The septic tank might be the nastiest part of your home. When something goes wrong, it can go really wrong – that’s why it’s important to quickly troubleshoot the issue. If that’s why you’re here, you’re in luck! We’re going to find out some potential causes for your backed-up septic tank, and some home remedies.
But first, what’s the worst that can happen?
General Knowledge for Your Septic Tank
If you didn’t know, the septic tank is where your water goes. That means your sinks, tubs, and toilets all go to the septic tank. All that goodness that gets flushed flows through a bunch of pipes until it gets to your tank, with gravity pulling it along the way.
Once in the tank, the magic starts happening. The tank is designed to break down solids and drain liquids when the tank gets too full. If you’re thinking ahead, you can spot the problem here.
If there is a slow drain, clog, blockage, or backed-up septic tank, there’s only one place the waste and liquids can go – back up through your drains and into your home.
For those of you who don’t want septic waste pouring into your house, keep reading.
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DIY Home Remedies For a Backed Up Septic Tank
Without calling a pro or using commercial products, let’s try to figure this out. We will review some quick fixes and preventative maintenance to keep your floors clean.
Before that, you want to figure out where the problem area is.
Locate the Problem
This is the first step before you can move on. If only one or a few drains are backing up, you can narrow down your search.
Take a look in your tank and examine the level. If the contents are very low, then there’s a problem between the tank and the house. If the tank is filled with liquids, then there’s a problem with the outlet drain in the tank.
Understanding how the tank works is the first step in troubleshooting your problem. The problem is that you can’t see inside most of the pipes in your septic system. A little intuition goes a long way, here.
An obstruction anywhere in your septic system can give you a range of different problems. In this case, we’ll look at reasons why different drains might be backing up.
Check for a Clogged Pipe
Troubleshooting and fixing a clogged pipe can be pretty simple (though, potentially messy).
After locating the problem, find the pipe in question and see if you can find a clog in it. You might be lucky and be able to use a long rod to push the debris through. This alone will fix the slow drain.
Otherwise, you can try to snake the pipes that are potentially causing the clogged drain. In this case, you don’t have to physically see the clog.
Take a Look in the Tank
Another prime area for clogs and obstructions is in your tank. This is easy enough to check for most people.
First, find the inlet of your tank. This is a lid that can be pulled off to show you the inside of the tank. The inlet is located somewhere outside.
Open the inlet of your tank and take a look. If you notice a clog of solids, use a long pole, or stick to knock it loose.
Check the Septic Tank Outlet Baffle
If air can’t escape the system, you will have the same problems as a clogged line.
In this case, you’ll check your outlet baffle and see if there are any obstructions. It’s not rare to see a bird’s nest or a trapped small animal in this area.
After clearing the blockage, everything should go back to normal. If not, there’s an additional problem in your system.
Check Under Your Sink
In cases where only one sink is backing up, it could still be due to a septic system problem. Locate the sink and open the cabinet underneath.
Look at the piping and notice the U-shaped portion. This is your P-trap. It might reveal some answers.
Put a bucket under this P-trap and remove it from the piping system. It could be filled with water and gunk so be careful.
Once off, use a flashlight and take a look in the piping that’s there. If you can see a clog, attack it with your snake. If not, try to slowly feed your snake as far as you can into the pipe and see if you can pull the blockage out.
Try Some Chemistry
If everything else fails, there is another method you can try. If there’s a blockage deep in your piping that you can’t get to, you can try some chemistry.
In a drain of your choice, sprinkle baking soda and pour some vinegar. Wait for around two hours before flushing the drain with hot water. This combination of materials helps to break apart a small clog and help things flow.
Septic Tank Back Ups You Can’t DIY
Unfortunately, there are occasions when you’ll need to call the pros, no matter how hard you try.
Damaged Septic Pipes
When there are damaged sections of your septic system, there isn’t much you can do.
This can come in the form of damage from tree roots, weather damage, or pipes that were run over, cracked, or crushed.
Electrical or Mechanical Failures
Your septic system has some moving parts in it. These take the form of switches, sensors, and pumps.
If you go through these troubleshooting steps and can’t find a culprit, it might be thanks to faulty equipment in your septic system.
A Leaky System
The final problem that can’t be fixed on your own is a leak somewhere in the system. You’ll know this is the case if the grass around your septic tank is especially green and healthy compared to the grass around it. Grass absolutely loves the nitrogen rich wastewater.
Helpful Preventative Maintenance Tips
If you got lucky and cleared your obstruction, it’s time to celebrate! More importantly, it’s time to roll out some preventative maintenance that can prevent this problem from happening again next week.
Watch What You Flush
Remember, everything that goes down your drain goes to your septic tank. The best way to prevent an obstruction or clog is to be careful about what you flush.
The usual suspects for clogs are flushed tampons, condoms, and wet wipes. Additionally, food waste from your kitchen shouldn’t be put down the drain unless you have a garbage disposal.
Keep Trees Away from Your Lines
As beautiful as trees are, their roots can cause problems in your septic lines. Their roots will often break through pipes and cause obstacles that can’t be fixed on your own.
Remember Where Your Lines Are
Another thing to keep in mind is where your drain field lines are. Avoid running heavy machines and digging holes in these areas.
Carefully Select Your Toilet Paper Type
A lot of people don’t realize that certain toilet papers aren’t septic-friendly. Do some research into your favorite type of toilet paper to make sure it’s not damaging your system.
Ditch the Chemicals
Chemical drain cleaners can wreak havoc on your septic system. There are helpful bacteria in your septic tank that helps everything get broken down. A lot of chemical cleaners will kill these bacteria and result in a backed-up septic system.
Remember to Pump
You should already have a pumping schedule set up for your septic tank. Sticking to this schedule ensures that your system works properly. Not sure how often to pump your septic tank? You can read about how often to pump a septic tank here.
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