Preparing your septic tank for Christmas

Many septic tanks and sewage treatment plants fail during or shortly after the Christmas period, just when you are relying on them to work efficiently.

The reasons for the failure are as follows:

  • Increased water consumption due to
    • Visitors and relatives coming to stay, extra bathing, toilet use
    • Extra Washing - bedding, etc.
    • Extra Cooking, vegetable preparation, washing-up
    • Extra Cleaning - giving the house a spring clean before the relatives arrive
  • Increased amount of fats entering the system from
    • Greasy food, the Christmas goose, roast potatoes, etc.
    • Extra soap being used - it is made from fats
  • Lower temperatures
    • Bacteria in the septic tank or sewage treatment plant are most efficient at 35°C. As the temperature decreases, so does their efficiency at breaking down sewage.
    • Soil may freeze, reducing the absorbancy of the soakaway
    • Fats in the sewage solidify more quickly, often in the drains before they reach the septic tank. This can block them.
  • Wetter ground
    • This reduces the soils absorbancy in the soakaway
  • Chemical use
    • All those cleaning products are made of chemicals that kill septic tank and sewage treatment plant bacteria.
    • You may add 'toilet blocks' to make the loo nicer for visitors - these kill bacteria, including those in your septic tank 

How to prevent septic tank and sewage treatment plant problems at Christmas and in the winter in general

  • Be extra careful with water use during the winter months, shorter showers, smaller baths, etc.
  • Fix any dripping taps and leaking toilet valves before winter.
  • Make sure that no roof water or surface water (manhole covers should be higher than any puddles) enters the system.
  • Buy a set of draining rods before the holidays or put them on your Christmas 'wish list'. They are invaluable to anyone with a private drainage system and can save you a fortune when drains are blocked.
  • Fill a plastic bottle with water and put it in the toilet cistern (where it doesn't interfere with the 'flush' mechanism). This will reduce the volume of water per flush.
  • Have your septic tank emptied just before the visitors arrive. This gives the soakaway a breathing space to drain away completely.
  • Spread the washing out, using FULL loads, over a period of days - don't have a 'washing day'.
  • Look at the labels. Only choose eco-friendly cleaning products. Anything that says 'ANTIBACTERIAL' on the label will kill your septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
  • Do the hand washing up, particulaly the greasy items, in a bowl and throw the water on the garden. It won't harm your plants.
  • Use air fresheners in the bathroom, not loo blocks.
  • If you do get a fat blockage in the drains, DO NOT use drain cleaning products as they are death to the septic tank or treatment plant. Use draining rods instead or call in the professionals.

If you follow the advice above, you should have a healthy septic tank or sewage treatment plant during the winter months.