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Explaining Leach Fields & Lines in a Septic System – Ultimate Guide


Moving into a new home always takes some adjustment. For instance, if your old home used a sewer system but now you are on a septic and leach field system. For instance, where would you look for your leach field? How do you maintain a septic tank?

What is a leach field? A leach field is a series of trenches and perforated pipes covered with a porous material, like gravel, and filters pathogens in waste safely into the soil.

Not all septic systems have leaching lines. There are a number of options that are available to people in new construction or replacement. This guide will cover aspects of leaching beds and
septic systems that you might not have thought of. As always, if in doubt contact a plumber and have them do a quick inspection.

How Does A Leach Field Work?

A leach field is spread out in a large area of your yard to allow for proper percolation back into the water table. So, what happens when the water from your:
● Sink
● Toilet
● Dishwasher
● Washing machine
● Garbage Disposal
Slip away down the drain? This is where the leach field takes over. There are five stages that waste goes through when it leaves the appliance and heads out of the main drain. They are:

  1. Main Drain
  2. Septic Tank
  3. Drain Field
  4. Drain Pipes
  5. Percolation

Troubleshooting A Leach Field

There are just as many cases of a septic tank working for over twenty years as there are stories of them failing within the first month of moving into a new home. How can you tell if your septic system is in trouble? 

There are a set of things to look for that will tell you if your system could require maintenance. They are:

  • Faulty pipes – If the septic tank becomes filled with nonbiodegradable material, there is an excellent chance that your pipes will back up. The leach field will stack up with water. There could be puddles right on the surface of the yard. Look for dying or thriving grass as a sign of leaking pipes. 
  • Overflowing house water – When the pipes or septic system backs up, there is only one place for the water to go inside the house. If your sinks and tubs begin to fill with sewage there is a four-alarm disaster in your septic system. 
  • Slow drains – If you notice the waste in your sink or shower running more slowly, there might be a problem. If the drain pipes are backed up, then it will take more time for water to exit the main drain. Hair is the main culprit behind this. When you wash, hair slips down the drain and will bond together causing a clog.
  • Distinct smell – There’s no mistaking the smell of raw sewage. If your yard has spots with heavy sewage smell, there could be issues. The smell comes from the leaking effluent that has begun to back up into your yard. 
  • Dead/abundant grass – Another sure giveaway to see septic issues is patches of dead or yellowed grass. This usually means a leak of some kind. The flip side of this is patches of beautiful fertile green grass exploding from the ground. The excess fertilizer for the lawn makes it so abundant.
  • Frequent pumping – A standard form of maintenance is to have a company come and pump out the heavy water, a much fancier word for poo, which should allow the leach bed to work correctly. 

If any of the above things are happening, you should check your system immediately. Failing to maintain a septic system could be the start of a home ruining problem. Homeownership comes with responsibilities. If a septic system gets too bad, the only solution can be a complete replacement. Take the time to take care of your place.

Types Of Leach Beds

Not every yard is set up to have your standard leach bed. There are several alternatives, and if you are considering replacing the list below will help. The types of leach beds are:

1. Gravity

2. Pressure Distribution

3. Mound System

4. Aerobic Treatment Unit

5. Cesspools

6. Drywell

7. Holding Tank

1. Gravity – A gravity leach bed is the standard bed that has been described in this article. It consists of a septic tank and leach field. Gravity forces the water through the trenches and into the filtering soil below. The weight of the water forces it through several layers of earth culminating in clear water being returned to the water source.

2. Pressure Distribution – The significant difference in a gravity system and pressure distribution system is the pump. In the pressure distribution system between the tank and the pipes is a pump that moves stagnant water onto the leach bed. Often homes are built with the septic tank in the wrong position to promote positive water flow to the trenches. This pump pushes the water that would typically pool and ruin your yard and possibly your plumbing.

3. Mound System – A mound system is mounted above ground due to a high water table on the property. It rests on or just above the ground to keep the pollution of the freshwater table from occurring. These are easy to spot because a gigantic mound will be in an otherwise flat environment.

4. Aerobic Treatment Unit – This unit uses air to promote the growth of bacteria that breaks down the effluent before it reaches the water table. The aerobic bacteria works much faster than its anaerobic counterpart, which is found in the soil. A specialized pump is needed to promote the extra airflow.

5. Cesspools – A cesspool is usually a concrete pit with a pipe connecting another tank. These are found in older homes and aren’t legal in most areas. They are prone to overflow and will contaminate the water source if not monitored. These are slowly being outlawed. Mishandling of a cesspool could contaminate an entire neighborhood’s water supply. 

6. Drywell – A dry well system is an older system that is just as dependable as any other. The most significant difference in a dry well system and the others is a leaching bed. Dry well uses a series of long concrete cylinders buried in the ground to dispose of waste. Each barrel is filled with a particular filter like sand and gravel. 

7. Holding Tank – Upkeep is a must with these systems. The ordinary septic tank should be serviced every one to three years, while the regular holding tank must be emptied once a month. A holding tank is a septic tank with no outlet hose. Tread with caution.

How To Make A Leach Field

Changing or installing a personal septic system can be a tremendous pain. If you don’t have the resources to hire equipment, a shovel is going to be your new best friend. You replace your system with seven steps. They are:

  1. Locate tank
  2. Main pipe
  3. Mark trench lines
  4. Dig trenches
  5. Lay pipe
  6. Cover trenches
  7. Plant grass
  1. Locate tank – You should find your plumbing drain lines. This is the best place to start looking for a septic tank. Follow the edges, and they should lead you to a piece of 4-inch pipe and the rest of the container.
  2. Main pipe – The large tube you looked for in the previous step is going to feed the branches of the leach field. Water should flow downhill with a slight drop in elevation. 
  3. Mark trench lines – Once you have the correct position for your primary pipe, use spray paint to mark the route of your trenches. There should be at least three of them branching downhill from the central canal.
  4. Dig trenches – This is where the equipment will come in handy. The sides of the channel, as well as their direction, should all be level and straight. 18 to 36 inches deep is the standard range. The most time consuming and essential part of the project, digging the trenches, saves you heartache in the long run.
  5. Lay pipe – Perforated pipe can be purchased at your local home repair store. A two-inch layer of gravel should line the bottom of each trench. This will aid the tube with percolation when the time is right. Attach the ends of the pipe to the main sewer or a single piece stretched to all three trenches.
  6. Cover trenches – Once the pipes are in a spot that ensures proper flow, it is time to fill in the channels with dirt. First, you should use a layer of biodegradable material like straw to aid in absorption. Make about a one-inch layer before filling in the trenches with dirt. Pack the soil down and remember that the ground will settle over time.
  7. Plant grass – Now that the yard has been repaired, a new round of grass seed should be planted. An excess, or lack of, grass can be a great road flare for problems with your septic system.

How To Find Your Leach Bed

A leaching bed usually populates a side yard or any level ground around your house. The tank, unless it uses a pump, will be lower than the house to promote flowing water. Look for a greener field of grass than the rest. The leaching field will drain off waste, which also fertilizes grass, making the leaching field more natural to find. Finding the bed can be broken down into four easy steps. They are:

  1. Follow The Pipe
  2. Check The Downhill
  3. Use The Snow
  4. Probe The Ground
  1. Follow The Pipe – The main drain inside your house will lead to a pipe that goes directly to the septic tank. If you follow the drains inside your home to the main drain, finding the line to the septic is a breeze. 
  2. Check The Downhill – If you have a gravity system, the best place to check is downhill from the house. A gravity system works on the premise that water will be pushed by gravity. Burying the tank forces the effluent to rise into the leach field. Gravity pushes the filtered water down into the ground, where it eventually reaches the water table or water source of the home. Searching the lowest spot in the yard is an excellent way to find the tank.
  3. Use The Snow – Waste carries heat. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that gets a decent amount of snowfall, check the yard for spots with no snow. This warming of the ground can be linked to the leaching field and its movement of water. If the wastewater seeps to the surface, it will halt the piling of snow and give you a sweet spot to search for your septic system.
  4. Probe The Ground – This is the most low tech, old school version that is offered. Find a stick, piece of rebar, metal pole, what have you, and begin to probe the ground for soft spots. The excess of water flow will make the ground soft and easy to investigate. Be careful not to penetrate so hard that you break the leach lines. A gentle push on the ground with some extra applied pressure should be all you need once you find a leach line probe it back to the main pipe and the tank buried below.

