It’s easy to forget about your septic tank. You rely on it every day, but you probably don’t give it a second thought—unless something goes wrong, that is, and you end up with a stinky mess on your hands.
Septic tanks work by bringing the wastewater from your home down into a tank, where bacteria dissolves and consumes waste, effectively separating it into solids and liquids. The liquids drain through perforated pipes into a patch of ground called a drain field. The soil in the drain field cleans the water through layers of rock and minerals and returns it to the groundwater system. To keep a tank running efficiently, it should be pumped once every two to three years.
Aside from periodic pumping, regular septic tank treatment is essential to give the bacteria in the tank a boost to help it continue effectively degrading the waste that enters the tank. A monthly dose of septic tank treatment keeps your tank working efficiently and prevents it from prematurely wearing out. The products below represent some of the best septic tank treatments available in their respective categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Cabin Obsession Septic Tank Treatment
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Green Gobbler SEPTIC SAVER Bacteria Enzyme Pacs
- BEST FOR CLOGS: Instant Power 1868 Septic Shock
- BEST MONTHLY: Walex BIO-31112 Bio-Active Septic Tank Treatment Drop-Ins
- BEST BULK: GreenPig Solutions 53 Concentrated Septic Tank Treatment
Types of Septic Tank Treatments
There are several types of septic tank treatments, including inorganic acids or alkalis, hydrogen peroxide, organic solvents, and biological additives. However, some of these treatment types have been shown to be damaging to your septic system and may even be banned by your local government due to the potential pollution of nearby groundwater or degradation of soil content. Because of these potential hazards, it is important to understand the differences between the treatment types.
Inorganic Acids or Alkalis
Inorganic acids or alkalis are poor options for the health of your septic tank. These powerful compounds, such as sulfuric acid or lye, are capable of punching a hole through almost any clog, but their harsh chemical makeup destroys the necessary bacteria in the tank, halting the anaerobic digestion process.
If that digestion process inside the tank is impeded, raw sewage leaks into the drain field. This could result in unpleasant odors, leakage into local groundwater, and clogged pipes. The corrosive nature of these treatments also makes them harmful to pipes, tank walls, and distribution boxes, leading to premature weakening of the septic system.
Hydrogen peroxide was once a popular suggestion for septic tank treatment by many different septic maintenance companies. However, recent findings have indicated that while hydrogen peroxide doesn’t cause undue harm to the bacterial ecosystem within the tank when properly diluted, it does degrade soil content and compromises the long-term viability of the drain field.
Due to this method’s lasting effects on your drain field’s ability to filter and absorb wastewater, it is not a good option for the long-term care of your septic tank system.
Organic solvents, including methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, and other chlorinated hydrocarbons, are primarily used as degreasers for their ability to break down oils and grease. As a septic tank treatment option, they work well to break down the collected oils, fats, and greases in the bottom of the tank, but they can do their job too well by also breaking down much of the bacterial ecosystem.
Once these organic solvents leave the septic tank they seep into the drain field along with the rest of the wastewater effluent, but they do not break down. Instead, organic solvents leak into the groundwater system and can cause significant ecological damage. Because of this hazard, organic solvents are banned from use in some states, and their use could potentially create liability issues if groundwater is contaminated.
Biological additives, like bacteria and extracellular enzymes, are the only acceptable septic tank treatment for promoting a healthy bacterial ecosystem, maintaining an effective drain field, and protecting the health of the local groundwater.
This septic tank treatment boosts the bacteria population in the tank and introduces specific enzymes for breaking down fibers (toilet paper), septic tank scum that gathers at the top of the wastewater fluid, and other solid waste that the naturally-occurring bacteria population may have difficulty decomposing.
Just be sure to follow manufacturer recommendations to avoid an excessive build-up of methane gas, which can result in solid waste being pushed into the drain field, where it will clog the pipes and prevent drainage from the tank.
If you aren’t sure what information you should have about septic tank treatments, read the considerations below to help you make a more informed purchase.
Before purchasing a septic tank treatment, be sure you know the size of your septic tank. If you purchase a treatment intended for a 1,500-gallon tank but your tank is only 500 gallons, the treatment may overpower the bacterial ecosystem and alter the enzyme balance too much.
Inversely, if the treatment you purchase is not strong enough, it will be ineffective at helping to maintain the health of the septic tank. To avoid this issue, know your septic tank size in gallons and refer to this number when looking at treatment options.
Septic tank treatments come in a variety of forms intended to make the product more effective and easier to use, including pods, tablets, powders, and liquids.
- Pods are one of the most popular formats, with a water-soluble casing that makes them simple to handle, similar to dishwashing detergent pods. Simply drop the pod into the toilet and flush. The casing dissolves and the treatment gets released into the tank. With no mess, no measuring, and a slightly delayed release time, this is one of the easiest methods.
- Tablets are used in the same way as pods, but they lack a protective coating. Instead, the entire tablet must break down inside the tank, which takes slightly longer than a pod. Because the tablets are measured doses, this method is another simple, easy-to-use septic tank treatment.
- Powders aren’t as simple as pods or tablets, requiring you to measure out the correct dose and carefully pour it into the toilet. Before flushing, you have to allow the powder to sink into the water, otherwise, some of the powder will be forced into the air when flushing. Powders are already broken down, meaning they go to work immediately upon entering the tank. Unlike pods and tablets, which are pre-measured for specific volumes, you can use powders for any size tank, provided you measure out the correct dose.
- Liquids are similar to powders in that they must be measured before use and begin working right away. Most liquid treatments are intended for clogs, so this format is generally used less often than others.
