Common Ways You May Be Causing Your Septic System To Fail

If you live in a home with a septic system, you know that it is not the same as being on city water and sewer. There are some things that you must do, as well as things you must not do, to keep your septic system working as it should  Knowing the difference between these two extremes often dictates whether or not your system will remain healthy for years, or if it will fail. No one wants a failing septic system. Not only is it costly to repair, but untreated wastewater and raw sewage can leak into your ground water, which could make it dangerous to you and your neighbors.

Septic System Is Not Big Enough To Meet Your Needs

Many homeowners will undertake renovations to add additional bedrooms and baths on without considering that they may need to increase the size of their septic system. Your septic system must be designed to meet the maximum capacity of your home. This means, if you increase the size of your home, you need to increase the size of your system. If you do not, it is just a matter of time before you begin to have septic failure. 

When calculating how big of a system you need, you need to know that the average household will produce between 100-200 gallons of wastewater per bedroom per day. If you have major water using appliances in your home such as:

  • Hot Tubs
  • Dishwashers
  • Garbage Disposals,
  • Water softener systems, and more

You will need to increase your capacity. You should choose a tank large enough to hold at least a minimum of two days worth of wastewater.

Over-saturated Soil

One of the number one reasons that your septic tank fails is that there is too much water in the soil of your drain field to be absorbed. When your septic lines are unable to deposit the overflow of waste water into the drain field, it will cause it to back up. This will sometimes mean all the way back up into your home.

Too much water can be caused by a wide variety of things. These include:

  • A change in your water use habits
  • An increase in the size of your family
  • New water using appliances
  • A leak in your plumbing
  • Improper runoff
  • The weather

While you may not be able to change a few of these such as the size of your family, or the weather, make sure you are controlling the things you can control.

  • If the increase in your family size has resulted in an increased amount of laundry you are doing, space your loads throughout the week.
  • Install low flow faucets, toilets, and showerheads, and fix any visible leaks.
  • Look for ways you can improve the runoff in your drainfield area, and make sure nothing else is draining in this direction. 
  • Add additional field lines to increase the capacity of wastewater your system is able to handle. 

The Things That Go Down Your Drain

Sometimes it is not the amount of what goes down your drain, but it is the content of what is going down. Your septic system is a delicate balance of enzymes, which are designed to be able to break down and process your waste. When you pour certain things down your drain, it affects this balance, often killing off or causing the enzymes to die. If you flush items that cannot be broken down, or your waste is unable to be processed, your system will fail.

There is an old saying that states if you haven't, wouldn't, or couldn't eat it, then do not send it to your septic system. While some items are common sense, there are other items you have probably not given much thought to. Some of these include:

  • Condoms
  • Disposable wipes (no matter what the package states)
  • Excessive amounts of cleaning products
  • Any type of drugs, antibiotics, or prescription medications
  • Fats, oil, and any type of grease
  • Paint
  • Pesticides
  • Sanitary napkins, and more

A more complete list can be found here. You can also find more information at sites like Although you may not see instant results from flushing these items, doing so may result in system failure in your future. Why take a chance?