Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Caring for your Septic This Winter

Winter home with septic system

Winter adds unique challenges for your septic system, and caring for your septic as temperatures dip below freezing can keep your system functioning properly and help avoid a catastrophic failure. So don’t let Jack Frost get the best of you. Follow these tips below for peace of mind this winter.

1. “Winterize” Your Septic System

One of the best ways to give your septic system a boost this season is by winterizing it before the harsh winter months settle in. We recommend fall maintenance tips that go far in readying your septic to endure the harsh winter temperatures, including letting your grass grow longer, cleaning up the debris around your system, repairing any leaks inside the house, and scheduling a routine service visit. If you haven’t yet had the time to perform fall maintenance on your septic system, the good news is there is still plenty of time. In Northeast Ohio, our deep freeze does not usually begin until January, which means you are still able to clean up around the yard and repair any leaks inside your home before they feed into a problem with your septic system. As for scheduling a service visit, we are able to perform routine maintenance visits any time of year and even recommend it during the winter!

2. Aerate the Soil around your Septic System

If the soil surrounding your septic system – particularly your drain field – becomes too dense, water will not be able to pass through it, which will make it very difficult for your drain field to filter effluent into clean groundwater. A clogged drain field may not only lead to contaminated ground water but also catastrophic system failure for your septic. During the winter months, this problem can be exacerbated by compacted snow piling on top of an already strained drain field. Because of this, we recommend aerating your soil before the ground freezes so that your drain field will be able to properly function this winter.

3. Limit Water Usage

We always recommend conserving water as much as you can, but the need for limiting your household’s water usage is even greater in winter when the septic’s bacterium is under additional strain. During this time, it will take longer for solids to break down in your tank, and overwhelming the system with greywater can lead to a backup or overflow. Some simple ways of conserving water this winter include:

  • Staggering major water-heavy chores, like laundry and running the dishwasher, so they do not occur on the same day. Ideally, you’d give your septic system a day of recovery between these chores. Make sure you’re filling your dishwasher and washing machine to capacity rather than running small loads.
  • Taking a quick shower, using only 15 gallons or so of water, rather than a bath, which can use up to 60 gallons!
  • Avoiding unnecessary toilet flushing. Even low-flow toilets flush an average of 1.3 gallons into your septic tank with every flush. If you have a family of four, each using the bathroom 6 or 7 times a day, you’re flushing more than 30 gallons of water into your septic tank each day. You can conserve a lot of water by only flushing when it’s necessary. We like to remind our customers, if it’s yellow let it mellow!
  • Recycling water. One water conservation tip we don’t hear a lot about is the idea of recycling water within your home. For example, when you boil water for pasta, let it cool and use it to water your house plants. Not only does this keep water out of your septic system, but the added nutrients will be great for your plants! When washing dishes, collect the rinse water to use for washing your next sink full of dishes.

4. Educate Guests on Septic Systems

It is the time of year for hosting out-of-town guests, and unless they have septic systems of their own, they are likely unaware of the many items they cannot flush. Be sure to remind your guests not to flush things that won’t easily decompose, including flushable wipes. We recommend posting “Naughty and Nice” lists in the bathroom and kitchen. Particularly because guests may know not to flush certain sanitary items, but they may not be aware that things like coffee grounds, food solids, and greases should be disposed of in the garbage, not down the drain.

Is your septic system ready for winter? Contact us today to schedule a maintenance visit!