Septic Treatment And Protection

Your septic tank is a critical component of your home. Waste removal makes room for you to use all the water appliances in your home. A significant drawback of a septic system is its vulnerability to botanicals in your yard. A major villain in the world of septic is a root system. If there are trees around the septic leach bed, the roots could clog the pipes and cease the function of your septic system. 

Are there products to help fight the onslaught of grass and roots in your septic system? Yes, there are several products available that clean and protect your septic system. I’ve compiled a list of the best products for your septic tank treatment.

CCLS Septic Bacteria TreatmentA great pour in treatment product that works great on slow drains. CCLS is also an additive for your septic tank, where it helps dissolve solid waste to reduce maintenance on the unit. This is a great deal! With a four-gallon pack, you can reach the standard for a yearly treatment. The standard, or the amount suggested by the manufacturer, is ½ cup per person in the household. So a family of 6 would need three cups a month.

Septic Tank Treatment – What can go wrong with such a no-nonsense product name? Septic Tank Treatment rates a 5 star on Amazon, and the convenience is the main draw. With a monthly pack, you avoid the hassle of measuring and pouring a hazardous liquid, which could lead to injury or death.

RID-XA name brand that we all know and trust is hard to look away from. Rid-X Professional strength is a powder that you pour into your toilet. When you flush the chemical reaction caused by the Rid-X and pollutants in your pipes, make a solvent that cleans away impurities. On occasion, these have also been used to dissolve plant matter that has invaded septic lines.

Green GobblerGreen Gobbler Septic Saver, is one of the preferred options on Amazon. A bold prediction on the box states, ‘Never have septic problems again, guaranteed!’ They make this claim because they use the most potent bacteria on the market. It comes in a six-pack container, which will get you through a half year of service.  The money-back-guarantee is a massive draw for anyone with major recurring problems.

Are There Leeches In A Leach Bed?

No. There are no leeches in a leaching bed. While there are no parasites, there is a whole host of bacteria that can be deadly. Most often, a congealed sludge of bacteria forms on the trench walls forcing the water to back up. There are no parasites, but you should listen for slow drains to make sure an even worse problem isn’t brewing.

How Deep Should A Leach Bed Be?

A leaching bed should be a minimum of six inches deep, but it is recommended that you use a depth of 18 – 36 inches. 18 – 36-inch depth allows for layers of gravel and other biodegradable material to be layered around the pipe.

What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Leach Bed?

The Department of Agriculture states that an appropriately used septic system should last 20 years. What could cause a system to fail in a new home? The problem could be:

  • Ground slope – A ground that slopes at a sharp angle could mean that there isn’t enough earth to place the tubes. 
  • Rock – An abundance of rocks in the area could mean extra work or damaged and broken pipes. 
  • Water level – If you live near a body of water, the rising and falling of the water level will also affect your septic system.
  • Soil percolation – Your house should have been tested for this before construction, but if you have soil that is packed with dense material, the water could fail to percolate to the water table. What this means is that the filtering that would occur with a typical system isn’t possible with the soil. 

How Do You Find A Clogged Drain?

Several factors can tell you if there is a drain pipe clogged or if your entire septic system has gone wrong. These simple cues are:

  • Check drains on other floors – If the drains upstairs are excellent and the ones on lower levels are slow or backed up, you have a drain problem at the lowest level.
  • Drain record – Does this particular drain always back up? Or is it usually dependable and drains quickly? If there has always been a problem with the appliance, then it is a plumbing issue with that particular tap.
  • Use simple tools – If there’s a clog, break out some tools of your own and see if it is a quick fix. Use lights to look down into the drain for obstructions. A plunger can dislodge material in the pipe and solve the problem. If you have it, you can use a snake to try and remove particles from the drain, but this can open a can of worms
  • Call in the big guns – If you have plunged and prodded to no results, there is no shame in calling in a plumber. 
  • Check the vents – The changing weather can lead to slower drains. When condensation escapes via vents, it can be frozen by cold air, which would seal the vent closed. A lack of oxygen at one end of the system makes for a slow drain.
  • Inspect the main drain – After all the drains inside have been checked, it is time to take it outside. The central pipe will be between your septic system and house. The pooling of water here means that there could be an obstruction in the septic system, which means more significant problems.
  • Check the box – On the top of the septic tank is a distribution box. This box covers the connection between the pipe leading from your house and the septic system itself. There could be a malfunction here that keeps water from flowing to the appropriate channel.
  • Snakes, again – If you are one of the lucky people who have a plumbing snake, now would be the time to snake the drains between the house and septic, as well as between the tank and leaching field. The drain is a prime spot for roots and junk to make it into the pipe and ruin your whole day.
  • Into the pit – This next step could very well be a thing of nightmare. If the drains and pipes leading to the tank are working correctly, you might have to get inside the container. I don’t mean climb inside, but I’d wager that sticking your head inside would be enough to make you weak in the knees. Look around and see if the tank has punctured or if there is an excess of solid material inside. If the baffles or connecting leaching field pipes have ruined, you could be in for major repairs.
  • Check sewer lines – If you are connected to a sewer system, there could be a blockage in the drain between your tank and the system. Calling in the local utility guy or a trusted plumber would also be an appealing option at this time. 

How Can You Tell If Your Leaching Bed Is Failing?

When a leaching bed begins to fail there will be multiple red flags to give you a heads up. They are: 

  • Pooling water – If water is pooling on the surface, there is a good bet that your bed has stopped working.
  • Dying/Abundant grass – If there are visible lines of grass dying, there could be a problem with the bed. The lines can seep, and this seepage will either kill grass or make it grow extraordinarily lush and green. 
  • Yard smells – A dead give away is the smell. If the yard has a distinct sewage odor, the leaching bed could have severe problems.
  • Read our Leach field & Line common Problem article here.

SOURCES

https://www.hunker.com/13417137/how-to-make-a-leach-field

https://www.paradisevalleyseptic.com/whats-a-leach-field/

https://www.epa.gov/septic/how-your-septic-system-works

https://sswm.info/factsheet/leach-fields

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/troubleshoot-leach-field-home-septic-system-101891.html

https://extension.umd.edu/learn/how-can-i-repair-my-failing-drainfield

https://www.mrrooter.com/greater-syracuse/residential-services/septic-drainfields/

https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/337-087.pdf

https://clearchoicescleanwater.org/uploads/88/docs/1399septic_FAQs.pdf

https://inspectapedia.com/plumbing/Drain_Clog_Diagnosis.php

Is Charmin Toilet Paper Septic Safe?


If you have a home or commercial property that depends on a septic system for waste disposal then you know the importance of only using septic safe products.

The use of septic safe products is essential in ensuring that your septic system works properly and that you avoid potential problems or early degradation of your septic systems life expectancy.

But, a lot of us are stuck choosing between the brands and products they love to use and what’s in the best interest of the long-term use of their septic system. If you prefer Charmin Toilet paper, then you may be wondering if it is Septic Safe?

Is Charmin Toilet Paper Septic Safe? Yes, according to the manufacturer’s website, Charmin toilet paper is safe to use in not only sewers but also septic systems.

Charmin’s website explicitly notes:

Yes. Charmin is septic safe and thoroughly tested to ensure it will settle in a septic tank and then undergo biodegradation in the tank.

You can get Charmin Septic Safe Toilet Paper directly from Amazon if you would like it sent directly to your house.

Does Charmin Offer Any Septic Safe Guarantee?

Charmin Guarantee

This is a guarantee as stated on the Charmin Website.

Charmin toilet paper and flushable wipes are clog safe and septic safe, guaranteed! If you experience a clog due to your use of Charmin toilet paper, we’ll refund your purchase price. For more information click here.

Are Charmin Flushable Wipes Septic Safe?

Yes, Charmin Freshmates Wipes are said to be septic safe on the company website. However, they make a point of saying you should only use one or two wipes at a time. So, we recommend keeping that in mind.

Although the manufacturers tout their wipes a septic safe, you still want to limit the use as much as possible.

If you want to see other options, read our list of the 8 Best Septic Safe Toilet Paper Options.

Also, you can read our article, if Cottonelle Toilet Paper is Septic Safe.

Is Cottonelle Toilet Paper Septic Safe?


If you have a home or business that uses a septic system instead of a public sewer, then you understand you need to make certain considerations when it comes to choosing household goods.  What you put into your septic system can affect how well your septic system works or even how long it lasts. Using septic safe toilet paper is crucial to properly maintain your system. 

Many people want to know if their preferred brand of toilet paper is septic safe, today we will be discussing Cottonelle toilet paper, and whether or not it is septic safe.

