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How to Remove Tree Roots From a Septic Tank

How to Remove Tree Roots From a Septic Tank

Homeowners with septic systems should be aware that they need to take certain precautions to ensure that their system continues to function properly. Those precautions include not only things like being cautious about what gets flushed into the system, but also caring for the components of the system that are outside the home.

One of those precautions that many homeowners are not fully aware of is the hazards that tree roots can pose. If you have tree roots growing in or around your septic tank, it is important to remove them as soon as possible. Tree roots can damage the tank and pipes, causing leaks and other problems.

Why Roots In a Septic Tank Are Bad

The dangers of ignoring tree roots in septic tanks are serious. If tree roots are left unchecked, they can cause major damage to the tank and pipes. This can lead to leaks, clogs, and even the collapse of the septic tank. If you suspect tree roots are growing in or around your septic tank, it is important to have the problem inspected and repaired as soon as possible.

Most kinds of trees are very robust once they are established, in large part due to the strength and extensiveness of their root systems. The roots help to strengthen the tree’s stability and nutrient gathering abilities throughout its existence. While the spread of a tree’s root system isn’t extremely quick, it is persistent in a way that many homeowners may not be aware of.

Tree roots are drawn to septic systems because of the high amounts of moisture. Tree roots have an amazing capacity to navigate their way through a septic system and find the pipes. Unfortunately, as tree roots grow into a tank and expand, they may block water flow or even cause the pipe or tank to burst.

When roots enter drains in a septic tank, various difficulties may ensue. For example, because roots can obstruct pipes, sinks, toilets, bathtubs, washing machines, and dishwashers in the home might not drain properly.

Even worse, a tree root that has burrowed into a septic tank could ultimately break open the walls, leading to a major sewage leak. This is extremely hazardous to people and other animals. While most plants and trees can consume sewage, the gas and germs present in this waste might induce a variety of diseases. E-coli, salmonella, shigella, and cholera are only a few of the bacteria types that may be found in sewage.

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What To Do If Your Septic Lines Are Clogged With Roots

The most common problems related to trees are when roots are in the septic tank and drainfield. There are a few potential solutions to this issue.


One of the more straightforward means of removing tree roots from a septic system is the use of a powered sewer auger. This approach, called a mechanical auger, entails sending a power-operated sewer auger down a sewage line. The head is spinning like the blades on a reciprocating saw. The rotating motion cuts away the roots. Although straightforward, this method has a significant drawback: roots will likely grow back quickly unless the tree is removed.


If you are wondering what will dissolve tree roots in a septic tank, there is one answer that has long been used. Putting copper sulfate in a septic system involves simply flushing copper sulfate crystals down the toilet, which allows them to be carried through the pipes into the septic tank. How much copper sulfate for killing roots in a septic system depends on the size of the system and the severity of the clog caused by the tree roots. In general, the recommendation is to use two pounds of granular copper sulfate for every 300 gallons of water that the septic tank holds. This method will take several days or weeks to work, as it depends on the tree absorbing enough of the copper sulfate solution.

Another chemical root killer for septic tank treatment involves a foaming agent. This solution coats the entire pipe, which means that the roots growing from both the top and the bottom get saturated.

Hydro Jetting

Hydro jetting can be very effective at removing tree roots from a septic tank or drainfield. A septic company uses high-pressure water jets to remove debris and clogs, including tree roots. After hydro jetting is complete, chemicals like copper sulfate can be used to kill off any remaining roots and deter the growth of future ones.

Preventing Tree Roots in Your Septic System

Trees serve many purposes in a residential landscape. They can be beautiful, provide shade, and may improve privacy. However, homeowners with septic systems who are thinking of planting large trees should ask themselves one question: How much does it cost to remove roots from a septic tank? That is because, it is nearly inevitable that roots will eventually encroach on a septic system if planted too close.

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Here are a few tips for avoiding the expense of removing tree roots from your septic system:

  • Plant trees and other large vegetation with deep roots a safe distance away from all the components of your septic system, including the septic tank and the drainfield.
  • Even if you plant trees in the safe zone, do your research to find varieties suitable for your area that do not have aggressive, extensive root systems.
  • During regular septic tank cleaning, have a full septic inspection done. Septic tank inspectors can use a video camera to look inside pipes for signs of tree roots.
  • Repair any cracks or damage to the septic tank, pipes, or drainfield immediately, as the leaking sewage will attract roots.
  • Install root barriers if you must plant trees in close proximity to the septic system.
  • Flushing copper sulfate down toilets a few times a year can not only kill existing roots, but also discourage new roots from growing.

Tree roots are bad for septic tanks because they can damage the tank and pipes, causing leaks and other problems. Preventing tree roots from growing in septic tanks is important for the long-term health of your system.

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