Should I Use Septic Tank Additives [And Do They Really Work]?

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Keeping a healthy and robust septic system is a must for any household owner, which is probably why you're reading up about septic tank additives. If you're in doubt as to whether or not using septic tank additives will help, look no further because we've done our research, and here's what we found out. 

You can use septic tank additives, but most of them may be damaging to your septic system. The chemicals in these additives can harm the helpful bacteria that actually break down the waste in your tank. There also aren't enough studies about some additives to warrant their use at all. 

Not all additives are bad though, there are some that can have a positive impact on your septic system. Keep reading to learn which additives to buy and what types of septic tank additives to avoid. 

Removal of sewage sludge and cleaning of a domestic septic tank, Should I Use Septic Tank Additives [And Do They Really Work]

Types of septic tank additives

There are actually different types of septic tank additives, with each type having its own specific purpose. 

Organic Solvents 

Organic solvents are basically degreaser compounds. They are made out of the same chemicals that are used to degrease machine parts. They are effective in cleaning out the oil, fats, and greases from your septic system. 

However, like inorganic compounds, the chemicals used in organic solvents can also kill the important bacteria in your septic tanks. The absence of bacteria prevents the conversion of waste products and causes them to contaminate the drain field. Organic solvents, as well as inorganic compounds, can also erode the septic tank's walls, causing raw sewage to possibly contaminate the groundwater.

Biological Additives

Biological additives are a natural blend of enzymes and bacteria that are claimed to help boost the ecosystem in your septic tank, thus increasing its efficiency. Biological additives are also advertised to restore biota presence in septic tanks that have been sterilized by synthetic additives. For new septic tanks, advertisers also recommend adding these types of additives to help kick start the tank's bacterial population. 

The restorative benefit of biological additives to your septic tank's microbial population may be true. But the claim that biological additives are needed to kick-start the bacterial population, or to restore it after a septic tank pump has been proven to be an advertising hyperbole.

Inorganic Compounds 

Inorganic Compounds - zinc oxide, white powder used as a fungus growth inhibitor

These types of additives are commonly made of synthetic chemicals advertised to help break down the gunk and waste in your septic system. These additives are made out of strong chemical compounds or acids that are said to unclog your pipes and create a better flow in your system. 

Inorganic additives, however, can seriously damage the bacterial ecosystem in your septic tank. The chemicals in these additives are so strong that they can nearly wipe out the microbes in your septic tank, leaving it sterilized. This leads to the organic wastes not being dissolved and prevents anaerobic digestion that converts bio waste into gas and less harmful by-products. 

Are septic tank additives effective?

These additives do serve their intended purpose, so yes, additives are effective. Inorganic compounds have long been known to be effective drain cleaners. Organic solvents actually are good degreasers that clean off the oil and fat from your septic system's pipes. And biological additives actually do contain the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that make up the ecosystem in your tank. 

Nonetheless, it's still not advisable to use additives because of their negative or negatable impact on your septic tank's system. Chemical additives, referring to inorganic compounds and organic solvents, can decimate your septic tank's microbial ecosystem and cause serious damage to your whole system.

Biological additives, on the other hand, have minimal effectiveness in helping bacteria grow in your septic tank. 

Homeowners do not need to introduce stimulants to their septic tanks to increase or kick off the growth of helpful bacteria in their homes. There are a few instances where stimulants may be needed, like when the homeowners take regular antibiotics, but other than that, stimulants aren't needed.

Inorganic compounds and organic solvents should be avoided. There are other septic tank-friendly ways to clean out your septic system. 

How to clean your pipes and drains without chemicals 

Here are a few alternatives to keeping your septic system's pipes and drains clear without harming the health of your septic tank and its microbial population:

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is an environmentally friendly alternative to harsh chemicals. Homemade baking soda mixtures are an effective way to clean the grime and unlock your pipes and drains. They're also harmless to the bacteria in your septic tank. In fact, depending on what kind of baking soda mixture you use, they might actually be helpful to the organisms that live in your tank. 

Read more on "How To Unclog A Toilet With A Toilet Brush."

How to clean your pipes and drains without chemicals - Natural Cleaners

You can also try making this recommended all-natural drain cleaner mixture: 

  1. Mix a quarter of a cup of baking soda with half a cup of vinegar.
  2. Pour directly into the toilet.
  3. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice.

The chemical reaction that causes these ingredients to fizzle will help break down the dirt and fats in your septic system's pipes. 

Try Septic Tank Friendly Cleaners

Not all drain cleaners and additives sold in your supermarket are bad. Some drain cleaners are made out of natural compounds that clean and unclog your pipes, without killing the helpful bacteria in your septic tank. In some states, there is a list of allowed brands and products of additives. 

Click here to see this product on Amazon.

Click here to see this product on Amazon.

Have your septic tank pumped

Have your septic tank pumped - pumping septic tanks from the backyard tank

When you start to notice that your pipes or drains are getting clogged more than they should, then there's probably too much solid material in your septic tank. Constantly clogging pipes are a tell-tale sign that your septic tank is due for pumping. 

Septic tank pumping removes all the solid and unbiodegradable materials that the bacteria in your septic tank cannot digest. This is also a chance to clean out pipes and drainages and inspect the whole system. Septic tanks are like cars, they need regular check-ups to check if everything is running as it should be. 

Is dishwasher soap safe for septic tanks?

Liquid dishwashing soap and most soap products should be safe for septic tanks. Although cleaning chemicals, the compounds in dishwashers and bath soaps are a lot milder than the compounds and percentages used in inorganic compounds and organic solvents. 

Dishwasher soap and other common household soap are only dangerous in uncommonly high volumes. When used responsibly and moderately, common household soaps should not be a problem for your septic tank. 

How to keep your septic tank healthy

Now that you know that some additives can be harmful to your septic tank's health, here are ways to keep your tank in tip-top shape:

Use less water

Oversaturation of water in your septic system can affect the soil and its ability to clean out any pollutants from the wastewater.

Use less water - A leaking sink faucet,

Try doing your laundry all at once, instead of doing intervals throughout the week. This way, you can save up on water in your washer and dryer. Following this method will also reduce the volume of cleaner detergent added to your septic system when you do laundry. 

Have the tank checked regularly and pumped when needed

Your septic system is probably the largest system in your house. It includes the pipes, drainages, and all the parts of your septic tank. With all these many parts, there will eventually be maintenance involved. 

Having your septic tank checked regularly by licensed professionals is worth it. A broken septic tank or pipe might cost you more in the long run than the cost of catching the damage and repairing it early on. Don't wait until septic tank failure happens before you have it pumped. 

Avoid synthetic additives

As we've been talking about in this article, synthetic additives are bad for your septic tank. They decimate your tank's bacterial population, and can completely sterilize your tank, preventing the growth of new bacteria. 

If in some instances you think you will have to introduce additives into your system, choose the additives that are government certified for your tank and the environment. But as much as possible, avoid introducing any uncommon and harsh chemicals into your tank's system. 

In Closing 

Most additives on the market may be harmful to your septic system, specifically your septic tank. Even biological additives haven't been proven to have a  significant positive effect on the health and performance of septic systems.

You can keep your tank healthy by conserving water, having it checked for broken or worn-out parts and pumped when needed, or avoiding adding anything with harsh chemicals in them. Following these tips will give you a septic tank that will last you ages. 

Before you go, check out this related article:

How To Insulate A Septic Tank [7 Options To Consider]

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