Is Cottonelle Ultra Ultra ComfortCare Septic Safe?  The short answer is yes, Cottonelle Ultra Comfort care toilet paper is septic safe. According to the manufacturer’s website, Cotonnelle Ultra Soft is both sewer and septic safe.

You can Purchase Cottonelle Ultra Comfort Care on Amazon.

If you are looking for a list of 8 other septic safe toilet paper, check out our article here.

In the remainder of this article, we will answer questions about other Cottonelle products

Is Cottonelle Ultra CleanCare Septic Safe?

Yes, according to the manufacturer’s website Cottonelle Ultra CleanCare is septic safe.  It is designed to be the perfect blend of strength and comfort. The Ultra CleanCare has what Cottonelle calls CleaningRipples meant for a superior clean. All of this, while remaining septic safe.

Is Cottonelle Ultra Gentlecare Septic Safe?

Yes, according to Cottonelle’s website, their Ultra GentleCare is also septic and sewer safe. So you can use it in residential and commercial buildings that depend on a septic system for their waste management.

So, in conclusion, if you prefer Cottonelle toilet paper and were worried about using it in a home or business that depends on a septic system for its waste management.

Other Cottonelle Septic Safe Related Questions

In this section, we will look at a couple of other Cottonelle toilet products and whether or not they are septic safe.

Are Cottonelle® GentlePlus™ Flushable Wipes Safe for Your Septic System?

The short answer is Yes, they are septic safe.

Cottonelle®GentlePlus™ Flushable Wipes are made with 95% pure water and enriched with Aloe & Vitamin E. They are designed for a gentle clean for sensitive skin. They also include CleaningRipples™ Texture and the cleansing power of water for a truly Superior Clean. Additionally, they’re hypoallergenic, chlorine-free and paraben-free.

According to the manufacturer’s website Cottonelle®Flushable Wipes are designed for toilets and tested with plumbers, so you can rest assured they are sewer and septic safe. The manufacturer states that they immediately start to break down after flushing. Additionally, they’re plastic-free and made of fibers that are 100% biodegradable.

Does This Include Cottonelle FreshCare XL Flushable Wipes?

Yes, you can use the XL FreshCare Flussables in your sewer or septic system according to the manufacture.

You can also get these conveniently sent to your home from Amazon.

Are Cottonelle’s Flushable Wipes for Kids Septic Safe?

Yes, according to the company’s website, these flushable baby wipes are also meant to be sewer and septic safe.

You can get them here on Amazon.

If you need other septic safe household products you can check out some of our other helpful articles.

Common Leach Field & Drain Line Septic System Problems & FAQs


If you are thinking about installing a septic system on your property, your contractor may have only told you about the leach field late in the planning stages. You already knew there would be a septic tank, of course, but how does the leach field work? Are there inherent problems with a network of leach lines under your yard?

CALL 855.925.0760 For A Quote on DrainField Repair/Service

What is the most common problem with leach fields? The biggest problem with leach fields is when solids improperly filter into them, causing a microbial imbalance of the field and surrounding soil. 

This can happen for a variety of reasons, which I will explain below. There are also a few other problems you’ll learn how to anticipate and solve. Keep reading for all of that along with plenty of other tips on maintaining and managing your leach field.

Why Does A Leach Field Fail?

While, to be clear, the pros of having a septic system far outweigh the cons, there are problems that can occur. Any complicated system in the home can encounter issues. More often than not, leach fields fail because substances are entering them that they are not designed to intake. 

Think of a leach field like a digestive system. If you eat a sandwich, your body will have no problem sending it through your system, so to speak. What happens if you try to eat a telephone? Well, nothing good, that is for sure.

The same goes for leach fields: they only work well if they are filtering what they are designed to handle: wastewater. Keyword: “water”. A leach field is only designed to handle liquid. So if solids or sludge (let’s not get more detailed than that) get into it, major problems begin. This problem has two causes:

Too Much Sludge

Too much sludge in the septic tank can cause it to overflow into the lines. That happens after a long period of use; you will need to get it all pumped out. The problem occurs during normal septic system operation:

  1. First, waste water first enters the tank.
  2. Over a few days, the water gradually separates-
    1. Cooking oil and lighter material moves to the top.
    2. Water and other liquid stays in the middle
    3. Sludge settles to the bottom
  3. Bacteria works to break down the sludge (Over a very long period of buildup, this slowly becomes less effective.)
  4. The rest of the liquid flows through the filter to the leach field
  5. Through small holes in the leach lines (pipes), the water trickles into the surrounding underground gravel or sand
  6. The gravel and sand act as biological filters

Step 3 revealed the problem. Although bacteria dissolve the sludge, they can never quite remove all of it. Odds are you are adding waste water faster than they can dissolve it. The problem is only made worse depending on how big your family is. Overall though, a septic system works very well. This is a problem that will not occur tomorrow; it takes years to become an issue. 

Not Enough Bacteria

The other reason sludge can overflow into the leach field is that there are not enough bacteria to dissolve it, even without overuse. Even if wastewater is entering the system at normal volumes, sludge still will not get dissolved if there are no bacteria. Here are a few common things that you should avoid entering your septic system and killing the helpful bacteria:

  • Household cleaning chemicals– If you were just cleaning and have material that can just be flushed, think again. Cleaning chemicals like bleach and grout cleaner are great at cleaning dirt and bacteria. That is good for your bathroom, but can be bad for your septic tank. Throw these items in the garbage instead.
  • Medicines– If you do not need the rest of that prescription, do not flush it down the drain if your house has a septic system. Medicines are well known for destroying all the bacteria in your tank. Even the medicine you are taking can mess up the tank over time.
  • Anything else that is bad for bacteria– Your toilet and garbage disposal are not trash cans. Even though it may be tempting to throw stuff in them so you do not have to take out the trash as often, just remember, most things that keep you clean and healthy do so by killing bacteria. Do not flush or grind up these items: Read more about Septic Additives here.
  • Find a full list of items that are safe for your septic system.
    • Hair
    • Coffee grinds
    • Dental floss
    • Diapers
    • Kitty Litter
    • Sanitary Napkins
    • Fat
    • Grease
    • Paper towels

Read our articles on what items to avoid putting into a septic system.

Without enough bacteria, sludge will build up a lot faster than it normally would, so you will have to get the tank pumped out much sooner.

Other Leach Field Problems and How to Solve Them

Solids entering the leach field are not the only reason why they can malfunction. Here are some of the other problems that can occur:

Vegetation

Roots from nearby trees, or plants that love water can damage a leach field by intruding into it and causing damage to the lines. Remove all vegetation from the drain field and make sure any lines are fixed. Then you should be good to go. Before you install a leach field, make sure it is at least 10 feet away from any vegetation. Likewise, do not plant anything within that range either.

Hydraulic Overload

Sometimes it is not just too many chemicals in the water, but just the sheer amount of water that overloads the septic system. This can occur from practices like:

  • House parties
  • Too many loads of laundry in a row or at the same time
  • Leaky faucets creating a continuous water flow

Solving those problems is fairly simple:

  • Do not have an excessive number of people in your home at once using the facilities
  • Stagger loads of laundry across multiple days, or different times of day
  • Get any leaky faucets fixed as soon as you notice them

System in a Bad Location on Property

The hydraulic performance of the leach field can be affected in multiple ways if it is installed in a bad place where: Read our article on best location for your septic system.

  • The groundwater table is shallow
  • Seasonal standing water accumulates
  • Roof storm water runoff accumulates
  • Basement sump pump discharges

Try these solutions:

  • Divert the water
  • If that fails, you may have to move the leach field to higher ground

How Do You Know When Your Leach Field Is Failing?

But how will you know if your leach field is having problems in the first place, if you are aboveground? Without going into gross details, trust me, you will just know sometimes. But sometimes it is not so obvious. Here are some clues that should alert you to a leach field problem:

  • Septic system odors above the leach field and/or septic tank
  • Wet spots of sewage rising to the surface from above the leach field
  • Ironically, if the grass above it is greener and healthier than the rest of your grass in the yard. That means it is probably getting too much “fertilizer”.
  • Of course, any high-level water or pump alarms
  • Slow flushing toilets or slow sink drains
  • Or worse, toilets or other plumbing from inside your house backing up

If your leach field is failing, you will want to conduct a thorough inspection of the:

  • Septic tank
  • Leach field
  • Distribution box

If you are a homeowner and this starts to get a bit too technical, you might want to call in:

  • Regulators
  • Soil Scientists
  • Engineers

It is generally a good idea to check the distribution box first before digging up too much, as it can often provide valuable insight on its own. For instance, if there are a lot of solids in the box, it indicates that they are not getting separated out enough in the tank.

