skip to Main Content
Getting To Know Your Septic System’s Bacteria

Getting to Know Your Septic System’s Bacteria

The human world is full of big things. For instance: there’s our big house surrounded by tall trees on a piece of decent land in a large county. 

Because we (and the things we build) are typically big by our standards, it can be difficult to think down at the microscopic level. There, a whole world goes on invisibly aiding us in ways we never think about–especially in the operations of our septic systems.

Unlike big mountains or big river valleys, it’s not natural erosion that we credit for breaking down organic waste in our septic system or elsewhere. For that, we have to thank billions upon billions of microscopic organisms!

But what are these little critters? Where do they come from? And how can we help them get along in their business while we go on doing ours?

The Bacteria

Just as your own body processes the solids and liquids you eat and drink, these helpful bacteria further digest and break down the organic waste deposited into the septic tank. 

Naturally occurring and able to thrive both with and without oxygen, these sturdy microbes work together to further process our waste before it can be sent out of the tank and into the drainfield. 

Under their direction, solid waste is transformed into liquid or gaseous waste, thereby creating more space in your tank to prevent overfilling. As the real heroes, they keep your system running as smoothly as possible.

But how can we help these noble microbes? How can we keep from harming them?

Toxic Household Chemicals

Unlike our partner microbes, human beings are not accustomed to living in waste. We want things to be clean, pipes to clear freely, and toilet bowls to sparkle.

But certain household chemicals can kill large numbers of the helpful bacteria in our septic tank. Things like bleach, disinfectants, and drain cleaners can cause serious harm to both the bacteria and the efficiency of our septic system.

If you must use a drain cleaner or bleach, use them sparingly and rarely. As a rule of thumb, if it’s toxic to you, it’s probably toxic to the microbes in your tank.

Other antibacterial cleaners will–as advertised–kill bacteria. Liquid hand soap, dish soap, or other flushable/drainable antibacterial substances can (if used in large quantities) severely limit the bacteria’s ability to do their job.

You can use soap, of course, but by simply thinking about how much you use and how often you use it you can safeguard the operations of your household. 

Additives/Pharmaceuticals

Some companies and products claim to improve the bacterial colonies in your septic tank. Advertised as “tank additives” or “boosters” these products ultimately interfere more than they help. 

The bacteria in your septic tank requires no assistance to continue doing what it has done for millions of years. These additives are unnecessary and may be detrimental.

Similarly, flushing any pharmaceutical product (as people occasionally do) can seriously injure and kill the bacteria in your tank. The chemical compositions of our medications are tailored to  humans alone and shouldn’t be taken by billions of microbes.

Avoiding additives outright and properly disposing of household drugs can help the real champions continue their mission.

Schedule Regular Inspections/Pumping

To be the best ally you can, all you have to do is hold to a schedule of regular septic system maintenance. This is both in your best and interests and in the interests of your microbial pals.

Pumping waste can leave less behind for them to process and keep them from being overwhelmed, while inspections can ensure proper drainage and functionality to keep their burden light and optimal!

Think Microscopically

Now that you know about the bacteria in your septic tank, you might think twice about the things you flush and drain. Your septic tank is a world of its own and the predominant life forms there are invested in your system’s success!  


To learn more about our septic system’s bacterial partners and how you can help, call Economy Septic today!

Thinking microscopically can be difficult, but for the trusted professionals at Economy Septic, it’s just everyday life! From system setup to regular maintenance to best practices, Economy Septic can keep your tank (and its bacteria) healthy and functioning for years to come.  For more information, call us at (256) 435-1086 today!