How Does My Septic System Work?

Septic Tank

Septic systems are why disposing of household waste through indoor plumbing is possible, safe and convenient.

Understanding how your property’s septic system operates would help you efficiently maintain it.

This article covers the critical functions of a septic system and common mistakes to avoid.

Basics of a Septic System for Homes

A septic system is an underground wastewater treatment structure that stores and disposes of household waste. It is primarily used in areas lacking centralized sewer systems.

A typical septic system usually consists of a septic tank and a drain field.

Septic Tanks

Septic tanks are located beneath the ground and are typically made from durable materials like concrete, polyethene or fibreglass.

The septic tank holds the wastewater long enough to separate solids from fluids and sends it through pipes to other units of the septic system.


A drain field is a vital part of your septic system as it is responsible for eliminating waste and impurities that emanates from the water your septic tank releases. The drain field collects organic and biodegradable materials.

A blocked drain field is a reason that your septic tanks may overflow. When this happens, promptly contact a licensed septic and sewer inspection service.

Leach Drainfield

This part of the drain field, consisting of drain pipes, stones and unsaturated soil, allows waste to be absorbed into the soil.

How a Septic System Works

  • When you dispose of waste through your toilets and drains, it settles at the bottom of the septic tank. Naturally occurring bacteria then break down the solid waste over time into effluent wastewater, which moves to the drain field.
  • The bacteria pretreat the wastewater, then distribute it through the drain pipes and filter it through the soil.
  • The soil accepts and percolates this wastewater, treating it naturally to separate valuable nutrients and exterminate the harmful bacteria that inhabit fecal matter.
  • When the treatment process is done, the soil slowly absorbs the now treated wastewater until it becomes groundwater.

Mistakes that may harm your home’s septic system.

A clogged, or worse still, broken septic system causes discomfort and costs hundreds of dollars to fix. Good maintenance and routine checks are your best bet at preventing this. To properly maintain your home’s septic system, be sure to take the following pointers;

  • Ensure that solids are kept away from drains as they can stay in your drain field pipes and cause a blockage. A blockage can make your drain field overflow and cause a bad smell.
  • Avoid pouring fats, oils and grease through your drains as they will not just clog your pipes but create a thick crust in your septic tank. This will cause a blockage in both your drain field pipes and septic tank.
  • It is best to not dispose of non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, sanitary tampons and paper towels through toilets. Doing so will clog your pipes and septic system over time.
  • When clogs to your plumbing occur, and they are fixable using home remedies, ensure you use cleaning materials that are low in phosphate. Drain cleaners with high phosphate content tend to corrode drain pipes and your internal plumbing. It will also trigger algae growth that can block your sewer system.

Maintaining your septic or sewer system requires routine checks and consultation by plumbing and sewer professionals. If you have any concerns and need an expert repair or service, please contact Countryside Plumbing Sewer and Septic. We are available to provide solutions to your needs.