How Does a Septic System Work? The Complete Homeowner’s Guide

 More than twenty million homes in the United States use a septic system to contain and filter their household waste. These underground systems are most often found in rural areas and are excellent at containing waste and reducing disease transmission and water pollution.

Perhaps you live in a home that uses a septic tank or you’re considering installing one. Either way, you’ll likely find yourself asking “how does a septic system work?”


When you start to understand how a septic system operates, you can then truly begin to appreciate the engineering that goes into these underground tanks and weigh their pros and cons.

So if you’re interested in learning more, then continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you’ll want to know about septic systems.

Basics of a Septic System

The septic system design is fairly simple. It’s an underground watertight tank (mostly round or rectangular) and made of concrete, plastic, or fiberglass.

The container is connected with two pipes (for outlet and inlet). The outlet pipe is also known as the drain field. This pipe transports the preprocessed wastewater out of the septic tank and spreads it evenly in the watercourses and soil.

The inlet pipe collects the wastewater in the septic tank. As time goes on, the liquid and solid waste separate from each other.

After the wastewater leaves the tank, it will separate into three layers. The bottom layer will be made up of heavy particles. These particles are heavier than water and they form a layer of sludge.

The middle layer is composed of the wastewater and also the waste particles.

The top layer is made of grease and oils that float above all of the waste. This is referred to as scum.

Bacteria from the wastewater breaks down the solid waste inside the tank. These bacteria will decompose solid waste quickly. That will enable the liquids to separate and then drain away more easily.

Cleaning of the Septic System

You need to make sure that you clean your septic tank regularly. If it’s a small tank, it needs to be cleaned at least once a year.

If you fail to maintain your septic tank, then antibacterial substances and toxins will build up inside. They will then kill the crucial bacteria that break down the waste.

Many household cleaners can build up solid waste and sludge in a septic system and drain field lines. This can lead to the septic tank failing. When a septic system fails, the solid waste blocks the system and then overflows out of the access grating or into the watercourse.

When your septic tank fails, it can lead to costly repairs. You’ll also allow waterborne diseases to spawn and will have to deal with a terrible smell.

Depending on how severe the damage is, you might even have to replace the whole system. Because of this, it’s critical that consumers understand how important it is to clean and maintain their septic tanks.

The Decomposition Process Slowing Down

When you fail to regularly clean your septic tank, the decomposition process inside of the tank will slow down. The tank will then become blocked up and eventually overflow.

It can be difficult to gauge when your septic system is in trouble. Your system could break down in just a few years or it can last you decades. Because of this, it’s generally recommended that you clean your tank every one to three years.

One of the best ways to do this is by cleaning the water before it leaves your tank. You should use a strong septic system cleaner upstream of the drainage zone. This will get rid of the negative effects of cleaners and soaps that kill the bacteria in the tank.

You need bacteria to remain in the tank in order for the waste to properly decompose.

Recycling Your Waste

All of the waste that’s collected from a septic system is considered to be organic. Because of that, you can’t send the waste away to a landfill. However, after removing the liquid waste, it’s possible to send the heavy sludge to a landfill.

The sludge can then be converted into fertilizer. This fertilizer will be used for farming purposes thanks to the process of anaerobic digestion. Usually, the sludge is treated so that it can create biogas as well as energy like electricity.

By hiring a waste disposal company, they can handle your waste and send it to the recycling centers for you. Nowadays, a large sector of the farming industry relies on this kind of water waste to fertilize their crops.

When choosing a water disposal company, you should pick one that’s licensed and certified to carry waste. They should also be equipped with the right tools and registered to treat sewage waste.

The Importance of Knowing How Does a Septic System Work

Hopefully, after reading the above article, you now have an answer to the question, “how does a septic system work?” Septic systems are effective ways to filter and contain waste but they also need to be cleaned and maintained regularly in order to work properly.

If you want to install and use a septic tank, then make sure that you work with a licensed and experienced water disposal company.

Are you looking for other helpful articles like this one? If you are, then make sure to check out the rest of our site today for even more!

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