How Do you Clean Out Leach Lines?

What if your leach field is not having one of the specific above-mentioned problems, but rather just will not work as quickly and effectively as it used to? Well, it may just be time to clean out the lines. If the material surrounding the lines is made from inferior material like ground-tire or foam peanut, this will only buy you a small amount of time, so you want to just consider all-out replacement. But if you have a standard field with rock or sand, a good cleaning can get it to run almost like new. Here is a step-by-step guide:

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  1. Hook it up to a sewer jetter and blast it, set at 6-10 gpm (gallons per minute) at 3,500-4,000 psi (pounds per square inch)
  2. Do this until you cut through the sludge and establish flow
  3. If there are any roots causing interference, you can cut through them this way too
  4. Once the leach field is running smoothly, treat it with bacteria to restore the biochemical balance

Note: Do not bother trying to clean leach fields that are only hooked to washing machines if a lint trap tank was not installed. Cleaning the field of all the lint and soap will be nearly impossible. 

Helping the Environment

Naturally keeping it clean should address environmental concerns, which makes sense when you are talking about sending waste and chemicals into the ground. Consider installing an aerator system. Benefits include:

  • Helping to increase the breakdown of solids and particulate matter inside the septic tank- The more of this that occurs in the tank, the less you need to clean the leach field.
  • Increasing the power of the bacteria themselves- not be a small amount either, more like 30 times or even more

It may seem like an expensive addition, but as is the case with a septic system, you are saving a lot of money in the long run by doing this. This massive increase in bacteria breakdown power means less maintenance and less risk of clogging as well.

How to Unclog a Leach Field?

If your leach field is clogged, that is obviously a huge problem. Try performing a basic cleaning as described above. If that does not work, you will probably need to call in a specialist. But if you have a long cord-based auger and a distribution box, (and are knowledgeable in using the auger) you might consider giving this a try first:

  1. Dig down to the distribution box and open it up.
  2. Feed the mechanical end of the auger into the leach line that has the clog.
  3. When you feel it reach the clog, slowly apply pressure by pushing and pulling it back and forth to break up the clog.
  4. Turn off the auger for safety, then pull it out.
  5. Follow the above flushing method to clean the leach line.

Preventing Clogs

Obviously the best way to prevent a clog is to stop it from happening in the first place. A root from a far enough away tree that, after years of growth, has intruded into your leach field is sometimes not  avoidable. However, many clogs can be prevented, or at least be made to occur less often. Here a few tricks:

  • Use less water, and fix leaky faucets. Hydraulic overload affects the filtration system.
  • Do not put anything but water and waste down your drains
  • Copper sulfate

Copper sulfate, in particular, will kill most roots that develop in your leach lines. To apply: 

  1. Pour ½ a cup into your toilet at a time and flush until it is dissolved. 
  2. Keep doing this until you have flushed 2 pounds. 
  3. Do not use the water for about 4 hours while the sulfate takes effect in the leach field.
  4. Repeat 3 times per year.

This seems tedious, but it is still way better than uprooting a whole tree or worse, moving your whole septic system.

How Do You Test A Leach Field?

If you have read this far, you are now aware of the precautions you need to take when scoping out the location of your septic system. But how do you test the proposed leach field area to see if it will work there? Here is how:

  1. Auger a few small holes in the area, about 5 feet deep. You want to make sure the top soil stays consistent.
  2. Pull the soil out and lay it out so you can examine it. You are looking for a good, bright color, which means it is well-drained. If there is too much clay or irregularities, it is not a good spot.
  3. The more usage you anticipate, the bigger you should make the leach field. For example, a campsite’s leach field will probably need to be a lot bigger than one for a ranch house.

Should I Get a Septic System With A Leach Field?

As you may have probably guessed by now, not every single business in the world has a leach field. They take up a lot of space and are not exactly cheap to install. In cities, the miracle of modern plumbing means that your wastewater makes its way to the local sewage treatment facility without you even thinking about it.

If you have a large plot of land in the suburbs or a rural area, there is a good chance you already have a septic tank. It is simply not feasible or economical for municipalities to run miles and miles of pipe to service one home. Therefore, they will often require at least a septic tank be installed whenever a new house is constructed.

The problem with having just a septic tank, though, is that they fill up a whole lot faster if there is no way for anything in them to drain out. You will have to pay a company to keep coming by and pumping it out.

Thus even though it seems expensive right now, it is much cheaper to install a leach field in the long run. It filters out much of the liquid from waste in a way that is natural and safe not only to you, but to the environment as well. Some of the benefits of having a leach field include:

  • Far lower frequency of pumping out your septic tank
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Fertilizes the surrounding soil, which helps your yard (Save money on expensive store-bought grass fertilizer!)
  • Less smell from your septic system
  • Totally safe under proper maintenance and occasional checks

Is It Safe to Play on a Leach Field?

But what if it is maintained? Sure it is safe from afar, but what about actual yard use? Well, rest assured, as long as you properly maintain your leach field with the methods described above, you have nothing to worry about.

When Is It Not Safe?

That is certainly the shorter question. Essentially, your leach field is not safe if it falls into disrepair. Keep kids and pets away when:

  • Trees and shrubs (and their long roots) are nearby
  • Large pools of water are collecting above it (That is…not water)
  • There is any strong odor (could indicate leaking of solids into field)
  • Any equipment is exposed from erosion

It is also not a good idea to plant a garden on or close to your leach field. Even though that part of the yard is healthy for wildlife, the roots will still damage the lines.

But again, as long as you are treating your leach field as per specifications and keeping it running properly, you can treat it just like the rest of your backyard. It will blend in with the rest of the grass, and nothing should be exposed. 

What Can You Do On a Leach Field?

Anything you would do on a normal backyard, for the most part:

  • Let the kids play
  • Set up a volleyball net
  • Have a cookout
  • Set up tables and chairs
  • Ride bikes
  • Snowball fights
  • Sunbathe

Just to name a few.

Can A Leach Field Collapse?

In a word, yes. But not with care and common sense. Typically the sand and rocks built into the field keep it sturdy, but there are still the lines underneath that cannot handle a ton of weight. If you do not want your leach field collapsing, do not get carried away using the surface for these things:

Swing Set

Do not put a swing set or jungle gym over your leach field. You may not notice any issues right away, but this can cause considerable damage to your field over time. Sets are often anchored down, which risks damaging the lines only 6 inches below the surface. Also, as play sets settle, they often sink into the ground. It is not unusual for all 4 inches of the 4 x 4 support beam to end up completely in the ground. That means there is a chance it be resting on and compromising the integrity of one of your lines.

Parking

Often times, particularly in a rural setting, people want to just park their car on the yard. The leach field looks like nice and flat open space, so they might be tempted to just park there. Don’t. If other people, like neighbors or visitors, keep parking on it, build a fence around it. Otherwise you are heading for some very costly repairs.

Lawn Mower

Lawn mowers have been known to cause damage to a leach field, but this is pretty rare. If the septic system is in an average backyard and you are using a basic push mower or ride on, you will not have a problem (Unless any lines or any other components have been exposed). 

The problem is more for the much larger, industrial sized ride on mowers. Over time, all that weight riding back and forth over the leach field every week can come to weaken the topsoil. That can result in erosion and exposure, as well as the lines getting damaged from the continuous excess weight.

Similarly, if the leach field is adjacent to a farm, exercise caution with your tractor. Tractors weigh even more, so avoid driving that over your septic system.

Other Types of Leach Fields

We have mostly discussed the standard leach field thus far: the kind with a network of pipes, or lines, resting underground in a bed of rocks or sand (or something similar). While these work great most of the time, there are a few other types of leach fields you may want to consider before breaking ground:

  1. Chamber Systems
  2. Dry Well Systems
  3. Mound Systems

1.Chamber Systems

Rather than a network of lines, a chamber system simply holds fluids in a large plastic container and allows them to seep into the ground. You may not even need a gravel for this, which is an advantage for some people as it certainly makes installation a lot simpler and cheaper. However, chamber systems require a really specific kind of soil composition to make sure it can absorb all of the waste water in this way. They also need to be inspected frequently to confirm they are not causing any problems. As a result of these difficulties, chamber systems typically have a shorter warranty period.

2.Dry Well Systems

“Why even put anything there?” someone must have said at one point. “Just fill it with rocks and call it a day.” That is essentially the whole point of a dry well system. Rather than digging multiple trenches, these are made by digging one big pit. Then they are simply filled with gravel and hooked up to the septic tank.

