Green Tip #1 - Maintaining Your Septic Tank Without Chemicals

White vinegar and yeast to maintain and treat your septic system
White vinegar and yeast to maintain and treat your septic system | Source

Use dry yeast to keep your septic enzymes happy

Green Tips for Maintaining Your Septic Tank

Once you get to know me and the topics of which I write, you will discover I bring you tips for living green that not only preserve the environment, but save you money. I'm big on "going green" in every sense of the word. So now that you know what I'm about, I'd like to help you with your septic system. And believe you me, they were hard lessons learned!

Once a month, perhaps on the same schedule as replacing your A/C filter, flush the contents of one 1/4 oz packet of active dry yeast down the toilet closest to your main line. The yeast activates enzymes and promotes the "good" bacteria necessary for your septic to eat away what is being deposited in the tank. Dry yeast can be found in the baking section of your grocery store, in the flour isle; usually found on the top shelf.

One 3 packet strip costs about $1.99 (depending on gas prices, that is!). That gives you 3 months of treatment! So, for about $0.66 a month you can keep your septic system operating the way it should, eliminating non-scheduled tank pumps. It is recommended to have your tank pumped every three years. I found that out the hard way, too, never having lived in a home with a septic tank until I moved to Florida and bought my home! Sheesh! Ignorance is definitely NOT bliss!!

Another tip I'd like to share is how to keep your septic mainline clear. Although I use septic safe toilet paper, my bathroom is closest to the mainline and I'm a "wadder", not a "folder"!

After paying my plumber $150 on a weeknight to clear my mainline after my toilet and shower backed up, he gave me this tip:

Once a month (yes, our septic systems insist on our attention at least monthly!), fill a gallon jug with 50% scalding water and 50% white distilled vinegar. Before going to bed, pour the contents down the toilet closest to the mainline and flush. Flush again in the morning. The hot water and vinegar will break loose any blockage and "melt" any grease that may have made it's way through the pipes. (BTW, if you are on septic, do not use your garbage disposal! Throw meat scraps in the garbage can and any vegetable scraps in your compost bin. And never, ever throw grease into the garbage disposal! It is not biodegradable and clogs up the main line!!)

A gallon jug of white distilled vinegar cost roughly $3.49. That gives you 2 months of tender loving care for your mainline!

Please take these tips to heart. I learned them the hard way after spending thousands of dollars on drain field rejuvination, which doesn't work, and mainline replacement. Had I been educated, I could have saved a whole lot of money! I hope these tips prevent you from making the same mistakes as I!



Shauna L Bowling

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© 2011 Shauna L Bowling

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grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

I am definitely bookmarking this one! Great info. I used to buy the enzyme packets from our plumbing supply store, but they are super expensive. This is a much better idea. Thanks for sharing! Voted Up, Useful, Awesome and Interesting. Also shared and pinned. You are a person after my own 'green' heart!

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida Author

Love to hear it, Grandmapearl! So many of our household items can be used for purposes other than the obvious.

Lastheart profile image

Lastheart 3 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

bravewarrior living in Puerto Rico I guess you ought to know that many of us become slaves of our septic tanks. Thanks I am sharing this in facebook.

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bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida Author

Lastheart, septic tanks are such a pain - and an expense! I'm glad this helped and thanx for sharing!

sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

This is so good to know! Living in the country, we havea septic tank too. It has not had any problems yet, but it is always better to maintain something rather than wait for the problem. I will be buying vinegar and yeast at the store tomorrow! Thanks for the great tip! Voted up, useful and pinning! Have a wonderful day! :)

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida Author

Shiela, I'm so glad you found this useful. Septic problems can be quite costly!

wabash annie profile image

wabash annie 3 years ago from Colorado Front Range

Thanks so much for your suggestions. We also have a septic system and have had one since 1964. I buy white vinegar and also yeast in quantities but have not used them as you recommended. I will bookmark this hub so that I can refer to it. Again, thanks for sharing these ideas ... Annie

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida Author

Your so welcome, Annie. So many simple household items (most found in the kitchen) can replace expensive chemicals and cleaners.

kj force profile image

kj force 3 years ago from Florida

bravewarrior..very good advice/well written, especially to those of us who strive to live " green "..Also people sometimes don't realize chemicals can sit in the pipes and cause fumes which back up into the air we breathe and that causes health risks.. I am an advocate for all natural whenever possible not just cleaning, but ingesting ,wearing and applying to the body.. Thank you for addressing this issue...

