Homeowners or business owners with septic systems are generally familiar with the need to have their tank pumped periodically but may be unaware that septic tank cleaning is a different service.
Septic Pumping Versus Septic Cleaning
The words “pumping” and “cleaning” are frequently used interchangeably when it comes to septic tanks, even though they signify somewhat different things. To understand the difference, it is helpful to know how a septic tank works.
When wastewater flows from the home or business, it goes into the septic tank. There, the wastewater separates into three layers:
- The heavier solids sink to the bottom and form a layer of sludge.
- The liquid in the middle is known as effluent.
- The components that are lighter than water (fats, oils, and grease) float to the top, forming a scum layer.
In septic tank pumping, some of the middle and top layers are removed with a vacuum pump. This helps ensure that the vital bacteria in the tank continue to be able to efficiently process waste.
On the other hand, septic cleaning is typically a way of resetting the whole tank by completely removing everything, including the sludge layer. This is typically only necessary if the septic system has issues that are not resolvable by just pumping. In extreme cases, hydro jetting may be needed to break up compacted sludge.
Cleaning also provides an opportunity to inspect the tank and repair any damage that may have occurred.
Signs that a septic tank needs to be cleaned include slow drains, bad odors, and wet spots in the yard. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to contact a septic professional to have your septic tank cleaned as soon as possible.
To summarize: Both pumping and cleaning are important parts of septic tank maintenance, but pumping implies removing liquid and some floating scum, whereas cleaning means removing all of the water and compacted sludge from the bottom of the tank.
Residential Septic Tank Cleaning
Residential septic tanks should be pumped every three to five years, depending on usage. Homeowners with larger families or who entertain often may need to have their tanks pumped more frequently.
Septic cleaning is generally not necessary if the tank has been pumped regularly. However, periodic cleaning is a good way to ensure that the system continues to function efficiently.
Cleaning is generally a job for septic professionals, as it requires special equipment and knowledge. Some homeowners may be tempted to clean their own septic tanks, but this is not recommended. Cleaning a septic tank is a dirty and potentially hazardous job, and should only be attempted by those with the proper training and equipment.
Commercial Septic Cleaning Services
Commercial septic tank cleaning is similar to residential septic tank cleaning in that the goal is to remove all of the sludge from the bottom of the tank.
However, commercial septic tanks are typically much larger than residential septic tanks and see much higher usage. As a result, commercial septic tank cleaning may require special equipment or chemicals in order to do the job properly.
It is important to have commercial septic tanks cleaned on a regular basis to avoid septic system failures that could have a negative impact on the business. Even if there are no signs of problems, it is wise to work with a professional septic contractor who can help devise a plan for regular septic maintenance.
How to Care for Your Septic System
The best way to minimize the need for septic tank cleaning is to follow some basic guidelines for caring for your septic system. First and foremost, regular septic tank pumping is invaluable in minimizing the likelihood of problems. In a routine pumping, a septic contractor can not only remove some of the waste in the tank, but they can also do an inspection to identify potential problems before they become more serious.
Your septic system relies on a delicately balanced ecosystem in which bacteria in the tank play a vital role in breaking down waste. Anything that disrupts the functioning of the bacteria can throw the entire system out of balance:
- Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can impair the ability of the bacteria to do their job.
- Harsh chemicals, bleach, and paint thinner might kill bacteria.
- Anti-bacterial soaps and detergents, by design, kill bacteria.
Remember: The bacteria in your septic tank are key to the proper functioning of your entire septic system.
Do I Need a New Septic Tank?
Septic tank cleaning is often done when a septic system has experienced problems, and those problems cannot be solved by other means. If the cleaning is also not enough to fix the issue, then it may be time for a new septic tank.
Here are a few signs that it is time for a new septic tank:
- Your septic tank is old. A properly maintained septic tank should last for decades, but at some point, it will need to be replaced.
- You need to have septic pumping more frequently. If you find that the tank needs to be pumped more often, it could be a sign that a new one may be needed in the near future.
- Your septic tank is too small. Septic systems are designed based on several factors, including the expected water usage. If you are consistently exceeding the expectation, you may need to get a larger tank.
Of course, in most cases, you will want to exhaust other possibilities before even considering the option of installing a new septic tank. A professional septic contractor can help you assess the situation and provide guidance on your best options.
Lakeland Septic Tank Cleaning Services
At Septic and Drainfield Depot, we offer a full range of residential and commercial septic services, including septic tank pumping and septic tank cleaning.
As one of Lakeland and central Florida’s top septic contractors, we are committed to upholding our excellent reputation. Our experienced team is committed to identifying the issues on the first try, and to finding the most effective solution that works with your budget.
We are available 24/7 to help handle septic emergencies, and we offer free inspections and septic system financing.
Contact us today.