While these are generally considered just as effective as a standard leach field, they are not buried and are a bit unsightly on private property. Their other problem is their lower surface area, which means they cannot filter as much waste water at a time as leach fields.

3.Mound Drain Systems

In reality, you cannot build a leach field everywhere. As we have alluded to, certain soil just is not suitable for this process. But because of leach fields’ effectiveness, you may decide you want one anyway. The solution is sometimes referred to as a mound drain field or system.

Here, a large mound with the proper soil is built above the ground. Then a leach field is constructed within it, a foot below the surface. This will accomplish the same thing once it is connected to the septic tank, but there are a few drawbacks:

  • Additional pumps: Because of gravity, you will probably need an additional pump to get the waste water, once the dissolving process happens, up to the leach field.
  • Settling: The more soil you throw on top of something, the more settling that occurs. If you build a whole new mound, there is always that risk of more settling and more exposure as well.
  • Eye sore: Will your neighbors be okay with a giant mound showing up in the middle of your backyard? How will your property value be affected? You could lie and tell them you are just really into snow sledding, I guess.
  • Excavation: You are no longer just talking a relatively small project with a lawn mower-sized trencher anymore. You are now going to need a full excavation crew and bulldozer tearing up your backyard, just to build a leach field.

CALL 855.925.0760 For A Quote on DrainField Repair/Service

7 Best Drain Cleaners for Septic Systems


Over time, waste may build up on the walls of drain pipes and in the septic tank. This build-up, if left unchecked, may result in slow drains, clogs, or a backed-up septic tank and drainfield. This potentially damaging sludge build-up can be alleviated with a good drain cleaner. Drain cleaners are able to absorb contents causing the blockage and drain them away, restoring normal flow to your drainage system. However, not all drain cleaners in the market are effective or even safe to use with septic systems. Some drain cleaners might get the job done but could contain corrosive substances that may destroy the pipes and other drainage elements. Moreso, if your property relies on an on-site septic system – you will need to be extra discerning in your choice of drain cleaners, should you decide to use them.

What drain cleaners are best for septic systems? Chemical drain cleaners can kill the good enzymes and bacteria in your tank that help to break waste down and may even be damaging to the septic tank itself. Remember that bacteria break down the solid wastes in the septic tank so the whole system can function properly. This is why it is important to keep the proper bacterial balance in the septic system, and your choice of a drain cleaner should not be harmful to these essential bacteria. Highly-synthetic drain cleaners will contain sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid, making them the number one culprits in corrosion of pipes, whether plastic or metal. They are tempting to use because these types of cleaners might work faster and are cheaper, but they will cause more problems in the long run, especially if you have a septic system. A septic-safe drain cleaner will not contain such chemicals that are not only corrosive but harmful to the natural bacteria and enzymes throughout a septic system. One of the basic indications of such a safe product can be found on the label itself.

If there is a clog in your drains, one of the simplest methods to try to remove it is to pour hot (boiling point) water down the drain. The hot water helps loosen accumulated grease or soap residue causing the clog, while hair clogs are loosened by the rush of water.

If the hot water method does not work, the next method that you can try is a baking soda and vinegar solution. Dump about 2-3 teaspoonfuls of baking soda into your clogged drain, followed by ½ cup of vinegar. This mixture will create a “fizzing” action that may help break the clog up and restore the flow in your drain once again.

If the latter fails, there is one last thing you can attempt to do before calling in the plumber. It is to use a septic-safe drain cleaner. If your home or property relies on a septic system, it is always wise to keep a septic-safe drain cleaning product on-hand. This way, you can restore normal flow to your drains if the other DIY methods fall short. We’ve drawn up a list of drain cleaners best for septic systems currently available on the market. We considered various factors in making the list: efficacy in clearing stubborn clogs, multi-purpose application (sinks, toilets, garbage disposals, and sewer lines), and – most importantly – environmentally-safe ingredients.

#1 Drano Max Gel Liquid Clog Remover

Drano Ultra Max Gel is formulated thick so that it cuts through standing water and works to dissolve tough clogs fast (in 7 minutes or less) and restore them to a free-flowing state. Drano Ultra Max Gel is safe for all pipes and it works great to remove hair, soap, scum, and other clogs. Tested safe on PVC, metal pipes, garbage disposals, and septic systems.

PRO: Easy to use. All you need is to pour the solution into any slow-moving drain and wait for 15 minutes or less (more, for tougher clogs). The product comes with a money-back guarantee, not that you will need it.

CON: There are some clogs that might be too complex for the product to handle. Also, this product is not highly recommended for toilets.

#2 Green Gobbler DISSOLVE Drain Clog Remover

Green Gobbler’s DISSOLVE is formulated with rapid hair-dissolve technology that works on contact and liquefies any obstructions in the drain caused by fats, oils, lint, and hair. DISSOLVE’s high-density formula is heavier than water, so it easily sinks and clings to the blockage and begins working instantly. Green Gobbler boasts of products that are non-caustic and are safer alternatives to chemicals such as sodium hydroxide or bleach. Green Gobbler DISSOLVE Drain Clog Remover is powerful enough to plow through any clog.

PRO: Green Gobbler DISSOLVE is formulated to be tough on clogs but it is biodegradable and environmentally-friendly.

CON: May not work for severely and completely clogged-up sinks or drains.

#3 Bio-clean Drain Septic Bacteria

Bio-clean’s Drain Septic Bacteria works well with kitchen sinks, showers, bathtubs, garbage disposals, septic tanks and drain fields, even cat litter pans. It is also a popular choice for RV’s or motor homes. It is a special combination of natural bacteria and enzymes that digest organic waste found throughout any plumbing system. Bio-Clean will remove the grease, hair, soap scum, food residue, paper, or cotton that may be plugging up drain lines and restore your drain flow to full capacity. Bio-Clean is tested safe for people, septic systems, and, more importantly, the environment.

PRO: Bio-clean Drain Septic Bacteria is environmentally-friendly and safe as it transforms waste matter into water, mineral ash, and carbon dioxide. What’s more, Bio-clean restores the vital bacterial action in septic tanks.

CON: Formula needs a bit of time to complete its action and is not effective on inorganic waste.

#4 RID-X Septic Tank Treatment Enzymes

RID-X Septic Tank Treatment Enzymes can help prevent septic backups, along with regular pump-outs, by continuously breaking down household waste. RID-X helps maintain the healthy balance of septic bacteria throughout the septic system and this prevents costly septic clogs and back-ups. The natural bacteria and advanced enzymes in RID-X’s formulation start working immediately upon contact to break down paper, protein, oils, and grease. RID X is safe for use with all kinds of pipes and septic tanks. It is easy to use – just simply pour the liquid into the toilet and flush, or into any sink drain and run water for 15 seconds.

PRO: RID-X Septic Tank Treatment Enzymes is favored by numerous consumers because of its odor-less decomposition process.

CON: A number of consumers have complained about faulty seals on the bottles’ caps or opening. Packaging may not withstand certain shipping and handling conditions.

#5 Roebic K-570 Leach & Drain Field Treatment

Roebic’s K-570 Leach & Drain Field Treatment comes in a concentrated formulation that allows for the quick delivery of more enzyme-producing bacteria to the problem area. The highly-concentrated formula makes it ideal and convenient for treating larger septic systems found in modern homes. Roebic K-570 can more rapidly break up drainfield clogs and restore drain flow, ultimately preventing septic system failure. Roebic K-570 is certified biodegradable and easy to use.

PRO: Although it comes in a highly-concentrated form, Roebic K-570 is very safe on all kinds of drainage pipes. It is biodegradable, thus safe to use for any septic system and will be safe for the environment. 

CON: A few consumers have indicated that the product made no difference after application. Please note, however, that this product – as will any other store-bought product — is NOT a solution to a failing drainfield. Regular pumping and maintenance and care is the best prevention and a drainfield that has reached the point of failure will need professional servicing.

#6 InVade Bio Drain Gel

Rockwell Labs’ InVade Bio Drain Gel contains premium, natural microbes and citrus oil for efficient cleaning and effectively eliminates odor. The powerful probiotics in InVade’s formulation are instantly activated upon contact and are effective in digesting organic matter. InVade’s specialized thickened formula clings to the sides of drains, providing maximum contact and coverage. Its thick-coating action facilitates the digestion of scum and the elimination of odors.