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida Author

Kj, thank you for bringing HubLife back to this piece. I appreciate your comment and agree with you regarding living green everywhere we can incorporate the lifestyle!

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bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida Author

Thank you Carrie. I'll check out the link you included in your comment.

caryl 3 years ago

Is this for RV's too

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida Author

If your toilets and sinks drain to a septic system, it'll work. It's safer than using chemicals.

CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 2 years ago

This makes total sense. We have a septic system too and it's a pain to dig it up. It's expensive to have someone come out to clean it out. I would have never thought such an easy and inexpensive ingredient would keep everything good. Amazing!

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida Author

Use the yeast packets, Crafty. You'll save money - trust me - I learned the hard way! Do the vinegar trick, too. It works!

Karlena 2 years ago

Thanks for posting this! We live out in the country with a well and septic and I've been wondering what to use for our septic. I've made our household a GREEN household, so this is perfect.

I'm doing the H2O & Vinegar tonight and the yeast tomorrow!

Thanks again :)

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida Author

Awesome, Karlena. You only need to do each treatment once a month. The vinegar and water doesn't really need to be done monthly unless you experience backups. Also be sure to use septic safe toilet paper. Angel Soft is septic safe. Be sure to read the labels. A lot of off-brands are also septic safe and will state such on the packaging.

I'm so pleased I was able to help you with this post!

Yeast!? 2 years ago

Yeast is a fungi, not bacteria. Bacteria is what makes the septic system/septic tank work. It's the same bacteria that works in the human stomach & intestine. You don't need to add anything to your septic tank to make it work. Chemicals & grease can damage the bacteria that already live there, so be aware of what you're putting down your drain and don't overdo with bleach, grease, or other household chemicals. If your tank doesn't need to be pumped any sooner than 5 years then it's working perfectly. The less chemicals & grease you put down the drain the longer your tank can go without needing to be pumped.

Also, waste water from the washing machine can & will cause problems in your field line due to the amount of unnatural materials found in modern clothes. These minute fibers are so small they don't sink to the bottom of the tank, they float. Fibers from polyester or nylon for instance will clog up the perforated holes in your field lines and plug up the pores in your drain soil, which in turn will cause your system to back up over time. Even doing many loads of laundry all at once, rather than doing a single load each day, can cause major problems in your septic system - by putting too much water in the tank at a high rate of speed the solids don't get to settle like they are supposed to, which flushes them out into the drain field. A good measure to take is installing a supplemental lint filter on the washing machine, which only takes a few minutes and does not cost a fortune.

Adding yeast to the tank does absolutely nothing to improve tank performance. Big companies like Rid-X love to make people believe they need to add things to the tank for them to work properly, and they've made billions selling these bogus products to the many sheeple in this world. The truth is, you are wasting your time & money to buy these products or to buy yeast for your tank.

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bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida Author

Yeast?, my septic guy told me to use yeast once a month to keep everything moving and breaking down. I do like your suggestion regarding a supplemental filter for the washing machine. Thanx for your input!

Yeast!? 2 years ago

With all due respect, who do you call when your system fails? The septic guys have everything to gain by spreading misinformation. Myths about how to maintain septic tanks are common nationwide, and you'll probably get a different answer from every dozen people you ask. Do your research and you'll find that I'm not misleading you. My father-in-law is a septic guy, and I know most of the tricks. He doesn't charge me to pump my tank, and he does not like pumping tanks for free, so he wants my tank to work right for a very long time. I also live in a very low area so his suggestions on how to handle the washing machine water is so he doesn't need to aerate my soil or pump my tank again any time soon.

Also, septic tanks installed before 1992 are much more likely to cause problems as the earlier tanks did not contain baffles which block surface debris from getting into your field line.

Just like in every other profession there are good people and those whom are not so good and I do believe your septic guy falls into the latter of the two groups, as the advice he's given you benefits nobody but himself, draining your wallet in the process.

There are some good reference sites online that can really be relied on; and I'm not talking comments posted on some site that is designed to let the general public answer questions; I'm talking good people who specialize in septic systems and whom have nothing to lose by giving you good solid info. Sun Plumbing for instance is a good source for good solid info; and no , I'm not affiliated with them in any way, but I know the info posted on their site is 100% accurate.

