Tips for Avoiding Septic Backups Caused by COVID-19

Tips for Avoiding Septic Backups Caused by COVID-19


As a result of COVID-19, people are spending more time at home. Kids are out of school. Parents are working from home. More cleaners are being used in homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Rather than purchasing services, people are opting to tackle projects DIY-style at home, from bathing the dog to coloring their own hair. With more people in the house that means a steady stream of showering, dishwashing and laundering. Then on top of that, there’s ALL THAT TOILET PAPER that flew off of store shelves a few weeks ago. It’s now being flushed into septic systems everywhere.

We are experiencing an increased number of service calls due to septic pump alarms and wastewater backup and expect to see these issues continue to increase as more people begin to act on local, state and federal recommendations. We have added staff to help respond to your needs in a timely fashion, but also want to provide you with tips that will help you avoid septic issues in the first place.

When a system fails, it can contaminate nearby water sources including private wells for drinking water, as wells as streams, rivers and lakes. On top of that, a septic system backup in your home is not what you need when everyone is in the home due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Don’t let this pandemic result in septic system health risks or woes. Follow these tips below to keep your system working properly.


  • Use septic-safe cleaners when possible, including vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, borax and salt. We’re all hyper-focused on cleanliness right now and while the use antibacterial soaps, antibacterial cleaners, bleach, ammonia and disinfectants are generally safe in minimal amounts, with more frequent cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are seeing problems develop. The natural bacteria that forms in a septic tank is a key component that works to break down solids. A properly functioning tank removes pollutants such as phosphorus, nitrogen and the disease-causing bacteria found in household wastewater, but when the natural chemistry in the tank is interrupted by cleaning chemicals, the treatment of the wastewater is impeded and this can result in groundwater contamination. The contamination can pose a threat to drinking water, especially the water in nearby wells. Drain cleaners can also disrupt the system’s chemistry.
  • Manage or postpone water usage. More people home means more water use. Stagger things like bathing, dishwashing and laundry. Think about the impact of water usage. People are going DIY on services they typically pay others to do like haircuts and colors. These activities can add to water usage.
  • Only flush poo, pee and TP. Do not put the following in toilets, sinks or showers: wipes (even “flushable” wipes), feminine hygiene products, dental floss, cigarettes, condoms, cooking grease or oils, coffee grounds, pharmaceuticals, gasoline, paint thinner or other harmful chemicals.
  • Limit or eliminate garbage disposal use. Material that goes down the disposal adds to the sludge and solids that take up space in your tank. It can also stop up your tank’s filter, and if that happens, wastewater can’t leave the tank and backs up. Compost food waste or put it in the trash.
  • Teach children about conservation. If you stocked up on toilet paper amid COVID-19 concerns, your kids may see those rolls as an endless supply. Help them understand how much TP is enough. Let them know if you need them to turn off the faucet as they sing happy birthday twice while washing their hands.
  • Have your tank pumped, if it’s due. Septic tanks should be pumped every 3 to 5 years. If it’s time for your tank to be pumped, schedule it at a time that’s convenient for you, rather than waiting until a problem occurs.
  • Switch to energy-efficient products. If your appliances are older, they’re likely using more water than new appliances to get the job done. Consider replacing washers and dishwashers with more energy-efficient models. Even switching to an energy-saving showerhead can lessen the load you put on your septic system.