out wash loads over a week instead of running numerous loads in one day.
Don't let the tap run when washing vegetables, dishes, shaving, brushing teeth, and so on. Fill the sink with water instead.
Take short showers.
Load dishwashers and clothes washers as full as possible before running. Select cycles with the shortest and lowest number of rinses.
Buy water-wise appliances, such as low-flow toilets, shower heads, and faucets. You can also insert water-saver dams in toilet tanks to limit water use.
Fix all dripping faucets, running toilets, and so on.
Don't use a sprinkler to water the grass over the drain field. Do it by hand instead.
Finally, keep runoff from foot drains, basement pumps, drain tile systems, and so on out of septic systems.
Keep It Healthy
It's not that difficult to keep a septic system healthy, but it might require educating and training family members on how to do it. Here are the basics:
Keep garbage disposal use to a minimum. If you use it regularly, plan on pumping your tank more often. Composting is a good option, and your plants will thank you for it, too.
Consider using biodegradable products for cleaning your home, including vinegar, baking soda, borax, and oxidized bleaches.
Don't put disinfectants, pesticides, medicine, solvents, acids, or other bacteria-killing substances down your drains. Normal amounts of household chemicals are okay.
Use high-quality toilet paper that breaks down easily when wet.
Consider installing an outlet filter on the tank if it doesn't have one. These devices keep such field-clogging solids as diapers and other paper products in the tank, and will catch most grease. However, they don't filter harmful chemicals. They should be cleaned when the tanks are pumped. Some filters even trigger an alarm when service is needed.
Some people swear by septic-tank additives. These products purport to improve septic-system performance, but there is no proof that they do, or that they'll prevent system failure. What's more, they don't eliminate the need for pumping out tanks on a regular basis. And, they can contaminate soil.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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