Hopefully you'll take time to do the research so your readers can be 100% sure that you're not just another link in the misinformation chain that continues to plague this topic. It's not rocket science, it's just basic science and a little common sense.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida Author

Yeast, the guy who told me about yeast is the plumber who used to work for the septic company. His advice was outside of what his previous employer recommends. They had a solution to sell and/or recommended RidX. My plumber gave me natural alternatives in order to save me money and extend the life of the tank between pumps. Frankly, I don't see how something natural can affect the functionality of the tank.

My ex-husband tried diverting the gray water to run outside the house rather than thru the lines to the septic tank. The city I live in came by and fined me, as that's a no-no where I live. I have had no problems with my septic system since the last pump. Yeast activates enzymes which set the good bacteria in motion to break down the solids, much as the good bacteria in compost breaks down the matter in order to create a beneficial soil amendment.

If you don't feel yeast is a viable alternative to chemicals, what do you suggest?

Yeast!? 2 years ago

My suggestions are as natural as they come, use as little chemicals as necessary in the home, don't send grease or fats down the sink, don't use a garbage disposal, spread water usage out when doing laundry, be aware of what you are sending down the pipe and what affect it may have on the bacteria in your tank, and don't add anything to the tank. The bacteria is already present inside our bodies, and when we defecate - that is all that is needed in order for the tank to function properly. Yeast &/or vinegar do not benefit the tank's function at all, it's merely just another way to waste your money. Save your money and use it to have the tank pumped regularly in order to remove the matter that the bacteria will not break down, as that's what fills the tank up over time even when the tank is functioning properly. The tanks are not designed to never be pumped, they are designed to hold particulates in storage while allowing waste water to seep back into the ground; therefore every so often the tank needs to be pumped. If you've been careful of how you take care of your tank then this ill costs you $100-$150 every 5+ years depending on it's size and how many people live in the household. Rid-X costs much more than that, and although yeast & vinegar are cheap, they don't prevent the tank from needing to be pumped.

I am fortunate enough to live in an area where I can divert my larger waste water like washing machine water & bathwater away from my septic tank and leech field, but I know most places will not allow this. This makes the inline filter even more important when you want your septic tank to function longer and you want to avoid paying thousands on repairing the leech field.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida Author

Yeast?, I have recommended what you state via your multiple comments in my post. I agree with most of what you say. However, human waste is full of toxic material. I'm one of few people over the age of 55 who is not on any kind of medication. Everything we humans ingest, runs out the other end. Our waste can and does add toxins to the Earth, whether it be via throw up or urine or poop. At $0.19 per packet of yeast and $2.49 per gallon bottle of vinegar, taking the extra precautions benefit the Earth and our drinking water in the long run.

I really don't understand why you're fighting me. Read the post again. I talk about grease and the use of garbage disposals. That's one fix. Another is negating the toxins we ingest into our bodies that get expelled in pure form.

Yeast. Vinegar. Easy, natural, inexpensive combatants. Tell me. What's wrong with that?

kj force profile image

kj force 2 years ago from Florida

bravewarrior...I just happened to be in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop by. You are so right regarding Rx drugs/chemicals and septic systems. Has anyone looked in the toilet bowl to see the results after just a couple days ? The effect of chemicals on the septic is astounding, it eats all the bacteria that breaks down the solids. You also have to take into consideration the TP you use...not all are septic safe.

I have lived in the country all my life both in the US and abroad and have never experienced any issues with the septic...just like solid garbage, we need to separate and recycle, to save this planet and insure there is a future...

I commend you bravewarrior for standing up for your convictions...and taking the time to share this info with the world. voted up ...want to remove an odor from your drains ?

baking soda/vinegar/lemon..cuts the soap residue also.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida Author

Kj, thanx for your comment. Yes, baking soda/vinegar and lemon are great for removing odors. I also use vinegar to kill weeds rather than use chemicals.

And yes, septic safe TP is so important. If it's not stated so on the packaging, I don't buy it.

Thanx for 'being in the neighborhood' and backing me up on this one!

jbabeabbott profile image

jbabeabbott 2 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

I am tired of having to use a plumber to fix problems with my septic tank. Plumbers can be costly, so I have been searching for new ways to clean my septic tank myself. I am glad you have found an easy way to do it with items around the house. This was of great help to me.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 22 months ago from Central Florida Author

Jbabeabbott, you'll still have to have your tank pumped every three years or so, but the methods I mentioned here will keep it working properly.

