What Will Destroy a Septic Tank: Avoid These Common Pitfalls

Septic tanks are essential for homes not connected to a municipal sewer system, effectively managing and treating household wastewater. However, improper use and maintenance can lead to severe damage. Here’s a guide to what can destroy a septic tank, ruining its functionality and causing costly repairs, according to WM Plumbing.

  1. Flushing Inappropriate Items

One of the most common ways to ruin a septic tank is by flushing non-biodegradable items. Products like sanitary napkins, diapers, wipes, and cotton balls do not decompose and can block pipes or fill up the tank, leading to backups and overflows. Even so-called “flushable” wipes should be avoided as they don’t break down easily.

  1. Overloading the System with Water

Excessive water usage can overwhelm a septic system. High volumes of water from multiple long showers, laundry loads, or running taps can flood the tank, preventing solids from settling and leading to system failure. Install water-saving fixtures and spread out laundry loads to avoid this problem.

  1. Using Harsh Chemicals

Pouring strong chemicals like bleach, paint, or solvents down the drain can kill the beneficial bacteria in the septic tank that break down waste. Without these bacteria, the system cannot function properly, leading to a buildup of solids and eventual system failure. Opt for septic-safe cleaning products and dispose of hazardous chemicals properly.

  1. Ignoring Routine Maintenance

Routine maintenance is critical for the health of a septic tank. Failing to have the tank pumped regularly to remove sludge and scum can cause these materials to clog the drain field or back up into the house. WM Plumbing recommends having your septic tank inspected and pumped every 3 to 5 years, depending on usage.

  1. Planting Trees Too Close

Tree roots are naturally drawn to sources of water, and your septic tank and drain field are prime targets. Planting trees or shrubs too close to your septic system can result in roots penetrating and damaging pipes, leading to leaks, blockages, and system failure. Maintain a safe distance between vegetation and your septic components.

  1. Driving or Parking Over the System

Septic tanks and drain fields are not designed to support the weight of vehicles. Driving or parking over these areas can compact the soil, crush pipes, and damage the tank, leading to expensive repairs or replacement. Designate parking areas away from the septic system to avoid this issue.

  1. Neglecting Drain Field Care

The drain field is a critical component of your septic system, and it needs to be cared for just as much as the tank itself. Avoid excessive water use, do not build over or pave the area, and prevent roots from trees and shrubs from invading. Properly maintaining the drain field ensures the system can effectively filter and disperse effluent.


Preventing damage to your septic tank involves mindful usage, regular maintenance, and careful planning around your property. By understanding what can destroy a septic tank and taking proactive measures, you can ensure your system remains functional and efficient for years to come. For more detailed advice and professional assistance, consult experts like WM Plumbing, who specialize in septic system care and maintenance.

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