Can Septic Tank Additives Do More Harm Than Good?

Can Septic Tank Additives Do More Harm Than Good?

Bottom line: nothing is as good for your septic system upkeep as regular professional pumping, inspection, and maintenance. However, some homeowner-directed, off-the-shelf septic tank additives can help your septic system maintain a basic level of health and performance, in certain circumstances.

We suggest that you only use a hardware store/DIY additive if you’ve already checked with a professional septic inspector, and never to treat an active septic tank emergency.

That said, here are the key differences in your common homeowner additives:

Biological additives

Biological additives are made of natural compounds, usually packed with bacteria and enzymes. The idea for these additives is “insurance” for concerned septic owners, making sure that your system has the bacteria needed to function properly. But, unless your system has sat unused for several months, there isn’t a reason to add bacteria or enzymes, because your system is producing those elements naturally from the matter from your drainpipes.

Chemical additives

Chemical additives are what they sound like: chemicals used to break down solid matter and remove clogs. However, these chemicals are obviously not natural or organic and will impede the breakdown of the matter in your system with bacteria-killing chemicals. These artificial additives can also be harmful to your local environment and groundwater.

Basically, while it’s tempting to purchase a “cheap and easy” DIY solution at your local hardware store, you might be buying a placebo instead of a real asset to your system’s health. Septic systems are incredibly well-designed and should run smoothly with little interference, assuming they are used properly and cleaned on schedule. As always, check back on our past blog content for more best practices, tips, tricks, and solutions for common septic system questions.

The important thing to remember is that your septic system can last for many years, without any septic tank additives or headaches, if you care for it properly and stay aware of septic system health and maintenance. If you need to schedule septic tank cleaning, pumping, or inspection, don’t hesitate to call Shankster Bros. at any time.

What Things Should I Never Put Down the Drain?


What Things Should I Never Put Down the Drain?

This is a common question we hear often, and it’s not only important for those with septic systems. All of us should be intentional about what we put down our household drains, as the use of hazardous chemicals, bio-hazards, and products like oil or gas can make a significant negative impact on the local environment and groundwater.

But these concerns are even more valid with a septic system, as the monetary and environmental costs fall to the septic system owner if the system fails or becomes compromised.

So, here’s our shortlist of things to never put down your drain and into your septic system.

Solid waste. While it’s OK to use a garbage disposal occasionally with a septic system, it’s unwise to rely on it too heavily. Avoid solid food waste if possible, even small pieces of solid waste such as coffee grounds.

Chemicals. Bleach and other intense household cleaners can kill the healthy bacteria in your septic tank and can cause harm to your system. Consider switching to more Earth and septic-friendly cleaners such as castile soap or essential oils.

Too much water. Dishwashers and washing machines are incredible time-saving tools but should be used wisely. Load your appliances fully before running and avoid running too frequently in a 24-hour period to avoid overloading your septic drain field.

Grease or fat. Washing grease down the drain is an easy solution, but it can cause headaches later. Scrape excess fat off of cooking pans and into the trash to avoid clogs, slowdowns, or septic system overloads.

The important thing to remember is that your septic system can last for many years if you care for it properly and stay aware of septic system health and maintenance. If you need to schedule a septic tank cleaning, pumping, or inspection, don’t hesitate to call Shankster Bros at (260)-982-7111. any time.

Why Do Septic Systems Fail and How to Prevent Problems?

Why Do Septic Systems Fail and How to Prevent it?

Septic systems fail, most often, because the owners of the system don’t know how it works or why it matters.

Septic systems create an organic relationship between water, soil, and bacteria that naturally and effectively disposes of the waste and excess water coming from your home. This is an amazing and environmentally friendly way to handle the convenience of a modern, well-plumbed building. However, there are a few things that can go wrong – some caused by human inexperience or carelessness, and some by nature.

