How Often To Pump Septic Tank: The Truth

Last Updated On September 5, 2022
How Often To Pump Septic Tank

Do you want to know how often to pump your septic tank? A septic tank system requires regular cleaning to remove solid waste and the sludge layer that remains in the septic tank. 

You may find a number of different answers to the question since pumping frequency depends on a number of factors. These include your household size, treatment and maintenance routine, and the size of your septic tank.  

In this PlumbingNav, we will cover:

  • How often to pump your septic tank
  • Signs that you need septic tank pumping
  • Considerations for your leach field

What's In This Guide?

      How Often to Pump Septic Tank

      Generally speaking, you should get regular pumping every 3 – 5 years, and you should inspect your septic system every 1 – 3 years. However, the basic rule of thumb is that you should have your septic tank pumped whenever the solids reach 20 to 30% of the tank’s volume. See this post on how to check if your septic tank is full

      Septic pumping removes the remaining sludge solids and scum that don’t dissolve naturally or escape to the drainfield, as the effluent water does. Septic cleaning requires the assistance of a professional, and you’re not allowed to do it. 

      There are a number of variables that help determine septic tank pumping frequency, including tank size, number of family members, the type of septic tank, and your maintenance routine. 

      Smaller septic tanks require more frequent pumping, especially with multiple people using the facilities. Septic tanks with a septic pump may not require as much pumping as systems that solely rely on gravity. 

      Finally, what you flush down your toilets and the cleaning products you use, such as bleach, may affect how often your septic tank gets full. Regular maintenance can reduce how often you need to get professional septic tank pumping, such as the use of the best septic tank treatment products.

      Fewer professional cleanings mean less money spent on the septic tank, so most homeowners aren’t in a hurry. The average septic tank cleaning nationally falls between $260 – $400 for each cleaning.

      Watch the following video for more information on how often to pump your septic tank:

      Want to check your levels? Click here for pricing on the sludge judge mentioned in the video.

      Septic Tank Maintenance

      You can prolong your septic tank pumping schedule by practicing good septic system maintenance.

      Septic system maintenance involves using septic tank additives in the system as directed in between professional septic service appointments. 

      You should also be wary of what you put down the toilet and garbage disposal. Septic safe toilet paper and waste can of course go down the toilet. However, you shouldn’t put cotton swabs, sanitary products, or diapers down the toilet. Also, avoid “flushable” wipes!

      In the kitchen, you want to avoid the amount of cooking oil, grease, and fat you send down your kitchen sink drain. Dispose of grease in the garbage. You can also use a homemade grease trap to reduce accidental grease from getting down the drain.

      To allow material to reach the septic tank properly, don’t forget regular drain cleaning of the main line that transports material to the septic tank using a drain cleaner or a drain snake

      When performing drain cleaning, choose your products carefully. Many drain cleaners will negatively impact the ecosystem inside of your septic tank. Stick with enzyme-based drain cleaners, or popular natural options such as Green Gobbler, and avoid caustic drain openers

      Ok, now let’s get into the specifics based on tank sizes. Remember, these are general rules of thumb. Every family and household is different. 

      did you know How Often To Pump Septic Tank

      How often should you pump a 1000-gallon septic?

      See the following pumping frequency schedule for a 1000-gallon tank:

      • 1 resident – pump every 12 years
      • 2 residents – pump every 6 years
      • 4 residents – pump every 3 years
      • 6 residents – pump every 2 years
      • 9 residents – pump every 1 year

      How often to pump 1500 gallon septic tank

      See the following schedule for a 1500-gallon septic tank:

      • 1 resident – pump every 19 years
      • 2 residents – pump every 9 years
      • 4 residents – pump every 4 years
      • 6 residents – pump every 3 years
      • 8 residents – pump every 2 years

      How often pump septic family of 5?

      Based on the numbers above, a family of 5 should pump a 1,000-gallon septic tank every 2.5 years. A family of 5 should pump a 1500-gallon septic tank every 3.5 years. All things equal!

      How long can you go without pumping your septic tank?

      Never let your septic system go more than 3 years without an inspection or 5 years without pumping. If you wait too long, it may impact the effectiveness of your septic system to the point that you may need septic tank repair. One sign is bubbling or gurgling toilets.

      However, if your use treatment products and your regular inspections show less than 20% solids, you should be fine waiting. 

      Can a septic tank be pumped too often?

      Yes, you can pump your septic tank too often. Your septic tank works by relying on a balance of bacteria and enzymes. Frequent pumping can affect the natural ecosystem inside of your septic tank. When the ecosystem becomes skewed, not only will the septic tank fail to work properly, but the harmful bacteria can impact the local air quality.

      How Often To Pump Septic Tank With Leach Field

      You pump a septic tank with a drain field just as often as any other septic tank. Almost every septic tank has a leach field, so the numbers include septic tanks with a leach field.

      Your drain field comes with a couple of additional considerations, including:

      • Don’t drive on your drain field.
      • Avoid building sheds or other structures too close. 
      • Do not plant trees too close to your leach field.

      How do you know your septic tank is full and needs to be pumped?

      For the best indication of if you need septic tank cleaning, you will need to find the lid and check sludge levels. This will be located under a septic riser, or you might need to dig to access it. The contents require pumping if the material gets within 6” of the outlet tee, but more technically if the accumulated sludge and scum is 20-30% of the tank’s volume.

      There are numerous signs that you need to clean your septic tank if you don’t feel comfortable performing an inspection yourself:

      If the wastewater level appears too low or there are pools of water around the tank, you may have a leak, which will require immediate attention (and costly repairs). Let’s hope that’s not the case!

      Septic Tank Pumping FAQ’s

      What should you do after your septic tank is pumped?

      After you pump your septic tank, use a probiotic treatment to “front load” the natural process with productive bacteria. We love this product

      If it’s been only a year since your last pump, analyze your habits to determine the changes you need to make. 

      Can I shower if my septic tank is full?

      While you can shower with a full septic tank, you will want to limit time in the shower and schedule septic tank pumping as quickly as possible. Don’t overwhelm your system with large volumes of water, such as running a washing machine excessively before or after showers.

      How do I clean my septic tank naturally?

      Use a septic treatment to clean your septic tank naturally. Septic tank treatments use bacteria and enzymes to create ideal bacteria numbers for the dissolution of the solid material. Enzymes may also dissolve some of the material during the treatment. That said, you cannot “pump” your tank yourself.

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      About Plumbing Navigator

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      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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