What Do I Need To Clear A Drain Clog If I'm On Septic?

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If you use a septic tank in your home instead of a sewer, you'll need to handle clogs and other plumbing problems a little differently than you would if you were connected to sewer. You can get rid of clogs without using chemicals that would harm your septic system if you know what to use and where to look. Clearing most clogs can be done by taking a few troubleshooting steps and using the right tool for the job.

Why Can't I Use Drain-Cleaning Chemicals?

Your septic tank houses plenty of bacteria that eat away at waste and whatever else comes down into the tank. They help keep waste levels low and save you from having to have your tank emptied very often. If you use chemicals designed to clear blockages in the pipes, they could kill the bacteria. Whenever possible, you should avoid using chemicals like that unless they specify they are septic safe – and even then, look up reviews before buying.

How Can I Locate The Source Of A Clog?

Despite all the piping that runs through your house, clogs will typically only show up in a few different places: the U-shaped trap underneath most sinks and tubs/showers, or in the inflow pipe that leads to the septic tank.

The first step to finding out the location of a clog is to try using the other sinks and baths in your house. If they work fine and there is no backflow, the clog is probably directly under the affected drain. If the other drains don't work either, the clog is farther down by your septic tank.

What Can I Use To Clean My Drain?

If the problem is specific to one drain, your work will consist mostly of finding a way to get the gunk out of the pipe or at least loosen it enough so that it flows on its own.

  1. Remove the drain cover and look down into the drain catch, which is designed to catch hair and other objects. Use a utensil, a plastic drain hook or even your fingers to reach in and remove whatever has been caught in the trap.
  2. Remove the trap and use a plastic drain hook or a snake so that you can reach down into the u-bend below the drain, as plenty of hair and gunk can be caught here, too. If you have a snake available, you can go a lot farther than most other tools, so it's helpful to have one on hand.
  3. Put a few inches of water into the tub, sink or toilet to form a seal, then use a plunger to try to force the clog to break up.

What About A Clog In The Septic Inflow Pipe?

A clog in the septic's inflow pipe is surprisingly easy to handle. Go outside and locate the hatch that sits about an inch or two above ground, generally in close proximity to your house. If you know where your tank is and/or where the inflow pipe is, it will be around there. Remove the hatch and use a flashlight to look down. If you see standing water, it means the clog is on the side closer to the tank. If not, it means the clog is in the direction of your house.

In either case, you can use a snake here (manual or electric-powered), or use water pressure from a garden hose or power washer. The water pressure can dislodge a clog and let it flow back towards and into the tank. This will work even if you're directing the water pressure back towards your house; you're trying to dislodge the clog, so once the clog is gone, all the backflow will drain quickly in the right direction.

Does My Tank Need Repairs?

In most cases, your tank itself won't need repairs; it will mostly involve work on the inflow pipe or leach field, because the tank itself is pretty sturdy. If you cannot get a clog fixed, your tank may be full and will need to be emptied. Click here for more info.

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7 June 2015

preventing septic tank overflows

Moving into the country was something that I had always dreamed of doing, but when it finally became a reality, I had to learn an important lesson the most difficult way. I found out that the big mound in my yard was a part of the septic system and when a septic system is not properly cared for, it can back up into your home. That was an incident that I never wanted to relive. After the days of cleanup were complete, I began learning everything that I could about maintaining my septic system. Go through my blog to learn what you need to do to ensure you don't have to go through the horrifying mess that I did.