PRO: InVade Bio Drain Gel is always a value-added purchase because of its multiple applications. Besides clearing up drain clogs, it may also be used with power sprayers, hose-end sprayers, and with mopping applications. Its formulation contains no harsh chemicals or fumes.

CON: May not work best with more severe clogs. It may require pressure (foaming) for better results.

#7 CLR Power Plumber Pressurized Drain Opener

CLR Power Plumber is an innovative aerosol product that drains tough clogs in seconds for sinks, tubs, shower stalls, and toilets. CLR PP4-5 is a revolutionary cleaner formulated to work with inorganic blockages which most of the drain cleaners in the market cannot handle. It utilizes the water in the drain pipes like a “ram” to force blockages down the drain and is able to reach up to 50 ft. into the sewer.

PRO: CLR PP4-5 gives you more value for your money as it can be used up to 15 times, unlike regular drain cleaners that usually have a 2-applications limit. More importantly, it is safe, both for the home and the environment. It contains no harmful acid or lye that can harm kids or pets. It won’t harm your pipes, nor the environment.

CON: It may require additional equipment when used, which are not indicated on the label.

What NOT to Flush Down Your Septic System

Often, we don’t really give a second thought about what we put down the drains of our homes. Be reminded that this unwary practice can be harmful to your drains and pipes, and, if your property relies on an on-site dedicated septic system, it can result in major septic problems. Let us look around the house and refer to the lists of things you should never allow down your drains so you can protect the delicate balance of your septic system.

In the Kitchen

Sure, it can be difficult to monitor what goes down the drain in the kitchen. However, if you aren’t careful, what you put down your kitchen sink will drain and travel to your septic tank, hastening the likelihood of a septic problem. Refer to the brief list below of things you should avoid sending down your kitchen sink’s drains.

  • Coffee grounds
  • All non-organic solid waste
  • Scraps of food
  • Fats, oil, and grease
  • Harsh and toxic chemicals

The naturally-occurring bacteria and enzymes in a septic tank will have a very difficult time, at best, to process inorganic waste. Most of them will be unable to digest them at all. If inorganic, un-digested waste is left to accumulate in a septic tank, this may lead to clogs, to sewage backing up to the house, and/or your drainfield to flood and, sooner or later, fail.  On the other hand, harsh and toxic chemicals pose a real threat to the life of the helpful bacteria that digest solid waste and also help remove the pathogens from your wastewater. As a result, aside from a clogged up system, your groundwater can become polluted, putting everyone in the vicinity at risk.

In the Bathroom

Like in the kitchen, there are certain things you should not be allowed down the drain in the shower stall, sink, and flushed down the toilet in your bathroom. For the sake of your sinks and shower drains, one of the first things you should do is to switch away from anti-bacterial soaps as these can harm the vital bacteria present in your septic system. As for the toilet, here is a list of things you should never flush down:

  • Paper towels (wet or dry)
  • Plastic materials
  • Sanitary napkins, diapers, tampons, and similar items
  • Dental floss
  • Cat litter
  • All non-biodegradable solid waste
  • Harsh and toxic substances

Basically, the only thing that should be flushed is wastewater and toilet paper. But even then, you have to ensure that the latter is labeled as “septic-safe”. It is easy to keep your septic system healthy and fully-functioning. One of the first steps is to make it a way of life to dispose of inorganic and toxic substances properly.

By referring to this list, you could be protecting your home from a septic catastrophe. It pays to always be mindful of how things going down your drain and how they can affect your septic system. Septic system care is the first major step in its maintenance and longevity.

DIY Septic-Safe Drain Cleaners

We’ve talked about the more natural method of pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain to work on simple clogs caused by hardened soap or grease. Another helpful practice is to fit sink strainers or pieces of wire mesh over your drains to trap hair or food particles. A lot of people also rely on plungers (and running hot water alternately) for slow drains. These remedies are quite effective for minor clogs. For more serious clogs, a popular remedy is baking soda and vinegar mixture. If there’s anything safer than septic-safe drain cleaners, it’s that.

The most commonly used DIY drain cleaner solution is a mixture of 1 cup baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar. These two substances together will create an intense foaming action. This is helped further along by flushing it down with 2 cups of hot water 15 minutes after the application. This is not just a clog solution – it is actually good routine maintenance.

Another solution you can try is a mix of salt and baking soda. Pour about a 1/2 cup of each down the drain. Let this sit for half an hour, at minimum, or as long as overnight. Once this mixture has been given a significant time to sit in drains, clear it with a pot of boiling water. Just remember that the tougher the clog, the longer it needs to sit.

Lemon juice is an alternative to vinegar. Yes, it is a little more costly, but it smells a lot better while working just as well. You may find that you prefer using lemon juice in your kitchen drains, if only for its more appetizing smell. Again, run plenty of hot water after the baking soda and lemon juice have foamed up for 15 minutes, at least.

Septic Care to Avoid Clogged Drains

There are basic maintenance steps every property-on-septic system owner can take to keep one’s septic system healthy, while avoiding clogged drains, altogether. The easiest way to go about this is to avoid draining and flushing things that can clog a pipe, such as a grease and oils. Likewise, avoid allowing banana peels, potato skin, eggshells, bones, pits or seeds down your drains.

And because hair is a common cause of drain clogging, especially in the bathroom, it’s always a good idea to install protective meshes or screens overall shower, tub, and sink drains to catch hair and other clogging agents.

Another helpful practice is to limit, if not altogether eliminate, the use of a garbage disposal unit. If doing away with your garbage disposal unit is not feasible, there are several models available in the market that are safe for use with septic systems. Some people also put ice cubes in the garbage disposal to keep the blades sharpened. This keeps the unit efficient in grinding food particles down.  

You can also help maintain the bacterial colony in your septic system by using a monthly septic tank treatment product. When used as directed, this will help maintain the necessary bacterial and enzyme balance that can otherwise be upset by normal household products like bleach, certain soaps, and detergents.

One of the safest methods in unclogging a drain is to use a plunger. It is non-invasive and is effective in small blockages. At least try to use a plunger before trying a drain cleaner. On this note, never use a plunger simultaneously with a chemical drain cleaner as the suction could cause a splash-back on your skin. If you have a septic system, being too liberal on chemical drain cleaners will not always help and may even do harm. Your septic tank is basically a well-balanced bacterial ecosystem. Keeping a healthy balance to this ecosystem is vital to the process of digesting solid waste and breaking down pathogens in wastewater. If available, you may want to try a DIY solution of baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and water solution. This is the “greener” alternative to the eco-friendly drain cleaners that are available in the market. And if you do opt for drain cleaners, be sure to purchase ONLY those labeled as septic-safe. This goes for all the other household products you use, too. And even these should also be used in moderation and as directed.

If you need local septic services, visit our state directory page here.

Resources Used in This article

https://www.amazon.com/slp/septic-safe-drain-cleaner/au3hvm7wed3o4au

https://www.septicsafe.com/blog/how-do-you-unclog-a-drain-if-you-have-a-septic-system/

https://noblerate.com/best-drain-cleaner/

https://www.hunker.com/13417102/what-can-unclog-a-drain-be-safe-for-the-septic-system

https://www.gaseptic.com/septic-systems-disasters

https://www.networx.com/article/4-effective-and-natural-diy-drain-cleane

https://www.assuredcomfort.com/news/6-natural-homemade-drain-cleaners-that

7 Best Dishwasher Machines for Septic Systems


We are going to go out on a limb here and guess that you are among a legion of households that own a dishwasher. This is hardly surprising because dishwashers certainly have their advantages. Instead of laboring over the sink scrubbing and rinsing, you can simply load your dirty dishes and glasses into the machine, and with a press of a button, the dishwasher does all the work. Interestingly, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a dishwasher can save one up to 230 hours each year — time that can be devoted to leisure or a whole host of other things.  The decision of whether or not to purchase a dishwasher could be easy. However, if you are one of likewise millions that are not connected to a centralized public sewer system and rely on on-site dedicated septic systems, it would help to know the effects of a dishwasher on a septic system.

What dishwasher machines are best for septic systems? The best dishwashers for households that rely on septic systems are those that are certified energy-efficient because these consume substantially less water. If you don’t know this yet, the less water you allow into your septic system, the better. Excessive water in a septic is a leading cause of system failure. The soil beneath the septic system must absorb all of the water used in the home and too much water from the laundry, dishwasher, toilets, baths, and other fixtures may not allow enough time for sludge and scum to separate inside the septic tank. Flooding a septic tank and field with excessive volumes of water may disrupt the normal decomposition process; the flooding may move the essential bacteria away from their food source. The less water utilized in the property, the less water enters the septic system, lessening the risks of system failure.