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bravewarrior 22 months ago from Central Florida Author

Sergio, yeast expands when activated with liquid. And it's cheap. Much cheaper than calling in a plumber to take care of backups!

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bravewarrior 21 months ago from Central Florida Author

Ted, if you need to install a new tank, you have more of a problem than backups and proper maintenance.

Hawkdriver 18 months ago

The septic service that is here trying to repair my drain field said not put anything in your septic system. Additives cause the "cake" that floats on top of the water in your tank to rain down particles through the clear water level which end up flowing out into your drain field. He recommended that since I have a small tank to have it pumped once a year, but otherwise leave it alone.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 18 months ago from Central Florida Author

Hawkdriver, yeast is a natural substance. When activated it helps the enzymes in the tank break down the waste. I only have to have my tank pumped once every three years. It was my septic guy who told me to use dry yeast rather than RidX, which is a chemical.

I also don't use bleach in my laundry or for cleaning either, as it kills the good bacteria in the tank. I use baking soda instead.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 18 months ago from Central Florida Author

Mac, I'm not sure I follow you. Are you saying you put cheddar cheese in your septic tank? Is a cesspit the same thing? How is the cheddar cheese supposed to help the tank do its job? I'd love to know. (Apparently, the "h" on your keyboard is missing or stuck).

Ryan Harris 14 months ago

Best recipe iVe read Is: 1 of the small packets of baking yeast, 2 cups brown sugar, pour this into 1 quart very warm water stir until disolved. Mix before retiring to bed pour into toilet and flush. Way cheaper than Rid-X that is $10 a box now.

By the way a civil engineer once said that our poo is all the bacteria that Our septic tank needs, just have a pro come and pump it out at regular intervals (about every five years at least) and it'll be running great for a long time. I hope this helps. (:

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 14 months ago from Central Florida Author

Ryan I use dry yeast without the brown sugar. I simply pour the packet in the toilet and flush.

Theresa 13 months ago

TY Bravewarrior for your blogs, I will definitely be back! I purchased a log home on 8 heavily wooded acres in the middle of nowheres-ville TN. Which is on a septic, I have been using the chemicals monthly packets which were recommended to me. But I'm going your way. Although I am flying solo 3 weeks out of the month, my question is can I do this every 2-3 months instead of every month? Thanks again....

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bravewarrior 13 months ago from Central Florida Author

Theresa, sometimes I forget to drop the yeast in the toilet each month. It's better for the tank to treat it monthly, but a miss here and there won't hurt. The dry yeast goes in the toilet tank, not the septic tank. Well, it does by way of toilet. Flying solo shouldn't get in the way of opening a packet of dry yeast and flushing it down the toilet.

I'm glad you found this useful. Thanks for commenting!

Mary Ann 7 months ago

My husband always threw a fish in the septic tank. Been here over 30 years, never had a problem.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 7 months ago from Central Florida Author

A live fish? What does fish do for the tank?

kj force profile image

kj force 7 months ago from Florida

bravewarrior...I forgot to favororit trick..Put Baking Soda in your laundry wash loads ( remove s soap residue/odors ) also you can use white vinegar+ BS in bathroom and kitchen sinks..keeps drains open and removes soap scum that emits rotten egg smell.

white vinegar +h2o in a spray bottle removes odors from sports equipmemt ( football,Lacrosse, etc )

the vinegar smell fades when can also use it when working in the yard to repel bugs...

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 7 months ago from Central Florida Author

Thank you kj. I know about the many uses for baking soda and vinegar. I wrote another green tip about that as well.

You have to be careful when using vinegar in the yard. I use it to kill grass and weeds that grow in the cracks of my driveway. Much better than using chemicals, but it will kill whatever it touches, so I wouldn't use it in plant beds.

Blue 7 months ago

Yeast absolutely works. I found this out a few years back while living in a jungle bungalow in Costa Rica. With a landlord who lived in the states and was usually not easy to teach and the lack of a reliable plumber nearby, we were given this tip by one of the our septic system became sluggish. I can't tell you how grateful we were a backed up septic system at 100 degrees in high rain forest humidity is not anyone's idea of fun. We lived in that bungalow for a year and a half after we found this out and used the yeast periodically and never had a problem after that first disturbing experience.

