What can I add to my septic tank to help it work better?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Products that get dishes cleaner, teeth whiter, and indoor air fresher are in every home, and for a good reason: because they work. So it makes sense that an additive to improve the performance of your septic tank would be a good idea too.

    The problem is septic tanks don’t need any help. They only require naturally occurring anaerobic soil bacteria to function just fine. Chemical additives have repeatedly been proven to be be harmful, and the states of Washington and Massachusetts have passed legislation banning them. They allow only biological additives that have been reviewed and approved by the state health department. Both states provide a list of approved products, with names like “Earthworm Family-Safe Drain Cleaner,” “Liquid Alive” and, our favorite, “Push.”

    The additives are not evaluated for how well they function, only to verify that they will not harm your septic system. Multiple university studies have shown minimal or no benefit from biological additives.

    A study by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock was particularly interesting because it documented the amazing resilience of the naturally occurring bacteria following being totally wiped out by a big dose of household plumbing disinfectants. After dumping enough liquid bleach, Drano®, or Lysol® into the tank to kill everything, the bacteria population fully recovered within 30 to 60 hours. 

   The recommendation that university researchers, along with most septic tank contractors, offer for keeping your septic tank in good health is to skip the additives and focus on what not to put down the drain. Undigested food scraps, grease, and excessive use of disinfectants and chemical drain cleaners top their list.
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  To learn more about septic tank systems, see these other blog posts:

What are the building code requirements for gray water reuse in Florida?

Why do septic tank contractors want you to get rid of your kitchen disposal?

How can I tell if a house is connected to a septic tank system or sewer?

How can I locate my septic tank?

Does a septic tank have to be re-certified if a house has been vacant for a while?

What is a grinder pump? 

How often should I pump out the septic tank?

Should I call a plumber or septic tank contractor when my septic tank backs up into the house? 

Do I have to get a larger septic tank when I build a home addition?

• Where is the septic tank? Are you going to inspect it? 

• Can a house have more than one septic tank?

• What is the difference between gray water and black water in the plumbing code? 

• Is it alright to disconnect the washing machine drain from the septic tank and divert it to the ground in the yard?

    Visit our PLUMBING page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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