In a fully functional, well-maintained septic system, the volume of water from dishwashers are typically not an issue. However, there are particular conditions under which you should avoid draining dishwasher discharge into a septic system:

  • Limited drainfield capacity. If your drainfield (or leach field) has limited capacity to absorb effluent, it is best to divert your dishwasher discharge away from it. Smaller drainfields may not be built to process beyond the typical household water usage (bath and kitchen) of a small family.
  • Symptoms of drainfield failure. If there are indications of drainfield failure (effluent seeping to and pooling in the surface of your yard or effluent backing up into the home or building), dishwasher discharge needs to be diverted elsewhere. At even the early warning signs of drainfield failure, you should get your system inspected and repaired immediately.

If you have one or both conditions listed above, one option you have is to have a separate greywater system or drywell installed, designed to receive dishwasher discharge. If you are considering this step, you may as well want to divert your clothes washer to this common drywell, too. The more limited your septic drainfield capacity is, the larger the drywell should be.

Dishwashers and Septic Systems: How to Make Them Work Together

You can certainly run a dishwasher on a home septic system – provided that your system is properly functioning and regularly maintained. The additional water from the dishwasher will normally not overload a fully-working system. Furthermore, the detergent content of the dishwasher wastewater is ideally diluted, or else it may harm the bacteria within your septic system. It is for this reason that you should use only septic-safe dishwasher detergent.

If your home or business property runs on a septic system and you are contemplating adding a dishwasher, first make sure that your drainfield is working properly and is not showing any signs of failure. Signs that your drainfield may be failing include pooling of effluent within the property, sewage back-ups into the home, and foul odors. If you are unsure if your drainfield has sufficient capacity to absorb effluent, it is best to ask a septic service provider to inspect and assess the situation. They should be able to make informed recommendations, too.

If you confirm that your drainfield is not able to handle additional effluent from a dishwasher, consult with your septic provider about having a drywell (also referred to as greywater system) installed. The wastewater from your dishwasher will be discharged into this drywell instead of the septic tank. Again, if you do decide on having a drywell installed, it’s a good idea to have your clothes washer empty into it, as well.

If you now have a dishwasher machine, do opt for liquid, eco-friendly dishwashing detergents. These will help in keeping the essential bacteria in the septic system healthy and thriving. Also, these are better for the environment (which will, eventually, receive all the substances that go with our wastes). Relatedly, only run your dishwasher with full loads so as to maximize each operation.

Look for an energy-efficient dishwasher. These use significantly less water which helps avoid overloading your system with effluent. Some of these dishwasher machines even feature a booster heater that conserves even more energy, translating to more savings on utility bills. Booster heaters heat the water to the recommended 140ºF before it even enters the dishwasher. A dishwasher with a booster heater may be a bit more expensive out of the box, but it does pay off as you save on energy and utilization. It is always safe to go with a dishwasher machine that has the Energy Star seal. Energy Star is an EPA and DOE program that promotes energy efficiency in properties and equipment. The minimum federal energy standard (Energy Factor or EF) for dishwashers established by the Department of Energy is at least 0.46 cycles/kWh for standard-size dishwashers for the “normal” cycle. Therefore, a standard-compliant dishwasher would use 2.17 kWh per load of dishes. Energy Star certified dishwashers have an EF of 0.65 or higher so that they would use 30% less energy than a standard model.

Below is a list of energy-efficient (thus, water-saving) dishwasher machines that several septic experts and professionals recommend.

#1 SPT Countertop Dishwasher

The SPT Countertop Dishwasher has a spacious cavity that holds up to 6 standard place settings capacity with built-in dish rack and silverware basket. It has 6 wash cycle settings: heavy, normal, light, glass, speed, and soak. It is built with a durable stainless steel interior and spray arm. You get easy controls and water temperature up to 148ºF. It quickly connects to any kitchen faucet, eliminating the need for direct plumbing or permanent installation procedures. Faucet adapters included for convenient connection.

PRO: This compact, yet powerful, countertop dishwasher from SPT is perfect for apartments, office kitchens or any small-sized kitchens. With a height of only 17.24”, this unit will fit between most countertops and cabinets.

CON: The compact chassis means you won’t be able to auto-wash the bigger mixing bowls or bulky prepware. Otherwise, if you run a load with just a big bowl in the machine, that’s just not optimized water and machine usage.

#2 EdgeStar DWP62SV 6 Place Setting Energy Star Rated Portable Countertop Dishwasher

You can wash up to 6 standard place settings right on your countertop with the EdgeStar DWP62. This compact countertop dishwasher has a low profile that fits comfortably under most cabinetry without the hassle of permanent installation. It includes a dish rack, cup shelf, and cutlery basket. EdgeStar DWP62SV can hold plates that are up to 10.5″ in diameter. It has 7 wash cycle settings and a quick-connect adapter that will fit standard-sized kitchen faucets. The built-in rinse agent dispenser helps to minimize water spotting on dishes, while its internal water heater and the heavy wash cycle helps to eliminate germs and bacteria Water consumption (in normal wash setting) is only 2.85 gallons.

PRO: This EdgeStar portable dishwasher is made with a stainless steel interior, allowing for a seamless and stylish addition to any space. Users particularly like its powerful spray arm that thoroughly washes dishes and glassware.

CON: Some users have observed that this unit’s plastic parts (like the water hose and utensil basket) are more susceptible to wear and tear and prone to breakage.

#3 BLACK+DECKER BCD6W Compact Countertop Dishwasher

The Black+Decker BCD6W Compact Countertop Dishwasher has a 6 place setting capacity and can accommodate plates of up to 10″ in diameter. It features a crisp LED display with Electronic Touch Controls for easy and precise adjustments. With this, you have 7 wash programs: Intensive, Normal, Eco, Glass, 90 Minutes, Rapid, and Soak. It is built with a slide-out dish rack and removable utensil basket that allow for easy loading and unloading. Child Lock + High-Efficiency Rating and Energy Star Certified.

PRO: This compact dishwasher is space-saving and its stylish design makes it an attractive addition to any room. Perfect for maximized limited living spaces.

CON: Product may not be as durable to withstand rough handling during shipping. A number of dissatisfied customers have complained about receiving damaged items which does not reflect on the brand itself.

#4 hOmeLabs Compact Countertop Dishwasher

This Compact Countertop Dishwasher from hOmeLabs easily sits on even small countertops or tabletops. It features a quick-connect assembly and accessories including inlet and drain hose and a faucet adapter for water lines. It features a simple control panel and convenient light indicators. The program selector has 6 wash cycle options: heavy, normal, ECO, glass, speed, and rinse. hOmeLabs features a delay button light to postpone the wash cycle. Truly, a convenient and compact Energy Star-certified dishwashing machine for cleaner dishes.

PRO: This countertop appliance measures 17.2 x 19.6 x 21.6 inches with 6 place setting capacity makes it a perfect option for small-sized households or apartments with limited spaces.

CON: A few dissatisfied users have observed leaking in some units. The housing and seals made of plastic were more prone to wear and tear so may not last very long.

#5 Farberware Professional FCD06ABBWHA Compact Portable Countertop Dishwasher

This convenient dishwasher from Farberware has a 6 place setting capacity, making it ideal for small-sized houses, apartments, dorms, boats even campers and RVs. The 6-place setting capacity allows you to wash a variety of dishes (up to 10” in diameter) and includes folding down rack shelves, plus a cutlery basket. Even as a countertop, compact machine, it offers full-sized dishwasher cleaning in 7 wash settings (heavy, normal, baby care, light, glass, etc.). This Farberware Professional features a quick-connect assembly with accessories and adapters included.

PRO: This product features an extra-drying function. It adds extra heat to the final rinse for improved drying results. Another notable advantage is its Child-lock option that allows you to lock the buttons on the control panel so children are safe from accidentally starting the machine.

CON: A few customers have complained about leaks within the unit. An observation is that its less-than-optimal placement of tank-filling hole makes avoiding drips and spills a frequent occurrence.

#6 Bosch SHPM78Z54N 24″ 800 Series Fully Integrated Pocket Handle Dishwasher

Equipped with Bosch PrecisionWash, this Integrated Pocket Handle Dishwasher has intelligent sensors that continually scan and check the progress of dishes throughout the cycle, working together with powerful, precision spray arms to target every item in every load. It is built with a removable silverware basket that’s perfect for loading utensils and cutlery. This unit also has Bosch’s Flexible 3rd Rack which features expandable wings that easily lower as well as adjustable tines allow you to customize the rack’s loading space, making it easy to load the more bulky or deep dishes or prepware.

