How Often Should You Empty Your Septic Tank?

empty your septic tank

Installing a septic tank is a substantial investment but it means that, if your property is not connected to a sewage system, you still have a way to conveniently and effectively dispose of waste generated by your household.

Once the tank has been installed, in order to keep it operating optimally, it will need to be maintained and regularly emptied. However, if you’ve never had one before, you may not know how often you should empty your septic tanks or the signs to look out for.

As septic tank experts, we want to make sure that you have all the information you need when it comes to managing and emptying your septic tanks. With that in mind, here are the answers to the questions we get asked most often, from when to empty a septic tank to who should carry out the work.

How do I get the most from my septic tank?

One of the best ways to ensure that you don’t have to do septic tank emptying too often is to restrict water usage on the property as much as possible. This means being sensible with the number of times that you run the washing machine and ensuring that taps in the home are only used when needed and are not left running. Other things to look at, are shorter shower times and showering rather than bathing as it uses less water.

Most important of all is not to flush any chemicals, grease, oil or materials other than toilet paper and human waste down your toilets and sinks. Septic tanks can easily become blocked or malfunction when substances other than toilet paper and human waste are flushed.

How to tell if your septic tank needs emptying

If you have never had this kind of sewage system before, then you are probably wondering how you will know when to empty septic tanks. There are a couple of warning signs that may signal that your septic tank is full or blocked, so it’s important to keep an eye on your toilets and washing machine, as well as the area around the septic tank.

Monitor your toilets and washing machine

One of the easiest ways to tell if a septic tank needs emptying is to monitor how your washing machine and toilets are working. If the washing machine struggles to drain or if you notice that clothes are not coming out clean from the wash, this should be a cause for concern. You can also keep an eye on your toilets, and if you have any trouble flushing, then the septic tank needs to be checked immediately.

The way that a septic tank works is that as waste reaches the septic tank, it gets separated. Liquids and materials that can be liquified move through to the drainage pit. All other materials sink to the bottom of the tank and will remain there as a layer of sludge. This layer of sludge builds up over time to a point where the tank is completely full. At this point, the tank needs to be emptied to prevent any blockages, which can be quite expensive to resolve.

Check that the tank isn’t overflowing

Another sign that your tank is full is when it overflows, leaking onto the surrounding surfaces. You may not notice this right away, but there are a couple of indicators to look out for which will reveal an overflow situation.

For example, you may find yourself noticing that the grass surrounding the tank is suddenly unaccountably greener. Household waste provides excellent fodder for your garden, which will nourish your plants and make them look even healthier than normal. While in most cases more greenery is to be welcomed, in this case, a lush lawn is not a good sign for you – or your plumbing!

If your septic tank is starting to leak, you may also start to notice pools of water forming around the tank. This is unfortunate as the overflowing septic tank is almost always accompanied by a very unpleasant smell. You may even find that your indoor drains start to stink, an indicator that the tank is too full and noxious gases are leaking back up the pipes. 

Any or all of these signs will show you that the tank has become too full and urgently needs attention. Unfortunately, an overflowing septic tank means that you’ve left it a bit too long for septic tank emptying and you will need help from the professionals, as resolving an overflowing septic tank can be quite a costly exercise. As a result, to avoid a financial blow, it’s important that you take preventative measures and arrange to have the tank emptied before too much sludge can form on the bottom and form blockages.

What should be done if the septic tank does need to be emptied?

If you’re wondering what to do when your septic tank is full, the best course of action is to call a certified waste management company, such as LetLoos, who will come to your property and assess the tank. We’ll then decide whether or not it does actually require emptying. Sometimes, problems with your toilets can be caused by plumbing issues, not because your tank is full, in which case a plumber is the most appropriate port of call.

If the tank does need to be emptied, however, we will use a waste removal vehicle that holds a special tank used to store the waste. Upon arrival at your property, one of our engineers will inspect the tank, before inserting a powerful vacuum hose and activating the pump to begin taking up the waste.

Once the vehicle’s waste removal tank is full – which may not necessarily be when your septic tank is completely empty – the team will take the contents to an appropriate treatment facility to be disposed of.

The emptying process does not take long and should not cause any disruption, although you may find the noise of the pump rather loud.

Who should carry out the work?

Working with an experienced team of professionals will go a long way to ensuring that you have a successful experience with the emptying of your septic tank. Employing a team that regularly works with different septic tanks and have the skills required to empty the tank and dispose of the waste adequately is vital. It’s important to remember that prevention is better than cure.

We advocate a cautious approach to septic tanks emptying, so if you suspect that it needs to be checked, it’s better not to delay. Most professional companies that offer septic tank emptying services are willing to check whether the tank needs emptying before beginning the process so you will not need to pay for the tank to be emptied unnecessarily.

How often should you empty your septic tank?

We believe that the aim should always be to empty your septic tanks before any damage happens or issues crop up. If your tank is overflowing, then there may already be damage to your septic tank system and will have significant repair costs. Rather, have an approximate time frame in mind of when you will need to check your septic tank.

When the septic tanks was installed, the installers should have provided an estimate of how long you would be able to wait before needing to empty it. They will have taken into account the size of the tank, and its projected usage. We suggest using that timeline and popping a reminder in your online calendar.

If that’s not an option, in most cases, septic tank emptying (or ‘de-sludging’) should only need to happen every one to two years, so you can simply mark it on your calendar. However, this figure will vary from tank to tank depending on the size of the tank and the number of people living on or making use of the property. If in doubt, the sludge level can also be checked with a stick test whereby PVC pipes are lowered into the septic tank to measure the depth of the waste.

If you have recently moved into a new house that comes with a septic tank, make sure you ask the previous owners when the tank was last emptied. This should give you a rough estimate of when it needs to be cleared. But once again, you should bear in mind that if you have a larger family, the tank may need to be emptied much sooner than the estimated date. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the signs of a full tank.

Get your septic tank sorted without any stress

At LetLoos we have a range of solutions for septic tanks emptying. Our skilled, experienced team and high-grade equipment ensure that we are able to empty most septic tank types. Our highly-reliable methods will ensure the successful emptying and removal of all waste. From there, we will dispose of the waste in a manner that is both legal and environmentally responsible. Whatever your tank shape or size, we can help.

Our team is available to assist with septic tanks emptying in Essex, the greater London area and beyond. So, if you need some help with deciding when to empty a septic tank or you need an idea of septic tank emptying costs, please get in touch.

Read More: 5 Things You Should Never Flush a Portable Toilet