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5 Ways To Tell When Your Septic System Needs Cleaning

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Keeping your septic system clean is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Fortunately, it's a job you can safely leave to the professionals, who have the proper tools and the expertise to get it done with little to no fuss. Septic system experts aren't psychic, however. It's up to you to contact the experts whenever your septic system needs cleaning.

So, how do you know when it's time to take care of your septic system? There are plenty of clues you can easily pick up on during your septic system inspection, including the ones mentioned below.

1. Sluggish Flushing and Drainage

The first clues that something's amiss with your septic system are drains that don't empty as vigorously as they usually do and toilets that have weak flushing strength. Before jumping to conclusions, however, it's a good idea to check for immediate drain blockages that could also cause slow drainage. If there are no drain blockages to be seen, then it's likely your septic system is due for a good cleaning.

2. Terrible Odors from Toilets and Drains

Funky odors emanating from your toilet or drains is yet another sign of a septic system in need of a thorough cleaning. Waste buildup inside your home's septic tank can displace odor-causing gases. Once your septic tank is completely full, these gases have nowhere left to go but out. While these gases typically escape via the plumbing vent pipe that extends well above your home's roofline, your indoor drains and toilet are also common escape routes for noxious gases.

A vent pipe that is accidentally crushed or covered with foliage can send more of that stench through your home's drains. In some cases, noxious septic system gases can percolate through the drain field, potentially giving your entire yard a stench to remember.

3. A Suspiciously Lush Lawn

Having a lush lawn is great, but not if it's at the expense of your septic system. If the lawn above your septic system's drain field suddenly becomes lush and vibrant compared to the rest of your lawn, it's likely due to the drain field being overloaded by rising wastewater. Plants will happily pull the excess nitrates leached into the soil by overflowing waste liquid.

Some of that nitrate may also find its way into your well water — yet another sign that your septic system is too full to work properly. Annual well water testing comes in handy for spotting heavy nitrate and metal buildup, along with other problems that could affect well water quality.

You might also see standing water collect around the septic tank and the drain field as a result of wastewater having nowhere else to go. Standing water is a serious indicator that your septic system needs cleaning pronto.

4. Sludge Buildup and Septic Backup

If you thought sewage odors were bad, then consider the sheer horror of sewage backing up through your home's drains. Septic system backups aren't uncommon, especially among homeowners who ignore timely septic system cleanings. Sludge buildup is usually the culprit behind septic system backups since the sludge has nowhere else to go once the septic tank reaches its capacity.

Septic backups aren't just messy and stomach-turning to deal with, but they're also hazardous to your health. The sight of black sludge slowly bubbling its way through your sink, bathtub, or toilet should be enough to merit a call to the professionals.

5. The Date on Your Calendar

Septic systems require not only thorough cleaning but also frequent cleaning before the system becomes too full to function properly. Setting up a cleaning schedule is one of the best ways to avoid overloading your septic system.

If you have your septic system cleaned every two or three years, for example, and the date of your prior cleaning rolls around again, then chances are your septic system will need another cleaning. However, a growing household and heavier use of faucets, toilets, and other water-using appliances can make that date come sooner than expected. 

Contact a company like Economy Septic Tank Service for more information.