If your home has a septic system, you may be wondering whether it is possible to shower if your septic tank is full. At Express Septic & Drain Cleaning, this is one of the most common questions we hear from our customers in the Boise, ID area, and unfortunately, the answer is no. If you take a shower or otherwise use your plumbing when your septic tank is full, it will typically result in either the tank overflowing or sewage backing up inside your home. To understand why this is, let’s take a closer look at what happens when a septic tank is full and also the signs that can help you spot when your tank is full and needs to be pumped out.
What Happens If You Shower When Your Septic Tank Is Full?
Whenever any wastewater enters the septic tank, an equal volume of water is forced out of the tank and into the drain field. A septic tank is technically always full in that the level of water inside it is always just below the outlet pipe. When new wastewater enters the tank, the level rises just to the point where the water then flows out into the drain field.
There are always three different layers inside the tank. At the bottom of the tank is a sludge layer that is formed by all the broken-down solid waste. Whenever any toilet paper and solid waste enters the tank, it settles down on top of the sludge layer. Bacteria then break down the solids into a sludge so that they take up less space inside the tank. All of the water inside the tank always stays toward the top.
Over time, the layer of sludge will continue to build and take up more space inside the tank. This results in there being less space for new solids. If the sludge layer becomes too thick, the layer of solid waste will eventually rise to the point where it can flow out of the outlet pipe whenever you shower, flush the toilet, or otherwise use your plumbing. The only way to prevent the sludge layer from eventually rising too high is to have the tank pumped out every few years.
The drain field can only handle wastewater. If any solids flow into the drain field, they can clog the perforations in the drain pipes and prevent the system from draining properly. This can result in the drain field becoming flooded and potentially contaminating all of the surrounding soil. If the pipes become clogged with solid waste, the only solution to the problem is usually to dig up and replace the entire drain field.
If any solid waste flows out of the tank, it will often end up clogging the outlet pipe. When this happens, no more water will be able to drain out of the tank. As a result, showering or using your plumbing will then cause the wastewater to back up inside your home since it has nowhere else to go.
Major issues will also occur if you put anything other than toilet paper or human waste into your septic system. Flushable wipes, feminine hygiene products, condoms, cotton pads, dental floss, and other solids won’t ever break down inside the tank. This will result in the solid layer becoming much thicker and causing the tank to fill up much more quickly. These solids are also much more likely to clog the outlet pipe and the leach field.
Putting bleach or other harsh chemicals down the drain will also negatively impact your septic system and cause the tank to fill up more quickly. The issue here is that these chemicals will kill off much of the bacteria inside the tank. This will slow the rate at which the solids are broken down. As a result, the solid layer will build up at a faster rate than the bacteria can handle and the solids may then overflow out of the tank.
Signs That Indicate Your Septic Tank Is Full
The general rule of thumb is that you should always have your septic tank pumped once every three to five years. If there are more than a few people who use the septic system regularly, you may need to have your tank pumped every other year or possibly even yearly. Regular pumping is essential as it ensures that the sludge layer never rises high enough to allow solid waste to flow out of the tank.
If you have frequent issues with sewage backing up inside your drains and plumbing fixtures, it is an obvious sign that you need to have your septic system inspected. If you haven’t had your tank pumped within the past few years, the problem most likely indicates that the tank is full. However, sewage backups can also occur because the sewer line leading from your home to the septic tank is clogged with solids or tree roots.
If all the drains inside the building are much slower than usual, this is another sign that either your septic tank is full or your sewer line is clogged. The same is also true if you hear any gurgling or bubbling noises coming from the drains when they are draining.
Sewage odors coming from your drains can also indicate that there is some issue causing waste to stay inside your pipes instead of draining out into the septic tank. If you smell any sewage odors outside near the septic tank itself, it is a sure sign that either the tank has overflowed because it was too full or it is leaking due to damage.
Standing water around your septic tank or drain field is another typical indication that the tank is full to the point of overflowing. However, this can also occur simply due to heavy rains or snowmelt. If there has been lots of recent precipitation, you may want to wait a few days to see if everything dries out and the water goes away. If the water remains, you should immediately schedule an appointment to have your septic tank pumped. Until you’ve had the tank pumped, you should also refrain as much as possible from using your plumbing. This will help prevent sewage backups or more waste from overflowing out of the tank.
If there is any grass or vegetation growing on the ground above the septic tank and drain field, this can also help give you clues that indicate when your septic tank is overflowing or leaking. If the grass and vegetation suddenly look much lusher and greener, it is an obvious sign that you need to have your septic tank pumped or inspected and repaired. If the tank is leaking or overflowing, all of the waste will act as fertilizer and cause the vegetation to grow more abundantly.
Idaho’s Septic System Experts
If you need any septic services, you can count on our team at Express Septic & Drain Cleaning to get the job done right. We specialize in septic tank pumping as well as septic repairs, installation, and preventative maintenance. We can also inspect your septic tank and the entire system to ensure everything is working as it should. Our crew can help with drain field installation, enzyme treatments, sewer line cleaning and hydro jetting, and drain field soil decompaction. Give us a call today if you need any septic services in Boise, Nampa, Caldwell or the surrounding areas.