What To Put In A Septic Tank To Break Down Solids?

Thinking about the septic tank is the last thing you want to spend your time doing. Knowing what to put in a septic tank to break down solids may sound strange if you are not familiar with wastewater treatment.

This, however, is among the most important considerations to have in mind as a homeowner. You need to know what to do to avert the problem even before it comes knocking on your door.

A tank is a vital component of the septic system responsible for handling wastewater. The water from the toilet, bathroom, sink, and laundry activities finds its way into the septic tank. The septic tank plays the role of separating solid from liquid waste and breaking down it down.

From the septic tank, the water flows into the drain field, where it is further cleansed and released into the groundwater system through leaching.

A buildup of solid waste in the septic tank will cause it to malfunction. Solid waste accumulation occurs when the tank is not pumped after a long time. Perhaps you have such a problem and are wondering what to put in a septic tank to break down solids. [1]

The solid component of waste, as well as grease and oil that floats on the surface, need to be removed, treated, and disposed of properly. Its removal creates room for more waste, allowing the system to continue operating optimally.

How Will You Know That The Septic Tank Is Full Of Solids?

septic tank outlet filter

Some homeowners have to deal with a septic tank full of solids. The septic tank is supposed to work by breaking down solid waste. Within an appropriately functioning septic tank, there exist naturally occurring bacteria that consume and dissolve solid waste. If the bacteria are performing their role correctly, the tank will function well and won’t give you any trouble. [2]

After digestion of solids, liquid wastewater flows out of the tank into the leach field. The field facilitates the leaching of the water through gravel, sand, and soil into the ground. In some instances, the bacteria fail in their role of digesting solid waste due to a number of reasons.

When this happens, the accumulation of solids in the septic tank occurs and causes the system to malfunction. A septic tank full of solids spells disaster for the homeowner. For one, the solids will clog the pipes delivering water in and out of the tank. A clogged pipe will slow down the flow of waste.

And the problem may not just be in one pipe alone. Several drains become affected and, in the worst-case scenario, the entire system.

The second indicator of a septic tank full of solids is a foul smell emanating from the toilet sink, septic tank, or the drain field. If you notice a terrible odor in any of these areas, it is an indicator that the tank has started filling up.

Consider addressing the problem early enough so that the build of harmful gases does not render your house uncomfortable to live in.

The third way to tell if your septic tank is full of solids is when you notice water pooling near the septic tank or drain field. Drain field pipes are intended to release water into the leach field. They are not built for handling solids. However, when solid waste fills the septic tank, the sludge moves into the pipes and blocks them. Thus, water stops flowing into the field through pipes and collects in pools around the septic tank.

Causes Of Solid Waste Accumulation In Septic Tank


A functioning septic tank should be able to break down solids and keep the system flowing. Accumulation of solids in the tank could be caused by a number of factors. First, the use and release of inorganic substances down the drain contaminates the bacteria ecosystem and makes it hard for them to work.

Septic system bacteria only digest organic waste. Deposition of indigestible inorganic chemicals, therefore, interferes with bacteria activity and causes the tank to fill up very fast.

Secondly, harmful chemical compounds used in the kitchen, bathroom, and cleaning rooms typically find their way into the septic tank. These chemicals kill the bacteria in the tank. Strong acids, alkalis, hair, and washing products make the septic environment too toxic for helpful bacteria. Instead of solid waste being digested, it accumulates and fills the tank. [3]

The third cause is the low capacity of the septic system itself. If too many people live in a house with a system designed to handle a smaller waste load, solid accumulation is bound to occur. The same is also true for households that misuse the system through excessive flushing, flushing solids not intended for the drain, and so on.

How To Break Down Solids In A Septic Tank

Now that we have looked at the causes of a septic tank full of solids let us now consider what to put in a septic tank to break down solids. You don’t want to have to deal with the mess caused by the accumulation of solids in the septic tank. It is disgusting, produces a foul odor, and may also present a perfect breeding ground for disease-causing germs.

This is the reason why you have to take action as soon as possible to prevent further issues. Sometimes you need the help of additional substances added to the septic tank to aid in digestion. These are referred to as septic additives.

What to put in a septic tank to break down solids

You need to understand the different approaches to breaking down solids in septic tanks. Two methods are considered here. The first approach has to do with the use of additives. The second approach deals with the manual breakdown of solids in the septic tank.