PRO: Bosch dishwashers are known for their exceptionally quiet operation, so running the dishwasher is never a disruption. Bosch dishwashers are built with multiple insulation layers, grind-less food filtration, Bosch EcoSilence motor system, and a sound-absorbing base.

CON: A little high on price scale, compared to other dishwashers in its class. However, you can be sure, too, that you are paying for quality and the guarantee of a world-trusted brand.

#7 Bosch SHXM65Z55N 500 Series 24 Inch Built-in Bar Handle Dishwasher

This fully-integrated dishwasher that is Bosch Built-In Bar Handle Dishwasher has the all new revolutionary AutoAir option. Its Bar Handle design adds stream-lined aesthetics to your kitchen or pantry. It is a great cleaning machine with simple-to-use, intuitive button controls as well as an array of cutting edge features, one of which is the AquaStop leak protection that works round-the-clock to prevent water damage.

PRO: This unit features what Bosch units are known for: a flexible third rack with fold-down sides to allow for up to 30% more loading capacity. Its FlexSpace Tines fold back to accommodate the larger pots, pans deep dishes, and curved plates. The EasyGlide rack system provides a smooth glide for easier, more convenient loading and unloading. Quiet operation, too.

CON: May not be the best at drying the dishes after just one wash cycle. Although, this likely has to do with shape/size/quality of dinnerware, not to mention how long food residue has been left on.

Putting in a Drywell for your Dishwasher

A drywell (sometimes called a soakaway or a soakwell) is a covered pit with a perforated lining that accepts and holds water, typically from stormwater runoff. It has become a viable option where dishwater discharge and, possibly, other sources (like laundry and other greywater), and allows it to seep gradually into the ground. A drywell is a viable option for homes or properties with on-site septic systems with limited drainfield capacities.

If you meet one or both of the drainfield conditions as discussed earlier in this article, you might decide to install a drywell. If you have, here is what you need to know about drywell installation, starting with a quick list of the things you will need:

  • Drywell liner
  • Shovel
  • 4-inch PVC pipe
  • 4-by-2-inch wye fitting
  • 2-inch ABS or PVC cap
  • Plastic pipe cement

Pinpoint a location on your property with good drainage. The subgrade soils’ permeability rate must be sufficient in that it is able to drain the stored runoff within 72 hours. Once you’ve determined the location, dig a hole that is about 6 to 8 feet deep and a diameter of 4 to 10 feet. Drop in a fiberglass, plastic or concrete drywell liner.

Next, with a shovel, dig a trench from the top of the drywell liner to your house, and lay a 4” PVC sewer pipe from the liner to a point just outside the house. Inside the foundation is more preferable, though. Note to keep a minimum grade of 1/4 inch per foot on the sewer.

Backfill this sewer trench and drywell with dirt, completely covering them. It is important to make a note of the drywell’s location (as well as its components) on a property map in case you ever need to dig it up in the future.

Re-route the sink drain into which your dishwasher empties from the main sewer pipe and to the one that travels to the drywell. You can make the connection to the drywell sewer with a 4 x 2 inch wye fitting. Close up the previous connection by gluing on an appropriate 2” ABS or PVC cap with plastic pipe cement.

If you have optimal soil conditions and, thus, good drainage, do consider routing other greywater sources, such as bath and clothes washing machines, to the drywell. Doing so can extend the life of your drainfield for years as a drywell relieves it of significant load. Your trusted septic service provider should be able to help you determine if your property has sufficient soil conditions for a drywell.

Just remember not to dig a dry well in a location with a high water table, or else it may overflow. You can usually identify high water areas if you observe the exceptionally lush vegetation when everything else is parched.

Home Appliances that could be Hurting Your Septic System

With the influx of modern, high capacity appliances in households these days, there is an increase in risks to your septic system without us even knowing. By the time that you realize the combined impact of all these equipment, you may already be knee-deep in backed-up sewage and making a frantic call to your septic professional for emergency assistance.

Of course, we hope this never happens to anyone, so it pays to stay informed. There are two primary factors impacting the health of septic systems: increase in unwanted solid wastes and excessive water flow. While these factors can hurt the function and flow of a septic system as a whole, they definitely affect the way your septic tank’s ability to treat household waste.

We’ve listed down the top 5 home appliances/devices that have the most potential to overwhelm your septic system. They can provide much added strain on your septic tank and drainfield to a point of requiring frequent maintenance repairs, just to avoid system failure.

Clothes Washing Machine. This is probably the leader in septic system failure culprits. Even if you have an energy-efficient model that uses less water, the build-up of lint that makes its way to the septic tank can cause the system to fail. A factor in the rapid build-up of lint is the frequency in which laundry washing is done in the house. Mitigate this by spreading out your laundry loads over a few days instead of doing heavy laundry loads at one go. By doing several small loads rather than one huge load, you lessen the likelihood that a lint build-up will clog up the septic tank.

Dishwasher. Much like the washing machine, newer dishwashers are more efficient and utilize significantly less water, which is ideal for septic tanks. With that, it’s the dishwasher detergents that are often the cause of septic-related trouble. It is always best to look for eco-friendly, septic-safe dishwasher detergents. And similarly to the washing machine, be discerning with your use of the dishwasher. It is recommended that you use the dishwasher in evening, particularly as the household is asleep, when you are not using water with other appliances or fixtures. This will spread out water flow to the septic tank and give it the chance to work more efficiently.

Hot Tub. A hot tub holds a substantial volume of treated water, and although this may not pose an immediate threat to the septic system, it does when it’s time to drain it. This high volume of treated water can overwhelm the septic tank when drained rapidly. The amount of drain water from the hot tub could disturb the solid wastes in the septic tank and clog up the drainfield. If you have a hot tub, it would be best to drain it with a hose and onto a safe area outside of the septic system.

Toilet. Not only does the toilet bowl account for at least 30% of total water usage in the average household, but improper use of it can also cause problems for any septic system. As earlier learned, excess water flowing into the septic tank can overwhelm it and disrupt the processes inside. It is for this reason why you should consider switching to a low-flow toilet that can cut down water usage down to at least half. It is also absolutely vital that everyone in the home watches what are tossed in the toilet. Things like diapers, dental floss, feminine hygiene products, coffee grounds, and other non-organic substances can quickly clog the tank and require a thorough pumping and cleaning.

Garbage Disposal. Although garbage disposal units are a real convenience in the kitchen, it is not exactly friendly to the septic tank. As with the toilet, the wrong materials in the garbage disposal will cause major problems with your septic system. Just as excessive water volumes of water can be harmful to the septic system, an increase of solid waste, fat, grease, and biomass, entering the septic tank cause the it to fill up much faster than it can decompose it and, thus require more frequent pumping, at the very least. If you need to have a garbage disposal unit, do use it as sparingly as possible. And watch what you throw into it. But if it can be helped, diminish or eliminate the need for a garbage disposal unit by reducing waste through recycling or composting.

If you are sensible in your choice and use of dishwasher detergent, draining dishwasher discharge into a septic tank shouldn’t harm the natural bacterial and enzyme balance in your septic tank and field. It’s the possible flooding of the drainfield from dishwasher water that could wreak havoc on your system. This is why energy-efficient dishwasher machines are best. These use less water and less energy, too. Also, diverting dishwasher discharge into a drywell and away from your on-site waste treatment system is a good alternative. While newer septic systems are designed to handle increased water usage, countless homes and septic tanks from earlier years were not designed to handle such demands from modern appliances or fixtures. But being judicious in your dishwasher machine and equipment choices is only half the battle: keeping your septic system running as efficiently as possible with regular inspection, pumping, and maintenance by septic service professionals every 2-5 years is still key.

Visit our State Directory For Local Septic Service Providers

Sources Used

https://inspectapedia.com/septic/Dishwasher_Impact_on_Septic_System.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Star

https://aceee.org/files/proceedings/2008/data/papers/1_123.pdf

https://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehoss/septic_basics.html

https://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/37668/why-is-lots-of-water-bad-for-septic-and-how-can-i-take-long-showers-without-hur

https://www.houzz.com/discussions/3511845/new-dishwasher-with-septic

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/connect-dishwasher-septic-system-65452.html

https://www.njstormwater.org/bmp_manual/NJ_SWBMP_9.3%20print.pdfhttps://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehoss/dos_donts.html

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