How Does a Septic Tank Work?


There is a silent hero when it comes to the functioning of your home. It’s called the septic system. The septic system is what washes away all the nasties and gets rid of them forever–the waste from toilets, dirty shower water, the trash from the disposal. It does this quickly, and efficiently by way of its own little ecosystem. Keep reading to find out more about how septic systems work.

The Basics

A septic system begins inside your home with an intricate system of pipes and ends outside of your home with the drain field. Inside, your plumbing system is the beginning of the septic system. All the waste goes down the drains, through the pipes, and out of your home.

The waste is then transferred to your septic tank which will be located underground somewhere outside of your home on your property. In some cases, the plumbing in homes are attached to a public sewer system. This will be managed by the local public works department. In a septic tank or a sewer system the solid waste is broken down in the over a period of time and the remaining liquid waste is transferred to the next step, the drain field.

The drain field is also sometimes called the leach field. This is a series of underground perforated pipes that allow the waste water from the septic tank to filter down into the ground. After this, nature takes its course. The cycle begins again in your home.

There Are Things Living in the Septic Tank

All septic tanks have live inhabitants but before we go there, let’s talk about how the septic tank works. A septic tank has three layers of waste inside of it. The top layer is the scum layer. This composed of oil, grease, and other types of liquid waste. The second layer is the liquid layer. This is basically water and water-soluble waste. The third layer is the sludge layer. The sludge layer is all the solids that have settled to the bottom and are being decomposed.

The living things in the septic tank are bacteria. This bacteria is what decomposes the solid waste in the septic system. It sounds gross, but the bacteria is essential to the success of the septic system. They are so essential that you can actually buy these microorganisms and add them to your septic tank if you feel that you don’t have enough. The bacteria is great for the septic system but extremely harmful to people. Even catching a big whiff of the scent from the septic system could be enough to make you pass out. This is why it is important to never, under any circumstances, go into a septic tank.

A septic system isn’t extremely complicated, but it is massive and intricate. There are a lot of working parts and a failure of any one of them could mean trouble for the whole system. Now you know how a septic system works so you are that much closer to keeping your septic system running smoothly for your home.