Depending on where you live and the services offered by your local septic companies, you may see the terms "pumping" and "cleaning" used to describe the same process. In general, septic tank pumping involves emptying your tank of waste and pumping the waste into a holding truck for transport off-site. Pumping is necessary to ensure that grease and solid levels remain relatively low.
The EPA recommends pumping your septic tank no less often than every five years, although you may sometimes want to consider a more frequent pumping schedule. But what about companies that offer a separate cleaning service? Is there a difference, and how often should you consider cleaning your septic system?
How Does Septic System Maintenance Work?
Maintaining the correct distribution of layers within the tank is key to a properly functioning septic system. When operating normally, any septic tank has three distinct layers: solids (or sludge), effluent, and grease. The sludge layer settles to the bottom, and the grease layer floats at the top, with most of the tank's volume consisting of the liquid effluent in the middle.
The design of your tank allows liquid effluent to flow into the outlet baffle while the grease and sludge remain trapped in the tank. This behavior is crucial since fatty greases and solids can clog your drain field plumbing or even damage the field's ability to drain waste adequately. Infrequent maintenance can allow solids and grease to build up, potentially clogging your system or damaging your drain field.
A typical pumping service involves pumping out most of the tank, which removes most of the solids and grease. Your tank will quickly refill with water, allowing effluent to begin flowing into your drain field again. This process helps to ensure that the solid and grease levels in your tank never reach a point where they can cause a backup or damage your septic system.
Is Septic Tank Cleaning a Different Process?
The simplest answer is that it depends. Some companies may use the terms "pumping" and "cleaning" to refer to the same service, while others may offer a more thorough cleaning service. Septic tank cleaning may be a much more involved process suitable for tanks with existing problems or recent and severe clogs.
In some cases, cleaning a tank may involve using inspection cameras to look for problems, hydro jetting the drain lines, or physically removing solid waste and clogs from the inlet or outlet baffles. These steps may be necessary if you've deferred maintenance in the past or flushed damaging items such as baby wipes down your drains.
When hiring a company to maintain your septic tank, the best thing to do is to explain your situation (including the last time you serviced your tank) and ask what their services include. While pumping a tank is often fine for routine maintenance, a more thorough cleaning will typically be necessary following deferred cleaning or major tank issues.
Contact a company like Hallstead Sanitary Service to find out more.