7 Nifty Things About Septic Systems & Garbage Disposal

Here at GeekyAntics, we like to cover all the things we geeks think about or at least should be aware of. It’s usually fun or useful stuff. Today’s featured article is in the latter camp, thanks to our ongoing collaboration with Martin Septic Service of Georgia. Enjoy!

Now, you may be reading this thinking, “But, wait, I don’t own a house.” That may be true but you don’t want to deal with a crappy (quite literally) situation in the future, do you? Here are some things you should know, even if you are a renter or soon-to-be homeowner.

1. Septic Systems Are Everywhere

Before talking with Vince Martin of MSS (that’s Martin Septic Services, for short), it never struck me just how much we take septic systems for granted. If you are used to living in big cities like I am, transitioning to rural areas can be tricky. After tons of research and probing Vince with the right questions, I learned that septic tanks are used by one in five U.S. households nation-wide but, in the South, that number is at around half and growing. If you live in a trailer or rent a house, chances are you have a septic system. If you own a home, those chances are even higher.  Septic systems come in many flavors but, basically, you have a septic tank, a bunch of pipes, and a drainfield where everything ultimately ends up.

How Septic Systems Work

2. Smart Water Usage & Conservation

Water conservation is always a smart play and it’s great for the environment, but it is absolutely crucial when you have a septic system in place. In our household, we’ve gotten better about spreading out laundry and doing smaller loads. We’ve also gotten into the habit of running the water less and lower pressures. Even spacing out bath/shower time makes a huge difference. I know, we all love our long showers and bubble baths but the idea here is to give the septic tank enough time to drain. Trust me, you DON’T want that thing to overload!

3. The Economics Of Septic Systems

A routine inspection and preventative can be as little as $300. Conversely, replacing a failing septic system can cost you anywhere from $3000 to $15000, depending on what sort of system you need for your land. As is the case with any other major investment such as a car or a house as a whole, being proactive is best (and MUCH more affordable). When you consider the exorbitant costs of emergency services and the huge mess a drainfield can become due to septic system negligence, investing in routine work makes A LOT more sense… And take this from a really frugal guy – ME!

What do you flush/drain and NOT?

4. What NOT To Flush Or Drain

Hazardous chemicals such as bleach, disinfectants, and cleaning solvents should never be washed down the drain, if at all possible. Of course, if you’re cleaning your sink, bath tub, and other water basins, this may be unavoidable so consider using natural cleaning solvents for smaller jobs. The trick here is to do simple cleaning on a regular basis so you don’t have to use the harsher stuff for the really tough jobs.

Even everyday items can be pesky. Coffee grounds (in large amounts), food scraps, onion skins, potato peels, pasta, rice, banana peels, and oil/grease are the biggest offenders, yet folks wash them down the drain all the time. Cigarettes and other non-biodegradable items are a HUGE no-no, too.

As a good rule of thumb, any starches or items that expand are huge troublemakers. It may seem silly but, if it doesn’t break down easily under hot running water, opt to put it in the trash or in a proper waste receptacle.

The biggest matter of debate here are eggshells. While they are arguably good for sharpening garbage disposal blades, they are surprisingly resiliant and may cause clogs/build-up in conjunction with other tough everyday items such as paper towels and cotton balls. Lots of advice out there says eggshells are safe but I’ve done some pretty exhaustive research and that advice may be a bit short-sighted. Better safe than sorry!

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