The best septic tank treatment
Most homeowners have one of two options when it comes to waste disposal: a municipal sewage system or a private septic tank. Waste flushed into a sewer system is usually carried away to a distant location for processing. The waste flushed into a septic tank, however, stays on the property and is broken down organically. This means the homeowner must be vigilant about septic tank maintenance or else risk clogs, backups or expensive repairs. Using an effective septic tank treatment on a regular basis is a very important part of the maintenance regimen.
Septic tanks allow solid waste to sink to the bottom, where billions of "good" bacteria break it down before sending it out to "leaching fields" for final disposal. Without the proper balance of bacteria in the tank, unprocessed human waste and toilet paper would eventually build up and allow clogs and unpleasant gases to form. A septic tank treatment adds billions of new and active bacteria to the septic tank to restore the proper balance.
If you have a septic tank system and need an effective septic tank treatment, read our helpful shopping guide. At the top of our list is the BioTab for Septic Systems, a powerful monthly tablet that resists the damaging effects of many household cleaning products.
Considerations when choosing septic tank treatments
Septic tank treatments essentially duplicate human digestion, which means a balanced combination of good bacteria and powerful enzymes. The total amount of bacteria in a particular brand of septic tank treatment tends to be a prominent selling point. The numbers should be in the billions, because the treatment is replacing billions of dead or inactive bacteria already in the tank.
Bacteria do not consume processed paper products such as toilet paper, so an ideal treatment will also contain a generous amount of chemical enzymes that break down paper. There are limitations as to what can be safely flushed into a septic tank, because harsh household cleaning chemicals can destroy the good bacteria, and other inorganic materials such as plastic or paper towels will not break down at all.
The general rule when it comes to the addition of a septic tank treatment is once a month, but there are times when additional treatments may be required. Some manufacturers include a calendar or an app that reminds users of the last treatment date. Because most septic tanks need to be professionally pumped every one to three years, this action also needs to be recorded.
Form of treatment
Because septic tank treatments involve the use of billions of bacteria, a number of users are understandably reluctant to come in direct contact with the product. Fortunately, this concern has been addressed by manufacturers. Some treatments are packaged in water soluble pods, which will not release their contents until the pod is in the tank. The user does not make direct contact with the active ingredients.
Other brands of treatment are sold in tablet form, which means the user can open the protective package and drop the tablet into a toilet easily. Contact with the water may activate the enzymes, but the bacteria will not contact human skin. Sometimes the treatment is in powdered form and must be measured out by hand before flushing. Incidental contact with the ingredients is possible, so hand protection is recommended. A liquid form of septic tank treatment is often used for emergency situations, much like a powerful drain cleaner on a clogged sink.
The retail price of a septic tank treatment is often related to the amount and quality of its active ingredients. An entry-level brand with minimal effectiveness can cost as little as $8 to $12 on store shelves. Many popular brand names can be found in the mid-range price range between $15 to $35, while professional-grade formulas packed with high-potency bacteria and powerful enzymes can cost up to $80 for a full year's treatment.
Q. Is it possible to use too much septic tank treatment?
A. Yes, there is such a thing as too much "good" bacteria in a septic tank. There needs to be a balance between the amount of solid waste and the digestive capacity of the anaerobic bacteria. Adding too much bacteria to the tank can create clogs and backups, the same as adding too little.
Q. Can I flush things like cat litter, household cleaners, and feminine hygiene products down the toilet if I have a septic tank?
A. You should only flush human waste and toilet paper down a toilet that feeds into a septic tank. Other paper products such as feminine hygiene products and paper towels will not break down naturally in a septic tank environment. Household chemicals can kill the helpful bacteria, and cat litter can cause clogs.
Septic tank treatments we recommend
Best of the best: Bio-Tab for Septic Systems
Our take: One tablet per month is all that's required when using Bio-Tab septic treatments. We like its resistance to household cleaners that can weaken other formulas.
What we like: Potency not affected by many household chemicals. Ingredients are non-toxic to humans and pets. Monthly calendar included to keep track of usage.
What we dislike: On the expensive side. Some users report minimal effectiveness.
Best bang for your buck: Green Gobbler's Septic Saver Bacteria Enzyme Pacs
Our take: The Green Gobbler's individual packs are extremely easy to use, and the price point is hard to beat.
What we like: Can be used for both sewer and septic tank systems. Includes a reminder app. Powerful formula breaks down organic material faster than average.
What we dislike: Does not neutralize all septic tank odors. Some toilet clogging reported.
Choice 3: Rid-X's Septic Tank Treatment Enzymes
Our take: Rid-X has strong brand recognition and a longstanding reputation for effectiveness. It's definitely one to consider on grocery or department store shelves.
What we like: Available in multiple forms, including liquid, gel, and powder. Monthly packs are easy to dispense. Powerful enzymes break down toilet paper very quickly.
What we dislike: Retail price point can be higher than expected. Some toilet clogging reported after application.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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