We have a spectic tank and it gets pumped on a regular .... fairly
regular basis. I'd like to put a garbage disposal in the sink but
the data is kind of sketchy on this. I can see where you would not
want to grind up a whole lot of stuff and put it down the drain but
I'm mainly looking to grind up bit and pieces of crap that get left
in the sink when cleaning the dishes or when scraping the plates. I
put what I can in the garbage but some stuff is too liquidly and I
would like to be able to put this down the drain with the disposal. I
cannot see the difference between scraping it from the plate to the
sink, to the disposal to the septic tank vs eatting the food, using
the toilet and then it going to the septic tank. The food ends up in
the same place both ways.
So what is the problem of a disposal unit on a septic tank system? It
is a matter of VOLUME? Or a matter of WHAT I put down the drain? As
I said earlier, it would only be food I cannot place in the garbage
and what is in the sink after doing the dishes. I don't plan to
grind up bones so I really can't see the problem. I mean if I have
the tank emptied on a regualr basis what does it matter? The stuff
should break down any ways, right?
Any advice appreciated. I looked on the net and it seemed to lean
towards a "no" but didn't explain why very well.
On 1/5/2017 1:26 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
We use ours with no problem and with only two of us home now I don't
have tank pumped out more frequently than 4-5 years.
I don't put anything down the sink disposal unit that I can put in the
garbage and am most careful with fats and oils which septic cleaner
pointed out can form a solid scum on top.
Thu, 05 Jan 2017 13:26:41 -0500, email@example.com responded:
I also have septic, where I've lived here about a decade, and I don't even
know where the septic system is, which means it has never once been pumped
out (4 people in the house).
You haven't asked your question yet, but my experience on garbage disposal
is power. Like in horses. I would go for the 3/4 horsepower ones. In my
experience, they're a good compromise in cost, size, and capability.
But, I haven't seen your question yet..........
I have a rental unit where the lady living there with her family calls me
up almost every Easter saying the drain clogged. It's filled to the core
with egg shells she ground up but which she didn't flush down in stages (or
whatever caused them to clog the plumbing).
My use model on garbage disposal is kind of simple:
1. It's not for getting rid of compost
2. That's what a compost heap is for
3. It's for stopping everything else that goes down the sink from clogging
If you can swing it, I'd put everything you can in the compost heap, but,
you're right, I think, that the less you put down the drain, the better.
However, if you grind up stuff and use plenty of water to flush it down the
drain, I can't see the harm in that it will decompose in the septic system
(or, I think it should). Did I mention that I've never had mine pumped out?
So I really don't know how much gets in there and how much gets eaten while
it's in there.
Well, there is a difference, but when you put it that way, it's the same
amount of digestible gunk. However, egg shells, bones, peels, apple cores,
bacon fat, etc., aren't gonna get eaten so they have to go somewhere.
I put all that "big stuff" in the compost (yes, bones and bacon fat too!).
But you can grind up that stuff in the garbage disposal and "my take" (TM)
on that is that it will get eaten up by the bacteria in the septic system.
BTW, how many people do you have in the house versus the number of
bathrooms (since, I think, they size septic systems by the number of
Mine has fewer people than bathrooms, so, I think I'm under utilizing my
septic, which may be why it's never needed to be pumped out (since I'm told
it will tell me when it wants to be pumped out).
I think it's normal to have a disposal unit on a septic system.
If nothing else, the disposal prevents some clogging of the pipes.
I don't think water volume matters but I'll let someone else say whether
the water just leaks out no matter how much you flush down the drain.
The solids get eaten by the good bacteria, is my assumption.
However, my wife literally pours bleach down the toilet so I wonder if that
kills the good bacteria?
Seems like it's almost nothing so I would agree with your decision to get
the garbage disposal, if for no other reason than to chop up stuff so that
it doesn't clog the pipes.
Plus, I think, chopping it up makes the bacteria eat it faster.
But that assumes the bacteria eat it, which is my assumption, where I
assume that food gets so eaten up that it disappears in the septic system
with the water leaking out (once the bacteria digest the food to glop).
Now you're thinking like I think.
It's my assumption that you shouldn't even have to clean it out ever.
This is my second septic system (two houses in twenty years) and I've never
once had it cleaned out. I'm told it will let me know if it wants to be
cleaned out, by the smell if not the ooze, and I've just never had either.
As I said, I've been here a decade and I don't even know where my septic
system is, it's been that trouble free.
I think a garbage disposal is only a good thing with no drawback other than
it takes up some room under the sink. I suggest you put it in the bigger
basin if you have two sinks (mine is in the smaller basin but my wife cuts
up food in the bigger basin so I constantly have to dig out her scraps).
