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Do You Really Need To Use Septic Tank Additives?

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There are plenty of septic tank additives out on the market that promise to keep your home's septic system in good health. Some even promise to reduce how often you'll need to have your septic tank cleaned out. But while the benefits they tout seem promising, you have to wonder if these products are really necessary for your septic system's well-being.

The Idea Behind Septic Tank Additives

Ever since the advent of the septic tank system, plenty of companies have marketed septic tank additives as an effective way of keeping the systems in working order. Many claim to aid in breaking down various solid wastes within your septic tank while others promise to prevent noxious odors from coming through your toilets and even dissolve potentially troublesome fats and oils.

Septic tank additives generally fall under two categories -- biological and chemical:

  • Biological additives, made from various enzymes and bacteria, are touted as a way of increasing the septic system's efficiency when it comes to breaking down solids. These additives are supposed to be used on a routine schedule as a way of maintaining balance within the septic system. In new septic tank systems, they're often touted as "starter agents" to help kickstart waste breakdown.
  • Chemical additives are typically touted to help break up grease, oil and other materials that often result in clogged drains and other septic system issues.

The Reality

Despite all of the advantages claimed by most septic tank additives, adding these to your septic system could prove harmful instead of helpful:

  • Septic tank additives won't keep your septic system balanced. As it turns out, there's already billions upon billions of naturally occurring bacteria that's actually beneficial to your septic system. Adding additional bacteria through the use of biological septic tank additives can actually upset the balance of this surprisingly delicate ecosystem, which could actually prevent solids from being broken down efficiently.
  • Some septic tank additives can actively harm your septic system. Chemical septic tank additives often contain potentially corrosive ingredients such as sulfuric acid, which could eat away at the septic tank itself in addition to destroying beneficial bacteria. Chlorinated compounds also found in organic chemical additives can also destroy beneficial bacteria.
  • Septic tank additives won't solve problems caused by poor care. According to North Dakota State University water quality expert Tom Scherer, most septic tank issues come from homeowners flushing bulky non-biodegradable wastes such as dental floss, disposable diapers and sanitary napkins. Many of these items cannot be broken down by septic tank additives.

Your septic system doesn't really need septic tank additives, after all. Many of the issues that septic tank additives claim to take care of can instead be dealt with through regular maintenance and proper care, as explained below.

Regular Maintenance is the Key

It's important to take preventative steps when it comes to your septic system instead of relying solely on septic tank additives. These preventative steps include keeping non-biodegradable items like flushable wipes out of your toilet. You should also refrain from using liquid drain clog removers and other chemicals that could lead to septic system problems later on.

In addition to keeping harmful items out of your toilet, you should also have your septic tank pumped on a regular basis. How often you should have it cleaned usually depends on the size of the tank as well as the number of people in your home. For instance, a 4-person household with a 1000-gallon septic tank can expect to have it pumped out every 2.6 years, according to Inspectapedia's septic tank pumping schedule table.

Septic tank additives won't solve serious issues with your septic system. If there's a problem, it's usually a good idea to have a professional perform a careful and comprehensive inspection. If you're looking for a local septic system repair company, you can check it out here.