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How Often Should You Get Your Septic Tank Pumped?

plumber pumping a spetic tank

Some Things You Should Know About Your Septic Tank

Septic tanks are a significant component that maintains the smooth operation and safe waste disposal in residential and commercial buildings. Septic tanks use natural gravity forces to separate wastewater into solid, grease, and watery mix.

The solids, also known as sludge, go to the bottom of the tank, the grease or scum goes to the top, and the watery mix or effluent goes to the middle. Usually, the sludge and scum remain in the tank, but the effluent flows into the drain field.

If the scum and sludge rise to harmful levels or the scum becomes thick, they could drain along the effluent into the drain field. This could eventually cause clogs in the underground system, backups, slow drains, and bacteria growth.

Therefore, you must drain your septic tank often to keep the scum and sludge levels safe. However, many homeowners don’t know how their septic tanks work or how often they should get them pumped.

How Often Should a Septic Tank Be Pumped?

Well, how often should a septic tank be pumped? Generally, experts recommend that you pump your septic tank every three to five years. However, this period could increase or decrease depending on the following factors.

Household size

The people living in a household determine how much wastewater will go to the septic tank from different rooms and appliances. Before installing a septic tank in your home, consider how many people will live there because installing a small tank means flushing it more often. The types of cleaners, soaps, and chemicals used in the household also influence the flush intervals.

The Environmental protection Agency estimates that every person uses around 70 gallons of water daily. You can ask your neighbor with similar household needs how often they flash their septic tank or have a professional guide you.

The septic tank’s size

The smaller the tank, the faster it accumulates scum and sludge. Most septic tanks are usually between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons. If you need to know how big your septic tank is, you can have a professional inspect it during one of the regular inspection visits.

Experts recommend that if you have a family of four using a 1,000-gallon septic tank, you should flush it after 2.6 years. If you are four family members with a 1,500-gallon septic tank, you should flash it after 4.2 years. Finally, a family of four using a 2,000-gallon tank should have it pumped after five years.

The volume of sludge and scum

While it might not be time to flush the septic tank, the volume of solid waste in it could call for a flush. Also, it might be time to flush the tank, but there is only a little solid waste. The best time to flush the septic tank is when the sludge levels reach one foot from the bottom of the tank or when the scum is around six inches thick.

Leaving the tank unflashed while there is too much solid water could result in issues like severe clogs and corrosion. Flushing the tank prematurely, on the other hand, could be more expensive and disrupt the tank’s chemical and bacterial composition.

The tank contains bacteria that help break down the solid waste through anaerobic digestion. Flushing the tank means reducing the bacteria levels, which could take between one and three weeks to achieve a healthy balance.

Therefore, flushing the tank often with low solid waste levels means the tank might not have a healthy bacterial balance. That reduces the rate of solid waste breakdown, which could result in clogs.

How To Tell Your Septic Tank Is Full

Following this information, there is no standard answer to ‘how often should a septic tank be pumped?’ Therefore, homeowners need to know how to tell when the septic tank is full or almost full.

A full tank could mean it has accumulated its designed level of waste, has accumulated so much sludge, or is overfilled such that the drainage field no longer accepts water. While you could open the tank and look inside, it is hazardous.

Therefore, here are some warning signs you should look out for.

Slow drains

This is one of the main warning signs. You might notice slow drainage in your toilet, bath, sink, and other appliances. Slow flushing toilets or a weak flush could accompany it. If this happens to all toilets in the house, it indicates an issue with the septic tank instead of the toilet drainage pipes.

Sewer backup

If you don’t take care of the clogs causing slow drainage, they could evolve and cause a total blockage. This makes the wastewater start backing up into sinks, toilets, baths, and showers, looking for an escape route.

That could expose you to harmful bacteria and toxins. It could also damage the floors and walls, making it more expensive and time-consuming to repair.

Pooling water

If you see pools of water around your septic tank, it means that the tank is overflowing. While the water could result from other things like a leaking pipe or rainwater, the smell and color of the water are unmistakable.

The wastewater also contains some nutrients that might make the grass and vegetation around the septic tank suddenly become green and healthier.

Gurgling sounds

Gurgling sounds occur when buildup inside the pipes traps air and prevents liquid waste from draining. This indicates that the septic tank is full, and there is probably a clog building up.

Bad smells around the house

Usually, a full septic tank will emit smells that you can only smell if you are near the tank. However, the odors could soon start coming from your toilets and drains. That happens when there is a severe clog in the drains that trap gases and emit them into the house.

That makes the house uncomfortable and could be a health hazard because some gases are methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide.


When installing your septic tank, ensure you ask the professionals to guide you on how often you should have it inspected and maintained. It would help if you also asked for tips to help maintain and improve your septic tank’s health and lifetime.

Generally, experts recommend that you pump your septic tank every three to five years.

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