Septic Tanks–when to get it pumped?

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While I talk about backflow testing often, I actually don’t have a backflow device. It doesn’t mean I don’t practice what I preach; I just recently moved to the “country,” and have adjusted to having well water, and I haven’t installed any real form of sprinkler system–I currently use soaker hoses. One very real change in living far enough from the city is the lack of sewer, which meant adjusting to having a Septic Tank. (We also are too far away to have gas for our stove–something I hadn’t ever considered!)

When I was a kid our backyard fence was the edge of the urban growth boundary.  I didn’t understand why sewers existed as a kid for a long time–didn’t everyone have a septic tank? Every few years our family of five would have to have our Septic tank pumped–the big truck would rumble through our gate while our dog watched in earnest. A half hour or so later, our backyard was just as before. One of the things my parents taught me was to be proactive and this was no different. Our neighbors had let their septic overflow for years and it took a huge toll on their plumbing.

Time to Pump the Septic

So, if you are on a septic, when should you make sure to pump it? Here’s a handy guide on some estimates on how often you’ll need to deal with it. It’s good to keep in mind the longer showers you take, the more baths you take, and the more laundry you do–the more often you’ll need to get it pumped.

If you have and use a garbage disposal, you greatly reduce the amount of time between pumps. This is especially true since what you have pumped into mostly the waste water itself, as that drains back into your yard, but rather all the “sludge” that can’t easily filter out into the leachfield.  The more food you’re shoving down the drain, the more sludge you’re creating!

Signs to Watch for

There are a few tell-tale signs you can recognize that signify you may need to get your septic tank pumped.

  1. Smell-phew! You’ll notice a nasty smell if you’ve gone too long without getting your septic pumped. Now is the time to act if you smell anything funky.
  2. Toilets backing up or doing a “glug-glug” after flushing. Baths and sinks taking longer to drain is also a key sign.
  3. Is your grass suddenly greener and healthier right above where your septic tank is? If it’s getting substantially more wastewater, the lawn will seem a lot better off. This is a sign a lot of people ignore; don’t.
  4. Any surface water that isn’t draining effectively over your septic is an alarm to get your septic tank taken care of.

Taking care of a septic tank isn’t hard–it’s just about recognizing when it needs to be serviced.




  1. Lillian Schaeffer  January 11, 2017

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that toilets making gurgling sounds after flushing can be a sign that you need septic tank pumping. I noticed that my master bathroom toilet was doing this, and I tested the others and they’re all making a similar sound. I’ll definitely look into having a professional come and check to see if my septic tank needs to be pumped.

  2. Kenneth Gladman  March 14, 2017

    One sign that is pretty hard to miss is the smell. I would also watch for really wet parts of your property as well. If you are experiencing these things it is best to get some professional help. You don’t want to have a septic tank disaster.

    • Sasha  March 14, 2017

      That smell is hard to miss, for sure! Septic tank disasters are no joke. I grew up by someone who had a failed drain field because they didn’t pump it – ever! The smell was awful, not to mention the sogginess of the ground.


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