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Septic System DO's and DONT's


  • DO learn the location of your septic tank and drainfield, Keep a sketch of it handy with your maintenance record for service visits.
  • DO have your septic system inspected annually.
  • DO have your septic tank pumped out regularly by a licensed contractor (See the table included in this guide for estimated pumping frequencies).
  • DO keep your septic tank cover accessible for inspection and pumping. Install risers if necessary.
  • DO call a professional whenever you experience problems with your system, or if there are any signs of system failure.
  • DO keep a detailed record of repair, pumping, inspection, permits issued, and other maintenance activities.
  • DO conserve water to avoid overloading the system. Be sure to repair any leaky faucets or toilets.
  • DO divert other sources of water such as roof drains, house perimeter drains, and sump pump discharges from going into or around the septic system. Excessive water keeps the soil in the drainfield from naturally cleansing the wastewater.

WARNING: Be sure to exercise appropriate caution when inspecting a septic tank. Never allow anyone to inspect a septic tank alone or go down into a septic tank. Toxic gases are produced by the natural treatment processes in septic tanks and can kill in minutes, even just looking into the tank can be dangerous.


  • DON’T go down into a septic tank. Toxic gases are produces by the natural treatment processes in septic tanks and can kill in minutes. Extreme care should be taken when inspecting a septic tank, even when just looking in.
  • DON’T allow anyone to drive or park over any part of the system.
  • DON’T plant anything over or near the drainfleld except grass. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs may clog and damage the drain lines.
  • DON’T dig in your drainfield or build anything over it, and don’t cover the drainfleld with a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt. The area over the drainfleld should have only a grass cover. The grass will not only prevent erosion, but will help remove excess water.
  • DON’T make or allow repairs to your septic system without obtaining any required health department permit. Use professional licensed septic contractors when needed.
  • DON’T use septic tank additives. These products usually do not help and some may even be harmful to your system.
  • DON’T use your toilet as a trash can or poison your septic system and the groundwater by pouring harmful chemicals and cleansers down the drain. Harsh chemicals can kill the beneficial bacteria that treat your wastewater.
  • DON’T use a garbage disposal without checking with your local regulatory agency to make sure that your septic system can accommodate this additional waste.
  • DON’T allow backwash from home water softeners to enter the septic system.


  • coffee grounds
  • pesticides
  • disposable diapers
  • dental floss
  • varnishes
  • paints
  • sanitary napkins
  • waste oils
  • cigarette butts
  • thinners
  • condoms
  • tampons
  • fat, grease, or oil
  • photographic solutions
  • paper towels
  • kitty litter

How Do cleaners and detergents affect my system?

When used as recommended by the manufacturer, most household cleaning products will not adversely affect the operation of your septic tank. Drain cleaners are an exception, however, and only a small amount of these products can kill the bacteria and temporarily disrupt the operation of the tank

If you are concerned about the effect of cleaning products on your septic system and the environment, there are some safe alternatives. Penn State University has developed a fact sheet listing alternative cleansers and their uses. The fact sheet Is Included with a septic system information packet for homeowners. The packet can be obtained by calling the number at the end of this guide.

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