My recommendation is 3/4 HP but that may be too big for your cabinet.
But, I must repeat, I am just guessing as I've never had a problem with
mine but I have more bathrooms than people and anything that fits in my
hand goes in the compost heap and not down the drain.
I'm sure I'm naive, but I don't see what the problem is.
If it clogs, it gets pumped.
If it doesn't clog, it doesn't get pumped.
Where is the costly mistake?
I saw above that the "drain field gets clogged" which I find impossible to
consider. At least where I live it seems to be impossible since it's
utterly vast (acres upon acres).
I realize I'm naive so I just want to ask this question.
How on earth does a "drain field get clogged"?
In a perfect septic tank world, the only thing that goes out into the
field itself is liquid - dirty, nasty smelling, bacteria laden water!
The septic tank is a settling tank. Solids and semi-solids break down
there over time, become more liquid and move out to the field. That
which doesn't break down settles to the bottom as sludge. As that
builds up, if it's not removed, then solids make their way into the
drain field and plug up the system. That becomes a major PITA and $$$$
to repair, replace.
So, if you don't clean out the sludge in the septic tank in a timely
fashion, you are making a costly mistake if it causes the field to fail.
Follow the plumber's or PE's recommendation for pumping out the tank
until you get a handle on how often cleaning is required. Each
household is different. My wife regularly tosses packages of yeast into
the toilet and flushes away.
The first time we pumped the tank (1500 gallon oversized by our
request), there was less than 7" of sludge buildup even though we went
about two years beyond the recommendation. We've now been in the home,
raised two children and now entertain them and three grandchildren from
time to time and the system will be 42 years old this summer when we
pump it out for the 4th time. Septic tank cleaner has never found more
than 16" of sludge in the tank.
Thu, 5 Jan 2017 21:21:41 -0600, Unquestionably Confused responded:
That's what I'm thinking, which is only gooey black smelly liquid leaches
out of the septic tank, in which case that's what the tons upon tons upon
tons of soil are supposed to filter from any potable water supply.
I think code here is 100 feet from a potable water supply, which is nothing
whatsoever when there are acres involved.
That's what I was thinking which is that solids eventually turn into
liquidy goop, which follows the water out into the filtration field.
I wasn't accounting for this insoluble sludge stuff. I've actually toured a
sewage treatment plant where they have huge 30-foot diameter rollers which
squeeze out the sewage and what cakes off the rollers is basically dried
insoluble sludge but this is an active sewage treatment plant which is
different than a passive septic system.
So the question becomes how much insoluble sludge is there and how long
does it take for that sludge to fill up a septic system?
I think there's a difficult argument there, because if they are truly
insoluble sludge, then they'll either float or sink. If they sink, they
will just stay on the bottom of the septic system, won't they?
If they are so deep that they fill up the septic tank with insoluble
sludge, then sure, they'll need to be pumped out.
Now you're intimating that they're semi-solid and that they float and that
they kind of clog up all the dirt just outside the septic system. I can see
this as being a problem, if it happens, since you have to basically remove
it like they did the Love Canal dumpings.
But is a septic system really that prone to clogging the leach field?
I can see that if the field fails, then that's it for the field. You
basically have to dig it out as there's no such thing as reverse flushing
it back into the septic system.
Searching, I see it's called "soakaway bed failure" and, apparently only
about half the solids that go into the septic system leach out:
OK. So it's worse than I had thought.
I understand that she's inoculating the septic system, but I would guess
that feces inoculates it plenty already.
I guess I need to start looking for a septic system cleaner guy.
It seems they can't tell if it's sludged up without pumping.
I have no idea how big my septic system is, but they do that stuff by
number of bathrooms where I have 5 so it's probably in the local code.
Pretty sure that is the requirement here (northern Illinois) and
elsewhere per code.
That is, and forever shall be, the $64,000 question.
"Sink or swim" for sure. There are baffle plates in the septic tank
itself which, I think, tend to prevent the migration of that s**t which
floats on the surface from migrating into the field. Obviously, if I
were to suddenly dump 500 gallons of water into my system all at once,
most likely that which floats would fly out into the field and I'd be up
the proverbial creek. ;)
That's what I think as well, but she's not referred to as SWMBO for
When we've had ours pumped, the first thing the guy does is stick a long
pole into the tank, straight down, and then slowly withdraw it like an
oil dipstick on the car.
