About one-fourth of homes in the United States have a septic system. That means approximately 26 million people have septic tanks in place of using city sewer lines.

A septic system handles waste management for homes in rural areas. Rural homes (for various reasons) may not connect to city sewers, and their wastewater can not be treated by municipal treatment centers.

Septic systems are self-contained, so it’s important they work properly. Septic tank problems can become a major issue. That’s why it’s important that you know how to handle a clogged septic line.

Ideally, you’d call someone to handle the issue, but if you’re unable to get professional help, we’ve got a few tips on how to unclog a septic tank. Read on if you’d like to know more.

Clogged Drain vs. Clogged Septic Line

Your septic tank is a reservoir of all your house’s collected wastewater. The tank has a pipe at the top that empties all the water into a drain field (usually next to the septic tank) when the tank becomes full.

If the drain field pipe gets clogged, the tank becomes overfull and you’ll end up with sewage backup. The resulting damage could become a large expense that you don’t want to deal with.

But, before you attempt to handle a clogged septic line, you need to be sure that that’s what the issue is. It could be that you’re dealing with a clogged drain instead.

Clogged Drain vs. Septic Line: What’s the Difference?

The best way to tell if you’re dealing with a clogged drain is how simple the problem is to repair. A clogged (or slow) drain is often fixable by eliminating the plumbing backup inside your house.

A slow or clogged drain usually happens inside the drain-waste-vent system because of how much use it gets on a daily basis. Accumulation of foreign substances in the pipes could also be the culprit.

Symptoms of a Clogged Line

If the clog occurs outside your home, repairing the issue becomes more involved than getting rid of what’s blocking your pipes.

Your septic system is a network of parts working together. If one part isn’t working, the entire system comes to a halt. One sign someone’s got to unclog a septic tank is a clogged baffle.

Septic tanks have two baffles. The inlet baffle’s job is to get wastewater into the tank. The outlet baffle keeps solids separated and out of the drain field.

A clog in the inlet or outlet baffle can slow or stop water drainage. When we said “someone” has got to unclog a blocked baffle, it’s likely not going to be you.

Clogged baffles aren’t fixable with chemical unclogging agents. You’ll need to call a professional for the job.

Pipe Damage and Drainfield Failure

Septic tank problems can also arise from the pipe out of your home into the septic system. This “main sewer line” is not only prone to clogs, but damage like pressure from heavy equipment, root invasion, and earthquakes.

Main sewer lines in older homes are even more susceptible to damage because they’re made of clay. Clay pipes are not made to withstand heavy damage and are very brittle.

It could also be that your drain field is too old or damaged to support your septic system anymore. A septic tank is only built to last about a decade before you need a new drain field built elsewhere on your property.

Damage can occur from too much solid waste clogging the drain field or compaction. Compaction happens when too much weight is constantly crushing down the pipes.

Constant walking, driving, or parking on top of the pipes may lead to compaction.

How to Unclog a Septic Tank

The first thing you can do is try to break assessable clogs apart on your own. Lift the nearest access lid to your home and check if anything is blocking the white (or green) pipe inside. If there is, you may have found your clog.

If there’s septic scum on the end of the inlet pipe, remove it with a long, stick or pole. Make sure you wear gloves while clearing away any clogs. Try to push as much scum away from the pipe as possible to allow water to flow.

If water flows out the pipe, you’ve cleared the clog. The clog may be deeper inside – if it is, poke the pole you’re using as far into the pipe as possible and scrape along the edges.

You should be able to break a clog at the bottom of the pipe apart with the stick. If water flows out, you’ve cleared the blockage.

If water doesn’t flow away from the pipe during your prodding, the blockage is either deeper in or it’s somewhere inaccessible. Once you’re done, put the access cover back on the septic tank.

Make sure you clean the tools you’ve used with bleach and water. Take a shower immediately after you’ve finished to ensure there are no stray bacteria on you.

It’s also important to launder the clothes you were working in during your efforts to unclog the tank.

Call a Professional

You may have expected us to say “call a professional” if you’ve got septic tank problems. You’re not wrong, calling a professional may be the best move.

Even after removing the blockage, the septic system may clog back up immediately afterward. You should contact a septic service team to take care of the issue within five days.

Waiting any longer than five days severely increases the chances of sewage backup into your home. A professional service will empty the tank so you don’t suffer another clogged septic line thanks to scum.

Septic System Need Repair?

It is possible to diagnose and resolve clogged septic lines and drains on your own. A clogged drain can be resolved with chemical unclogging agents. Clogged septic lines, however, may be best handled by professionals.

You can unblock accessible clogs yourself, but it may be easier to let the pros do the job. Luckily, you can contact Master Plumbing for any issues with your septic system.

We offer a 24/7 emergency system and can help with any plumbing issue in Boise and the surrounding Idaho areas. v