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I recently bought a house with a septic system. In researching maintenance for a septic system I am getting mixed messages about if I should be putting an additive (Rid-X or bakers yeast) down the toilet every few months. Some places have even recommended putting some raw hamburger down the toilet instead every few months.

Some people appear to swear by it, others say they do more harm than good. I believe I use normal amounts of chemicals in my house. I run the dishwasher at least once a day, the washer a couple times a week, and then other household cleaners a few times a week.

Based on that usage, what is the best way to ensure that I minimize problems with the system?

  • I think they both help. I have only had to have my systems pumped when I sell the house. When I brewed beer regularly I would dump the yeast down the stool. I Know some folks use the Rid-X like clock work and never have problems. I don't know how they could hurt yeast eats what we don't want and helps keep the tank alive (this is a good thing). Laundry soap / bleach, Dish washer & hand soap residue all kill the little guys so I think adding is a good thing. – Ed Beal May 19 '16 at 22:54
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    @EdBeal your answer is completely devoid of data. Further, pumping a septic is to get rid of nondigestible (to bacteria) solids, not to enhance the septic operations. – Carl Witthoft May 20 '16 at 12:02
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No, Heck, No!

Every single offical source I have ever consulted explicitly states that they should not be used, and do more harm than good. Every bacterium required for the process lives inside you, and populates the tank "naturally."

Here is an excerpt from one: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/plumb/top-ten-tips.htm

  1. You do not need to put special additives into your septic system. In fact, some can do more harm than good. Those which advertise that they will remove solids from your tank, usually do. The problem is that the solids exit the tank and end up in the disposal field. Once there, the solids seal off the disposal area, and the system malfunctions. Also, although it hurts nothing, it is not necessary to "seed" a new system with yeast, horse manure, and so forth. Normal human waste contains enough bacteria for the septic tank, and other microbes are already present in the soil and stones of the disposal area.

The problem with "products that liquefy sludge" is that you WANT the sludge to stay in the tank until it is pumped. if it gets into the drain field, it will cause the drain field to fail, and then you need a new drain field ($$$).

But there is plenty of unofficial bad advice on the internet, and elsewhere, if you want to follow that instead.

My advice for

the best way to ensure that I minimize problems with the system?

as a somewhat informed septic system owner, is that you should have the tank pumped and inspected (that should have been done as part of the "Title V" portion of the sales transaction, ideally - read the report, if it was done) and if it does not already have one, consider having a filter retrofitted onto the (or in place of the) exit Tee. Those can significantly improve the odds of NOT plugging the drain field; but they are not a substitute for regular maintenance (pumping of sludge).

  • Avoiding problems: I'd add "If it didn't go through you, and isn't toilet paper, it doesn't go in the septic tank". Avoid excess oil/fat and other food waste; don't use a food disposal unit; feminine hygiene products and used diapers must go in a bin not the toilet; ditto wet-wipes. – Martin Bonner Aug 12 at 15:19
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AGREE: NO, HECK NO!!

My neighbor was telling me about the smell thru the pipe connected to her septic, etc. so I Googled "should I use an additive, etc." as we talked, to get the latest on use of Rid-X, etc., and this page is one of several that appeared. I can't see your user name, but when I read Title V my first thought was, "Is he from Massachusetts?" I looked back to see that you are from Maine. Our septic person told us in early 70's exactly what you have written re use of Rid-X & additives, so we never used them. I had just casually thrown that in to the conversation with my neighbor because someone had sold her something for $100+, told her to use Oxi-clean, and something about Rid-X to break up the toilet paper so it could go out thru the drain. I then told her that she wants the toilet paper to remain in the bottom of the tank as sludge & not exit the tank and potentially clog the drain pipes; only water should exit the tank. I don't think she heard me. I have never used additives and so far all is well. Not using additives & very little bleach in the septic tank has worked well for me for over 40 years.

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A good friend of mine in New Hampshire makes a decent living digging new leach fields for people who have used Rid-X. He says it generates more business than anything else. He says to just leave it alone.

  • Thanks for answering, Richard. It's not that we don't believe you... but we want to learn. What's going on in there that makes it a bad idea to use those products? Can you elaborate on how Rid-X (or other additives) cause the need for new leach fields? – Greg Nickoloff Aug 12 at 18:33

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