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Signs You Need Septic Tank Cleaning

5 Signs that it’s Time for Septic Tank Cleaning

Septic tanks are put in place for homes that aren’t connected to the city’s sewer system. They work by storing wastewater underground where the contents are able to separate based on mass and buoyancy. Solids rest at the bottom of the tank (sludge), water settles in the middle, and fats and oils rise to the top (scum). Bacteria in the tank works to break down tank contents. Near the top of the tank is a drain line that allows for contents to flow to the drain field as the tank level rises. Soil is able to filter the mixture of scum and water to remove contaminants.

Although bacteria helps to break down sludge, your tank can still fill with contents over time and require pumping or cleaning. While most homeowners should schedule their septic tank cleaning once every 3-5 years, depending on your septic tank capacity and household size, you may need to have your tank pumped as often as once every 1-3 years. If you aren’t sure how full your tank is, there are some signs, but it is best to have a professional evaluate your septic system.

Regular cleaning is important to prevent a number of problems that can arise from a full tank.  Below, we’ll discuss some of the signs of a septic tank in need of cleaning. 

What can happen if you don’t clean your septic tank?

There are several consequences of not regularly cleaning your septic tank. These include:

1. Slow drains

If you notice your toilets are slow to flush or your sinks are taking longer than normal to drain and there are no obvious obstructions, it may be a sign that its time for septic tank cleaning.

2. Pooling Water 

A full tank can result in an overflow to the drainage field resulting in the ground above the drainage area pooling with water

3. Foul Smell

When a tank gets near to its maximum capacity a foul odor can linger through the plumbing and near the tank. 

4. Backing up

Septic tanks long overdue for cleaning can create a backlog that can flood both outside and inside your house.

5. Water Leaching and Contamination

Overflows of contaminated water from your septic tank can leach into rivers and well water and spread harmful bacteria.

How are septic tanks cleaned?

Sludge builds up over time faster than the bacteria can break it down. As sludge levels near the top of the tank, cleaning is required to prevent overflow. A professional will be able to pump out your septic tank to remove the sludge before any problems arise. 


If you have any concerns about your septic tank levels or experience any of the symptoms of a full tank listed above, it may be time to reach out to a professional for a septic tank inspection. A professional will be able to safely evaluate your septic tank and empty it of its contents if necessary.


A-1 Septic Tank Service, Inc. has been pumping and cleaning septic tanks for over 65 years. We are the septic and sewer cleaning experts for the San Francisco Bay Area. Our pumping services utilize state of the art equipment, giving you the most cost-effective, environmentally safe septic and holding tank services possible.

Give us a call to request a FREE custom quote for septic tank cleaning.

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