How often should you get your septic tank pumped?

pumping out septic tank

If you’re the owner of a property with a septic system and have no connection to town sewerage, you may have been wondering how often to get the septic tank pumped? The timely upkeep of septic tanks is vital for the function of homes which aren’t connected to the region’s public sewer system. Knowing when and how often to pump the effluent and sludge out of your tank can stop possible blockages, overflows, leaks and can save you money. If you pump your tank too regularly when there is no need then you will be wasting effort and dollars. Also, bacteria won’t have had time to break down solid waste into compostable sludge.

However, not cleaning out your tank at regular intervals can cause you stress and a hefty bill if the system becomes blocked or needs fixing later. We’ll reveal at what intervals to pump your tank a little later on, but first a little background.

How a septic system works

Septic systems in use today have remained mostly unchanged for the last 100 years or so. Most times, there are two tanks underground that collect the waste water and sewerage from the house, from toilets, bathrooms, kitchen, laundry and any place where liquid waste is produced. When this waste and sewerage enters the tanks, the solid matter settles to the bottom while a crust of oil and grease forms at the top layer. The effluent in-between flows out of drainage pipes into the earth to be further broken down by weather and nature. As the sludge builds up, it needs to be removed from time-to-time otherwise blockages may form causing problems such as backflows or leaks. This is why it is so important to schedule the pumping of the tank. The tank needs to be a clear space to catch the waste. And then the built-up sludge and waste can be taken to a sewerage treatment plant.
septic tank how it works illustration

What happens when you don’t pump your tank regularly?

If you neglect to pump these tanks at regular intervals you risk excess build-up of sludge in the tank. This leads to backflows, overflows, and leaks. Effluent and sewerage are highly toxic and contain bacteria, viral compounds, and microbes which can harm the native environment and wild-life. It can also cause the spread of illness and disease amongst humans. Excess effluent and sewerage can leak from the drainage pipes, from the entry pipes or from the tanks themselves. The system must be pumped at the right time and maintained.

Don’t wait too long. If you don’t know when the last time your tank was pumped or if it is overdue, then there are tell-tale signs you can look for that show there may be a problem:

  • Foul odours and pools of liquid around or from the septic tanks
  • Ground that is always damp and bad smelling near the septic system
  • Grass that grows faster and more lush near the septic system
  • Low toilet flushing or slow drainage of waste water indicating a blockage
  • Foul odour from taps and sinks

Rather than wait for these signs to occur have your septic system flushed at timely intervals by a professional sewerage treatment team. If you do see any of the signs above, call an expert right away.

How much does pumping a tank cost on average

There are two aspects to maintaining a septic system. You can have your tank pumped. And you can have your tank cleaned. These are done by specialist professionals and the average cost of pumping a tank that is 3,000 litres is around $300. This can go as high as $1000 if the location is difficult or the tank is a large 5,000 litre tank. The cost of cleaning a tank ranges from around $300 to $600 with the average owner paying just under $400. Cleaning gets rid of scale build-up.

If the septic system has been well-kept and is only around or below 3 years old, then sometimes cleaning is not necessary with only pumping that is needed. Cleaning the tank involves removing built-up sediment with high-pressure gurneys and fully clearing any part or full blockages.

So, when to pump your septic tank?

If you don’t know when you last had your tank pumped then have it inspected by a professional right away. Tanks are buried under the ground and it is better to have an expert treatment team check it. It is better to clear your tank before it is completely full. The amount of sewerage and effluent that enters your tank is determined by the number of people in your household and the amount of usage water facilities are given. Generally, you can estimate when your tank needs to be pumped by the following guides:

  • 3 or less house members – every 4 to 6 years
  • 3 up to 10 house members – every 2 to 5 years

Keep this in mind as long as there are none of the signs of problems spoken about previously.

Tips to increase the life of your septic system

The main problems that occur with septic tanks are blockages caused by sludge or other waste materials. Leaks from damaged tank or pipes are also an issue. There are a few tips we have that will prevent these issues from occurring:

  • Resist flushing material items in the toilet, for example – throw away nappies, clumps of bandages or tissue paper, or plastic bags.
  • Resist tipping large quantities of oil down the sink.
  • Use drain cleaner on occasion to clear home pipes.
  • Don’t plant trees near drainage pipes or tanks to stop root damage.
  • Regularly pump the tanks and have them cleaned if necessary.

Although you can check yourself for issues with your septic tank, it is always better to have a professional assess your septic system. Let the expert teams take out guess work and do the unpleasant task of assessing, pumping and cleaning your septic tanks. This gives you peace of mind, saves money in the long run, lengthens the life of your system, and helps to protect our environment and community. Proper upkeep of septic tanks ensures the hygiene and smooth functioning of your home and property. So come on, call a professional team now if you have any concerns about your septic system.


To schedule septic tank cleaning in Blue Mountains, Lithgow or Penrith, call our team today! We’ll be happy to help!

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