Here are the top 6 reasons we see septic systems fail:

  1. Tree roots or other organic growth. Excessive organic growth from your yard or pasture can interfere with your drain field or the plumbing from building to tank but is usually easily fixed once discovered.
  2. Solid materials in the tank. Flushing feminine products, baby wipes, and bits of food or other solids can seriously back up your septic tank. If you can avoid using a garbage disposal and flushing such items, do so, but if you occasionally run your disposal or have accidentally flushed some solid waste products, simply pump your septic tank a bit more often to be sure it’s not causing back-ups.
  3. Excess water use. Do a load of laundry per day rather than 10 loads on the weekend. Try to limit long showers and don’t leave the water running when not in use – using just the amount of water you need will help your drain field to not overload.
  4. Harsh bacteria-killing chemicals. Natural cleaners and septic-friendly soaps and paper products help ensure that the bacteria in your tank are alive, healthy, and doing its job. Plus, natural products are better for people and animals, too!
  5. Compacted drain field. Bad weather or heavy vehicle or livestock traffic can compact your drain field so it doesn’t work properly. Avoid driving over your drain field and try to keep large animals off of it. Of course, you can’t control the weather, but it is wise to check on your field after big storms and make sure there isn’t standing water on it, which is a sign of a back-up.
  6. Tank problems. A dirty tank, a tank with the wrong-sized baffles, or a cracked or damaged tank can all cause a septic system failure. It’s important to make appointments to regularly inspect and clean your septic tank to avoid unpleasant shut-downs or repairs.

Call Shankster Bros Today, we are here to help with your septic tank!

Remember that knowledge is an important aspect of keeping your septic system in working order. We have years of high-quality, informative and easy-to-understand blog-posts on our website to help you understand your septic system and keep it in tip-top shape – but if you don’t find the info you’re looking for, please give us a call. We’re always happy to help.

How Long Does a Septic System Last?

How Long Does a Septic System Last?

If you’re putting in a new septic system, it’s natural to wonder, “How long do septic systems last?”

The short answer is, anywhere from 15 to 40 years. The long answer is that there are many factors that impact the long-term life of your septic system.

Regular Maintenance Makes a Big Difference

The first factor is, you guessed it – septic tank maintenance. We know we say this all the time, but regular maintenance makes a big difference in how long your septic system lasts and how well it functions. If you are installing a new system, set a reminder for yourself every couple of years to pump and clean your septic tank (more often if you have a large household or use a lot of water regularly.) Just the simple act of pumping your tank on the recommended schedule ensures that your tank stays in working order, and, if there is a septic system problem, a professional septic tank pumper will catch it before it becomes a catastrophic issue.

The second factor in the life of your septic system is the original installation choices. If you’re buying a property with a septic already installed, there’s not much you can do about those choices (although knowing what they are will inform your maintenance decisions.)

Think Through Your Septic Tank Materials to Avoid Problems

But if you’re installing a new system, think through your septic tank materials, drain field installation, and more. These sound like boring choices to make, but they can be the difference between a long-lasting, clean-working septic system and broken-down septic which will cause problems and expensive re-installation or repairs in the future.

Your soil type, groundwater saturation, family size, and more can impact what kind, material, and size of septic tank you install, as well as what style and size drain field is right for your needs. Give us a call today at (260)-982-7111, we’re happy to answer any questions you have about an existing septic system or a new installation. In addition, we can help you make sure that your septic system is in good working order for years to come.

Does Having a Large Family Mean I Should Pump My Tank More Often?

Does Having a Large Family Mean I Should Pump My Tank More Often?

Septic tank pumping and cleaning are like any other regular household maintenance, it is largely dependent on how much you use the item requiring service.

For instance, those who drive for work need more regular oil changes than someone who drives rarely. Your HVAC system in your home needs more maintenance if you live in an extremely hot or cold climate versus a locale where you can usually keep your windows open. And, if you have a large family, or just use a lot of water, you probably need to pump your septic tank more frequently than you might think.

If you use a septic system for professional laundry, such as an Airbnb where you are washing linens regularly, or if you have a garbage disposal or water softener installed in your kitchen, these are factors requiring more frequent service of your septic system.

If you have a large family (more than four people in your household) or a long-term uptick in your household count (such as a foreign exchange student or elderly relative) it’s probably a good idea to pump your septic tank once every 12-18 months instead of the usually recommended 2-3 years.

Septic tanks can back up or fail entirely if not maintained properly

As always, if you notice any foul smells, slow drainage, or other signs of septic tank backup, call and get your septic tank professionally inspected and pumped IMMEDIATELY. No matter how many people are in your family or how often you use your plumbing, septic tanks can back up or fail entirely if not maintained properly, and the fall-out can be costly, time-consuming and unpleasant for everyone.

If you don’t remember the last time you got your septic tank pumped, it’s probably time to schedule a septic service. If you recently purchased a property that has a septic system and you aren’t sure what the maintenance has been like in the past, it’s probably time to schedule a septic tank pumping.

