Should You Use Additives For Your Septic Tank?

27 April 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog


If your home relies on a septic tank, chances are you've thought about or even used additives to keep your septic system in good health. However, there's growing evidence that these additives may not be as essential to your septic tank's well-being as once thought. The following explains why septic system additives might not be necessary.

What Lurks Inside of Your Septic Tank

Your septic tank is home to billions of naturally occurring microscopic organisms, many of which are beneficial for the decomposition process that goes on within the tank. As solid wastes separate from liquid, the various bacteria within the tank break down the solid waste until it's converted into liquid or gaseous form.

Scores of bacteria are also present in the drainfield, where most of the liquid waste in your septic tank eventually ends up. The bacteria help break down effluent as it's dispersed throughout the drainfield and eventually rejoins the water table.

Are Additives Necessary?

Even as far back as the late 19th century, additives have been touted as miracle tools for keeping septic systems healthy. These products routinely claim to do a lot of things for your septic system, from dissolving fats and oils to deodorizing and even eliminating solid waste in its entirety.

However, researchers have often found that using additives does nothing to help septic tanks. As North Dakota State University's Tom Scherer notes, most septic system problems come from high water tables, excessive water usage and flushing inappropriate objects (such as dental floss, sanitary napkins and other non-biodegradable products). These are problems that aren't solvable with additives.

In fact, additives can make an already-bad situation worse. Organic and inorganic additives containing acids, bases and chlorinated compounds can kill off healthy bacteria and prevent solids from separating from the liquid waste. The additive chemicals can also cause damage to the drainfield.

No Substitute for Regular Maintenance

Most homeowners assume that if they use bacteria additives in their septic system, they won't have to have it pumped out so often, if at all. This mistaken belief has its origins in another assumption - that the bacteria inside the tank also eat away at the solids within. While bacteria can convert as much as half of the solid septic waste into gases and liquids, there are still plenty of solids hanging around.

Unfortunately, there's no substitute for a visit from the honey wagon. How often you should have your septic tank pumped depends on the size of the tank itself and the number of occupants in your home on a regular basis. Most experts recommend having your tank pumped every 2 to 3 years.

For more information, contact Hemley's Septic Tank Cleaning or a similar company.