When we built in 1974, I had the system designed by a professional
engineer (required) and the plans filed with the county who confirmed it
met code. Presumably the plans for it and the house were archived so
you may have access that way. Regardless, if the system was permitted
by the local authority, you would be safe in assuming that the code
minimum was observed. In our case, I think the PE specified a 1,000 or
maybe 1,200 gallon tank. I upped it to 1,500 against a possible
addition to the house and other consideration not germane to this
On Fri, 6 Jan 2017 02:08:43 +0000 (UTC), Lacopo Ferrari
The traditional drain field has perforated pipe feeding it and the
perforations plug up or the gravel right outside the holes gets
slugged with sludge. Then the crud starts backing up in the pipes.
When I rebuilt mine I used a chamber system so you do not have the
As for the paper, cellulose does not break down as fast as poop. Some
brands are worse than others.
On Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 9:08:49 PM UTC-5, Lacopo Ferrari wrote:
I guess if you have a rental unit, or kids, or adults who are
clueless, they could flush an upstairs toilet 10 times and
have it coming out as a flood downstairs. Or pull the plug
on a bathtub upstairs, etc.
I can assure you that your drain field is not acres upon acres.
The drain field is the area right after the tank where perforated
drain pipe is laid and it's typically a small fraction of an acre.
How large it needs to be depends on the percolation of the soil,
but I've never heard of one that is anywhere near an acre for a home.
Fri, 6 Jan 2017 07:10:59 -0800 (PST), trader_4 responded:
I probably misled you by mistake by saying it's acres.
What I mean is that there is a drain field.
And there are acres of property.
As you can imagine, I would have no idea how large the drain field is, and
I agree with you that it's just the area around the leach field as per
whatever code was in the 1990s when the house was built for the number of
bathrooms it has.
All I can say is:
a. Now I'm sensitized to the fact that it needs to be periodically pumped
b. The $64 question is when.
I think, to my advantage on the when, we have fewer people than bathrooms
(kids are all in college or beyond by now) and we never throw anything but
TP in the toilet and nothing goes down the sink (since we compost
everything that is food that is not eaten).
I think, from what I read about septic systems, even the feces has to
eventually be pumped out as "sludge" though. Is that right? If so, then it
goes against the "if you didn't eat it, it has to be pumped out" mantra.
On Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 2:29:17 PM UTC-5, Lacopo Ferrari wrote:
And that's how the OP intends to use it. I'd make a tenant pay if
they continually clogged the drain with egg shells after being
told not to put them down it. The only thing that goes down mine
are the remaining scraps of food after I've put all the bigger
pieces into the trash.
I'm on town sewer but do the same. Makes no sense to put compostable
stuff down the drain, especially egg shells. They can be used in the
garden but can just go in the trash with no odor or side effects.
YOu should try not to put anything in the tank that has not been ran
through a person. Idon't see why you have to have the tank pumped very
often. Maybe too many chemicals.
If you are going to have it pumped every year or two, then I don't think
it will matter what you put in the tank.
Just my wife and I are in a house we bought almost 15 years ago that was
about about 15 years old when we bought it. We have never had the tank
pumped, or any problems with it. The washing machine does go to a
seperate outlet so never goes to the tank.
Pumping is mostly for things that do not get consumed by the microbes.
That can be excessive amounts of grease, hair, plastic and most of
all, toilet paper. When I did an addition on my house I needed a
septic inspection so I got to spend some time with the licensed
operator (the guy on the pump truck will not actually have a license
most of the time). He told me a lot about how septic systems work and
what goes wrong with them. He also echoed the advice, you can put
anything you want in a septic system if you eat it first.
He told me you can have a garbage disposal but plan on pumping it a
lot and you still may have trouble.
Thu, 05 Jan 2017 16:34:22 -0500, firstname.lastname@example.org responded:
That was what I was thinking, which is that the only things that aren't
turned to mush are those that the microbes can't digest.
Pretty much that should be plastic, and, that's about it.
What else goes down a toilet, washing machine, shower or sink that microbes
1. Grease (realistically, can only come from the kitchen)
2. Hair (probably mostly comes from the shower)
3. Plastic (shouldn't be there in the first place)
4. Toilet paper (comes from the toilet)
Seems to me that the hair is inevitable, but that it's keratin, which means
I would "think" it would be digested by microbes. Same as toilet paper,
which is cellulose, which microbes can digest, can't they?
Grease shouldn't be there. IMHO
Neither should plastic. IMHO
I dump grease outside in the compost heap.
Depends on what you put into the garbage disposal, I'm sure.
Thu, 05 Jan 2017 13:26:41 -0500, email@example.com responded:
Now that I read two or three articles, I are an expert on septic systems.
"Garbage disposals have a dramatic impact on how often you?ll need to pump
your septic tank. Food particles usually are not digested by the bacteria
and accumulate as scum. If a large amount of water enters the tank, it can
then push the food particles into the drainfield, causing clogging. If you
must use a garbage disposal, your tank will need to be pumped more
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.