No matter how big your family is or what shape your septic system is in, we can help. Call Shankster Bros today to schedule your septic maintenance. Call us at (260)-982-7111

Are Baking Soda and Vinegar Safe for Septic Systems?

baking soda

Are Baking Soda and Vinegar Safe for Septic Systems?

We get a lot of questions about cleaners and best practices in septic systems, and this one is easy – it’s an emphatic “yes!”

Baking soda and vinegar are safe

Baking soda and vinegar are safe and effective cleaners for your household drains and, best yet, they are 100% safe for your septic tank and drain field. Bleach and ammonia-based cleaners (i.e. most of the cleaning aisle at the big-box stores) can be harmful to the good bacteria in your septic tank.

But baking soda and vinegar will not kill the healthy bacteria in your tank, keeping your septic system working properly much longer and with less maintenance required.

How to use baking soda and vinegar

So, you might be wondering how to use baking soda and vinegar to clean in your home. Here are some of our favorite methods to use these effective and inexpensive cleaners for your kitchen and bathrooms:

Clogged drains are a real hassle. It’s important to watch for signs of a backed-up septic system, but if that’s not the case, you can use baking soda to unclog stubborn grime from your drains, which might be leading to slight backups. Mix a few tablespoons of baking soda with a cup or two of hot water (you can also add white vinegar for a bit more punch).

Pour down your drain, wait a few minutes for the mixture to work, and then try running hot water or using a plunger. It’s a great way to avoid the large expense of a plumber’s visit and the hassle of unusable drains – so try it first!

These work as a toilet bowl cleaner as well

Amazingly, these natural cleaners work as a toilet bowl cleaner as well! For this purpose, we recommend a mixture of baking soda and liquid castile soap. You may have heard of castile soap but might not know why it has a cult-like following. Many people swear by the cleaning powers of castile soap, and how non-toxic it is – remarkably, it’s a vegetable-based soap, free of animal fats and synthetic ingredients.

It’s biodegradable (great for septics!) and, fun fact: gets its name from the Castile region of Spain. To clean a toilet bowl, generously dust baking soda in the toilet bowl. Add a few drops of liquid soap and scrub with a sponge or cloth – you’ll be amazed at the sparkle you achieve in no time.

Baking soda works as a great scrubbing agent for sinks, showers, tubs, and counters. It’s a clean effective and powerful cleaner that will help get your house sparkling clean without hurting your septic system or requiring septic tank maintenance afterward.

Add simple white vinegar and liquid castile soap to your cleaning arsenal and you won’t even miss the harmful standard cleaners you used to use, most of which were slowly harming your septic system.

You don’t have to harm your septic tank

Cleaning our kitchens and bathrooms is a necessity, but you don’t have to harm your septic tank to do it. Thanks for reading, and as always, call us anytime with septic tank questions or to schedule a septic tank pumping or clean. We’re happy to help.

Five Simple Tips to Extend the Life of a Septic System

Five Simple Tips to Extend the Life of a Septic System

On this blog, we’ve talked a lot about the need to maintain, clean, pump, and eventually properly replace your septic tank and system. While we recommend calling our offices with any questions or concerns with your septic system, it’s also obviously wise to have some best practices in your back pocket, in order to easily and efficiently extend the life and health of both your septic tank and overall septic system.

Ways to Extend the Life of Your Septic Tank

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what happens to the waste that goes down your drain – in fact, you probably don’t think about it at all.  Yet day and night, rain or shine, weekday through weekend, your septic system continues to do its job.

If you’re like most homeowners, you rely on your septic system for many of your daily and weekly routines – showers, laundry, running the garbage disposal – the list goes on. The sheer volume of material a septic system processes from continuous use will eventually take its toll. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that with proper care and maintenance, your septic system should have a longer lifespan. Steel septic tanks last between 15-20 years, plastic tanks last up to 30-50 years, and concrete tanks should last up to 100 years.

So, what can you do to make sure you get the most septic tank life out of your home’s septic system? Here are five things to keep in mind as you maintain your septic system. These five best practices are easy to do but will pay off in terms of the efficiency, lifespan, and overall health of your septic system.

1. Avoid Draining Water into Your Drainfield

This might seem obvious, but the more liquid that flows into your drain field, the more strain you put on your leech system and your drain field health in general. Combat this easily by creating alternative routes for runoff, rain management, and home or animal water management. Only have water from the home or business septic system in your drain field, if at all possible!

