You’ve seen the ads for Septic Tank Additives promising to save money and avoid septic company service calls, but do they really work?
Millions of properties utilize a septic tank system for treating organic waste water. Since the tank is underground, it’s easy to neglect or forget about the system until a problem arises. By the time that happens, things are to the point they are going to require professional help to repair.
Many are wisely taking proactive measures to extend the life of their septic system. Things like monitoring the drain-field and following the Do Not Flush rules can go a long way. But is that enough?
Savvy home owners know the best way to avoid sewage back-ups is to schedule a septic tank pumping and cleaning on a regular basis. Others think (or hope) there is a less expensive way to get the same result.
The persuasive infomercial personalities are good at generating hype by promising the simple use of septic tank additives is the answer. The claim is that this inexpensive alternative will help maintain the system, remove all the potential problems, and allow you to live carefree as long as you dump those septic tank additives into the toilet once a month.
The bottom line, those septic tank additives do not work!
There are a number products being made that claim to revive the septic system and allow you to go longer between septic tank cleanings. Basically you are gambling that the $25 box of additives will save you the cost of a septic pumping every 3-5 years. If it sounds to good to be true definitely applies in this instance.
What you wind up risking is more damage to the system. By the time you call out the experts to make the repair, the job costs several times more than had you kept up your scheduled maintenance appointments.
What is the truth about septic tank additives?
Let’s take a closer look at the idea that a product you can dump in the toilet will allow you to go longer between septic pumping and cleanings. Here are the main reasons why using additives in the septic tank are not recommended.
1. Types of Septic Tank Additives
Septic tank additives usually fall into one of three types: biological additives, organic solvents, and inorganic compounds.
Biological Additives use a combination of bacteria and enzymes that claim to help the natural process.
While not outright harmful they do little to help. The amount contained in any additive is very small in comparison to the naturally occurring bacteria already in the tank.
Organic Solvents are concentrated chemicals similar to those used on machine parts to break down oil and grease.
These can kill the good bacteria that are essential to keeping the system running smoothly. They can also contaminate groundwater and have been banned by some States.
Inorganic Compounds use strong alkalis or acids which are like ingredients contained in popular drain cleaners.
They can destroy the natural biological function of a septic tank and potentially allow sewage to flow directly into the drainfield. This can lead to clogged drain lines and soil pores or worse, a failed drain field. These compounds can also cause corrosion in concrete leading to leaks in concrete tanks or distribution boxes.
2. Making False Claims
Many of the promises being made by the manufactures of the septic tank additives can not be proven. Claims that septic pumping will no longer be necessary are false, nothing can replace having to get the tank pumped when full.
The research indicates that additives are either ineffective or potentially harmful. Here are just a few reliable resources that back that statement:
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Homeowner Guide – “Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and can be harmful to the system.”
- Washington State University – “Septic Tank Additives – Don’t Let Your Dollars Go Down The Drain.”
- Purdue University – “Given the lack of common conclusions or recent unbiased testing about the effects of septic system additives, our best advice remains to have septic tanks pumped every 3 to 5 years.
3. Additives Are Unnecessary
The claims are that the additives are going to help break down waste in the tank, but in reality, a well maintained tank has all the bacteria it will ever need to break down organic waste all by itself. Placing additives into the system is not doing anything the tank is not already doing.
These are just some of the reasons septic tank additives aren’t necessary additions to your tank. The best thing you can do is follow these basic septic tank care tips and schedule regular pump-outs with your local septic service company.