So now...I live in remote Idaho with a well and septic system and for the past couple of months I've been hearing this awful glug glug sound going through the pipes when we drained our bath tub. I didn't think it had always done this but I still started to wonder if we had made some serious mistake when we plumbed our little homestead a year ago. This morning I had an aha moment as I tried to think about any other vicarious plumbing situations we've faced. I dumped a couple tablespoons of yeast down the toilet and 8 hours later, sure enough, I just drained the tub and the glug sound is gone. Thanks for the tip on the septic safe tp will have to keep that in mind going forward as well.

Blue 7 months ago

Hmmm sorry there were a few typos in my previous post...our landlord for the place in Costa Rica was not easy to reach, didn't ever feel the need to try to teach her. Also the tip about the yeast for the septic system came from one of the locals. Thanks hope that makes sense now.

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bravewarrior 7 months ago from Central Florida Author

Blue, you've led an interesting life!

I'd never lived in a home with septic before I bought my house in 1995. I was totally ignorant to the entire concept and assumed we were on city sewer. I didn't know septic tanks need to be pumped periodically. It was about 10 years after moving in that I had to have it pumped. The tank was completely full and what was inside looked like dirt. Let's just say I became better educated after that (and several more septic problems).

Maintaining the system is crucial, but I don't like using the chemicals that are on the market. Yeast serves the same purpose, is kinder to the environment, and is super cheap. Flushing hot vinegar water down the toilet nearest to the tank periodically will keep the pipes clear as well.

I'm glad to hear the yeast trick worked for your bubbling bath problem. It could have gotten ugly. Literally!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. And don't worry about typos. It happens to the best of us!

Patty Haber 5 months ago

Hi! I just stumbled across thus article because I vaguely remember hearing about the yeast trick years ago, but just bought my first house and went looking for cheap and green. Sooo...thank you!! A question that might have been asked 100 times, but I didn't see it so here is 101. Can you do these 2 tricks at the same time or if not, how much time in between? Thanks again!

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bravewarrior 5 months ago from Central Florida Author

Patty, since the yeast should sit in the toilet overnight before flushing, I wouldn't do the two together. The yeast treatment is to keep the tank operating properly, while the vinegar/hot water is to keep the main line free of debris that may get hung up and cause a backup. Applying each treatment within a day of each other should be fine.

I'm glad you found this article useful. Congratulations on becoming a homeowner!

knameerf 4 months ago

Been in our home out in the sticks since 1990, never have had the sewer tank pumped... think it to be a 1000 gallon system... washing machine water might be the key here as it does not feed the tank/system... bath water does... I've used ridX but not very faithfully and thought about using something less costly will pass as I think Yeast's!? may have something here... jokingly tease our city friends that are cautious about using one ply, and like coming to the house to play games and have to use our bathrooms it seems like a lot, and state how they love the two ply… thought about charging them for usage :-)… 10cents… anyway… it is just the wife and I now, so it’s not like the house if full of teens…

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bravewarrior 4 months ago from Central Florida Author

Wow, you've never had your tank pumped??? Good for you!

Try the yeast. It's way cheaper and much more environmentally friendly.

Sandria Warne 3 months ago

Amazing article!! We have just installed a septic tank at our home. We got it installed from now i wanted to know how to maintain the septic tank and how to keep it clean. I found your post very helpful thanks for posting!!

shaywess 4 weeks ago

Our septic guy recommended Brewers yeast ONLY. He said baking yeast will not dissolve and will cake up in the tank?? We are having an issue with a terrible smell coming from our system (or could be a neighbors) and we have just had the tank pumped and new (very expensive) sealed lids put on hoping to get rid of the smell but no go:( Our septic guy says it could be coming from our roof vent pipes and to try flushing a large amount of Brewers yeast and wait a week and see if that helps. brewers yeast is expensive too!

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 weeks ago from Central Florida Author

Sandra, you're very welcome. I hope that by including the link in your comment you're not phishing for them.

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bravewarrior 4 weeks ago from Central Florida Author

Shaywess, I use bakers yeast and haven't had a problem with it. I put it in the toilet closest to the mainline, flush and don't use the toilet until the next morning. It doesn't cake up the tank and of course it dissolves. How else could you use it in baking if it didn't?

Could your drain field be the source the odor you smell?

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