2. Conduct Annual Septic Tank Inspections

Have a professional come out at least once a year and inspect your septic system. This might include a tank or drain test, or it might be as simple as a visual inspection of key septic pieces. There are several reasons to do this, but the most important one is that a bad septic system, if not discovered in time, is very expensive to repair or replace.

By making it a routine to have your septic system inspected on an annual basis, you’ll save yourself money, and you may also save yourself from the unfortunate predicament of a failing septic system (foul odors and a soggy lawn, anyone?).

An inspection of your septic tanks will tell you the condition of the baffles and tees, if there are any cracks in the pipes or the walls of the tank, if your plumbing is all working correctly, and when you should have the tank pumped.

Regardless, a professional can ease your mind about the health of your septic system and catch small problems before they become big hassles.

3. Conserve Water in Your Home

This is similar to #1 but slightly different. It’s important to conserve water in all circumstances, but especially on a septic system when excess water can overload the drain field or tank. Try to avoid excessively long showers, and remind children to turn off the sink when not in use (while brushing teeth, for instance). It can also help to give your system “rest times” throughout the day when there is no water running to the system. We suggest not running dishwashers or washing machines overnight for this reason.

4. Follow the Pumping Schedule

We know, we know, we say this all the time. But it’s important – septic tanks need to be pumped out regularly! Check your homeownership records and make sure that your tank has been pumped and cleaned in the last 5 years. If it hasn’t been, you need to call us and schedule this service. Trust us: regular septic pumping is the difference between a healthy, working system and failing plumbing.

5. Watch What You Flush

This is common sense, but harsh chemicals such as bleach can kill the healthy bacteria hard at work in your septic tank, so be sure to use septic-safe cleaners on your toilets and drains. Also, things like feminine products, trash, nonbiodegradable wipes, and other detritus can cause serious and unpleasant backups in your septic system. When it doubt, don’t flush it – throw it in the trash!

As always, if you have any questions about your septic system or septic tank health, be sure to call us. At Shankster Bros., we’re proud of our products and services, and we’d love to help you!

Why It’s Important to Take Care of Your Septic Tank

You may already know that having your septic pump system annually inspected isn’t just important for its life and function – it’s also important for the health of your family, your property, and the community you live in.

If your system fails, it can cause a host of problems. Household wastewater from a failed septic system can seep into the surrounding environment and, if untreated, could contaminate other wells, groundwater, and drinking water sources. This can pose a serious threat to the public and to the environment, as contact with untreated human waste is dangerous to human health, and drainage from a failed septic tank can pollute local rivers, lakes, and shorelines.

Shankster Bros. Can Help

Don’t let your septic system reach the point of no return! Contact us today and make an appointment. We want to help you keep your home, your family, and your community clean and safe by doing what we do best – ensuring your septic system is working the way it should be.

Best yet, you can request to be added to our schedule, on any frequency that you choose, and we will keep track of when it’s time to have your tank pumped. We’ll also send you a reminder in advance. This will prevent you from forgetting about your septic system when everything is working properly and flushing well – and our team will help to keep it that way!

Contact us by phone at (260)-782-1417 or via our online form and we’ll make sure your septic system is in top working order.

When is a Good Time For a New Septic Installation?

time for septic installation

When is a Good Time to Install a New Septic System?

Obviously, a functioning septic system is essential to the health, well-being, and comfort of your home and family members. A single unusable shower, dishwasher, sink, or toilet is an inconvenience enough, imagine if all of the plumbing in your property wasn’t working – that’s truly unfortunate and uncomfortable for everyone.

So, it’s essential to keep your septic system in good working order, but sometimes even the best-cared-for septic systems must be replaced. But when is a good time to install a new septic system?

Septic System Inspection

Well, first, make sure that the replacement of your septic system (or certain elements within it) is truly the best option. No matter what piece(s) of the septic system you replace, it’s going to be an inconvenience, so please call us, the Shankster Bros., for a professional inspection of your septic tank, drain field, piping, and outflow systems to make sure that you are making the best use of your time and money with regard to your septic system.

Septic System Installer

tank installationRemember that a professional septic system installer is essential to the speed, efficiency, and quality of your new septic system if you do decide to replace your current system. The professional septic installer will make certain that you are inconvenienced for a minimal time, that your new system will last many years and that you won’t have ongoing septic system problems.