Manual Break Down Of Solids

  1. Septic stirring: Septic stirring is where you attempt to break down solid waste into smaller pieces by stirring the sludge with a long stick or tool. This method is only effective for small tanks or where the buildup is not heavy. It is carried out to prevent solid waste from settling at the bottom of the tank.
  2. Backflushing: Backflushing is where the wastewater is sucked into a wet vacuum and flushed back into the tank. The force of the pumped water forces some of the solid waste within it to break down. This approach makes use of special equipment that may require a professional to operate.
  3. Pumping: Pumping is an effective way of getting rid of solid waste accumulated in the system. However much you might try to maintain the septic system, it will eventually fill up and need to be pumped. Pumping gets rid of accumulated waste to take it elsewhere for disposal. The tank should be pumped once every three to five years to keep it working well.

Use Of Additives

You may be asking yourself what to put in a septic tank to break down solids. Additives are chemical or biological substances added to the septic tank to aid in digesting solid waste. The choice of which additive to use depends on factors like its effectiveness, environmental impact, and cost.

Do septic additives really work?

Some additives work well, while others do not achieve the desired results. Many septic additives have been found to affect the septic ecosystem negatively, and their use has been discouraged or even banned. Their use causes contamination and degradation of the solid and groundwater systems.

It is essential to consider the type of additive and their impact before using them to treat your septic tank. Septic additives are categorized into inorganic alkalis and acids, organic solvents, hydrogen peroxide, and biological additives.

  • Inorganic alkalis and acids: These are considered inappropriate for septic systems. Although they are effective at clearing any clog in the tank and pipes, compounds like lye and sulphuric acid render the septic environment unsuitable for bacterial action. This means that digestion of solid waste will not take place, leading to further complications. The additives are also very corrosive, meaning they can weaken and destroy pipes and tank walls.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: The compound was trendy in the past for treating clogged septic tanks. It was popularity was due to the fact that it did not unduly harm the bacteria ecosystem when diluted appropriately. But scientific studies have associated the chemical with soil degradation and loss of viability of the drain field. Hydrogen peroxide has been found to lower the capacity of the leach field to absorb and filter wastewater, making it unsuitable for extended use [4].
  • Organic solvents: These include products like trichloroethylene and methylene chloride. They are very effective in dealing with accumulated grease, fats, and oils in the septic tank. Their downside is that they also break down the helpful bacteria necessary for digesting organic waste.

Additionally, organic solvents do not readily decompose. After breaking down the solid waste, they seep into groundwater and cause severe damage to the ecology. This is why some governments have banned the use of such products for septic tank cleaning and treatment.

  • Biological additives: Biological additives are the best septic tank enzymes in terms of what to put in a septic tank to break down solids. They are the only additives acceptable by most jurisdictions. They are natural, do not harm the bacterial ecosystem, and enhance the safety of the leach field and groundwater system as well.

Bacterial additives increase the population of bacteria in the tank and add particular enzymes for digesting the fiber and accumulated scum. They are grouped into bacteria and enzyme cultures. To use them, you buy and flush them down the toilet. [5]

Perhaps you would want to consider homemade remedies for breaking down solids in the septic tank. If you are concerned about environmental conservation, you should consider yeast as one of the solutions to your problem. Yeast is one of the best septic tank enzymes ever. It works effectively and is very cheap to acquire and add to your septic tank. Below is a septic tank yeast recipe for a natural homemade solution to septic solid waste accumulation. The combination of yeast and sugar works perfectly in getting the tank working correctly again.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of baker’s yeast
  • 5 cups of warm water.

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in water. Empty the mixture into a toilet bowl and flush it. Ensure that the bowl does not contain bleach. It would be better if you carried this out during the night to allow the yeast to work before there is a need to flush again [6].

Maintaining Your Septic Tank


It might be that you now know what to put in a septic tank to break down solids. But the best defense against the accumulation of such solids in the first place is proper care and maintenance of the septic tank. The methods to accomplish this are simple enough, but they require effort and deliberate action on your side. Additional tips for the care of your septic tank include:

  1. Avoid flushing greasy, oily, or fatty substances down the septic drain. It might be the easiest way to get rid of them, but you will have to deal with them sooner or later.
  2. Do not allow any substance apart from toilet paper and human waste to be flushed down the toilet. Items like baby diapers, paper towels, wipers, etc., should be disposed of elsewhere.
  3. Carry out regular servicing of your septic tank. This might mean pumping it at the recommended time intervals.

Bottom Line

Septic tank additives, especially of the biological variety, can be helpful in breaking down the solids accumulated in the tank. Other additives, though effective, have disadvantages that render their use improper. Sometimes you have to resort to pumping to get rid of solid waste and keep the septic tank flowing again.

Ultimately, it depends on how much attention you have been giving your septic system. A homeowner who takes proper care of the system won’t need to worry about what to put in a septic tank to break down solids.