One thing to remember, like all outdoor maintenance, is that weather plays an important role in the success of your septic system project, no matter the size. So, even if the snow or rain is coming down now, maybe start with making some initial appointments for the months to come. Nice days will be here before we know it, and like with all construction and farm work, outdoor professionals get even busier and harder to book when the weather turns fair; so get on the calendar and start your plans ahead of the rush.

If you’re noticing problems with your septic system or septic tank give us a call today!

No matter when or how you decide to replace your septic system or pieces within it, we promise to give you the best possible advice and most economical and efficient solutions to your septic system problems. Call us anytime for honest and expert advice – at Shankster Bros we are your local septic experts!  Call us at (260)-982-7111 for an inspection today!

How to Protect Your Septic System & Conserve Water

How to Protect Your Septic System & Conserve Water

Did you know that almost 98% of the earth’s water is saltwater? Amazing, right? Saltwater is not potable or usable for most human and animal functions, such as drinking, bathing, etc. Therefore it’s essential that we conserve water, keeping the freshwater we have fresh for ourselves, our plants, animals and our environment, as well as future generations. Conserving water doesn’t just mean “saving” water, but also using water wisely – don’t use more water than necessary and be a good steward of the water we have access to.

Clean water is a limited resource, and conserving it for future generations is good for us, good for the planet, and – bonus! – good for our septic systems. Did you know that conserving water can reduce problems and increase the effectiveness and lifespan of your family’s septic system?

Too much water can overload your septic tank and cause it to require more frequent pumping, or it can overwhelm your septic drain field and cause flooding, backups and equipment breakdowns. While freshwater is essential to your life, there are some easy and relatively painless ways to cut down on your water use and conserve water for your environmental and septic system health.

Here are our water-saving suggestions:

Invest in a water-saving toilet, which can reduce water usage by as much as 60%! This is a huge savings for your family and your septic system. While older toilets required several gallons just to move solids through the pipes, newer toilets have better technology and can do the same job with much less water (sometimes less than 2 gallons per flush!)

  • Space out your water use. Avoid running water-using appliances overnight and try to stagger baths, shower, and other major water uses throughout the day. This gives your septic system a break and also cuts down on water use.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes, to avoid overloading your septic system. Also, it might be worth looking into the viability of newer, high-efficiency dishwashers and washing machines for your family’s needs.

Lower your water consumption and your energy bill by using low-flow showerheads. Just this simple change can save almost 3,000 gallons of water per year for most families, and it will also reduce your water-heating cost significantly.

Turn off the faucet while shaving, brushing teeth, scrubbing pots or other non-essential water-using activities. Not only does this significantly help with conservation, but it also gives your pipes and septic field a break during the day.

Avoid over-running the shower or bath tap. While it’s understandable to wait for hot water, try not to walk away from the bath or shower while it’s running to avoid too much water waste. If you want more tips on water conservation or prolonging the health of your septic system, please feel free to check back on the blog or give us a call anytime. At Shankster Bros., we are your local septic experts and we’re happy to help.

Important Things You Should Know About Your Septic System

Important Things You Should Know About Your Septic System

According to the United States EPA, almost 25% of American residential properties use septic systems to disperse sewage and grey water, which means that almost four billion gallons of wastewater is dispersed beneath the ground soil per day.

That’s a lot of water, and if not properly cared for, your septic system can become part of a larger pollution problem in your area, contaminating streams, irrigation, and even drinking water.

The most important thing you need to know about your septic system, therefore, is that it is essential to inspect and maintain your septic system regularly to prevent problematic ecological
impacts or more expensive repairs.

Unlike a traditional city sewer system, septic systems are the property owner’s responsibility to maintain, rather than the municipality’s. If and when you go to sell your property, you’ll need to show maintenance records for your septic system, as well as pay for an inspection of the system.

This means that it’s wise to keep up with septic tank maintenance and inspections, as this will save you both time, money and hassle when the time comes to sell your home or business.

Also, while most municipal sewer systems can accept almost unlimited water use, septic systems perform much better with low-flow toilets, faucets, and other appliances, and should be given “rest” periods, ideally every night for best performance. This means that delaying dishwasher runs or other household tasks until overnight might not be the best choice if you run your household on a traditional septic system. It might also be a good idea to replace older toilets and showerheads with updated, low-flow varieties.

With proper maintenance and septic inspections, septic systems are an eco-friendly, affordable option for many properties. We can make sure that your septic system stays up to your local codes, meets EPA standards and functions properly for as long as you own your home or business. Call us today with any questions about your septic system, we’re always happy to help.