The lifespan of a septic tank treatment determines how long it remains effective. Most treatments come in once-monthly doses, but they can also come in three, four, six, or 12-month doses. There are also single-use treatments intended for treating clogs.
If you think you would have trouble remembering to treat your septic tank monthly, it may help to find a product with a lifespan that matches up with holidays or significant events. For example, if you have a product with a three-month lifespan, you can use quarterly events such as the holidays as reminders to treat the tank.
Septic tanks work with the ecosystem around them to naturally treat human waste and return it back into the soil and groundwater. This eco-friendly model should be top of mind when you’re shopping for septic tank treatment products to ensure the proper health and functionality of the bacterial ecosystem, drain field soil, and groundwater.
The natural system within your septic tank works better with eco-friendly products, meaning that you don’t have to sacrifice efficacy for ecological conscientiousness. Look for treatment products that are completely organic and that do not contain phosphate or formaldehyde, as these chemicals are extremely harmful to the ecosystem.
Clogs in your septic system need to be treated and dissolved quickly to prevent damage, continued build-up of solid waste in the pipes, and strong, unpleasant smells that can permeate the floor and walls of your home. As the clog is dissolving, the unpleasant aroma rising from your pipes may get worse, and will likely linger after the pipes are clear.
To reduce this nose-wrinkling scent, consider a septic tank treatment to break down the clog that includes odor-control or odor-reduction features.
Septic tanks are reliant on the health of their bacteria population, the soil content of their drain field, and a functioning plumbing infrastructure. Without these, a septic tank is little more than a hole in the ground.
To ensure the health of your septic system, always review the active ingredients in a septic tank treatment before buying. Consider the purpose of the included enzymes, the number of bacteria, and the presence of harmful chemicals or inorganic matter. Introducing any additive to your septic tank should be undertaken only with accurate information about the product to ensure your system is getting the best treatment without any ill effects.
Price is always a factor when making any purchase, and septic tank treatments are no exception.
- Inexpensive septic tank treatments range between $8 to $12 for a product that will last from a few months to a full year.
Moderately priced septic tank treatments can be found between $15 to $35 for monthly or yearly products, and are the most frequently used by homeowners. They aren’t the most powerful solutions, but with regular use, they are more than enough to maintain your septic tank between pumpings.
- Expensive septic tank treatments can cost between $35 to $80 for a full year, but they are usually the most effective solutions available. These treatments are frequently used by septic tank maintenance professionals, but they may not be necessary for regular household maintenance.
Our Top Picks
Selected with these key features and shopping tips in mind, the following contains five recommendations for the best septic tank treatments available. This group focuses on varieties of biological additives, and which septic tank professionals recommend over other options because they won’t damage the system, soil, or groundwater.
1. BEST OVERALL: Cabin Obsession Septic Tank Treatment
Cabin Obsession One Year Septic Tank Treatment comes with 12 pre-packaged monthly doses for use with a 1,000-gallon tank, totaling one full year of septic tank protection. The billions of bacteria in a single treatment pod breaks down the waste in the sludge and scum layers and replaces any dead bacteria within the tank.
This moderately priced, eco-friendly treatment contains zero chemical additives, making it safe for the environment. The scientifically selected bacteria cultures also have odor-control qualities to keep your home smelling great. Households with four or more occupied bedrooms, or with tanks exceeding 1,000 gallons should use two pods per month instead of just one.
2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Green Gobbler SEPTIC SAVER Bacteria Enzyme Pacs
Promising six months of ongoing septic system treatment, the Green Gobbler Six Month Septic Tank Supply uses biodegradable content to ensure it’s safe for the environment. The powerful bacteria and enzyme mixture comes in pod-form and is used for breaking down oils, grease, fats, paper, and other clog-producing compounds.
At a fraction of the cost of other septic tank treatments, it is surprising that Green Gobbler’s pods also come with odor-elimination features and anti-corrosive additives to help protect drains, pipes, and the interior of the tank.
3. BEST FOR CLOGS: Instant Power 1868 Septic Shock
Using this product couldn’t be easier. Simply dump the contents of an entire bottle into your toilet and flush it down into the septic pipes, where it begins to work instantly, and its odor-eliminating enzymes help prevent undesirable scents from permeating your home.
The Instant Power product is eco-friendly, using lipase, protease, cellulose, alpha-amylase, and other powerful enzymes to digest grease, soap, paper, and fats, at an inexpensive price. There are few clog-busting options as effective as this one, but you should avoid using this product as a regular maintenance treatment, as it is specifically engineered for clogs and its contents may overpower a healthy septic system.
4. BEST MONTHLY: Walex BIO-31112 Bio-Active Septic Tank Treatment Drop-Ins
Walex Bio-Active Septic Tank Treatment comes with 12 moderately-priced monthly doses, capable of effectively treating a 1,500-gallon tank with ease. The pre-measured pods contain billions of good bacteria to replace bacteria in the tank that may have been killed by harmful cleaning products disposed of down sinks or toilets.
The eco-friendly pods also use septic tank-specific enzymes to target paper, fats, proteins, and other frequently occurring solid wastes that the bacteria within the tank cannot digest. This product can leave a residue on the interior of your toilet after use, so consider using it before the toilet is cleaned to prevent scrubbing the toilet bowl repeatedly.
5. BEST BULK: GreenPig Solutions 53 Concentrated Septic Tank Treatment
The pre-measured pods that come in this bulk treatment option should be used once every three months. With eight included pods, one purchase means your septic tank is covered for two years of treatment. Green Pig Two Year Septic Tank Treatment is for use on tanks up to 1,500-gallons in size, though smaller tanks can use the same pod, but less frequently.
The eco-friendly pods contain billions of bacteria and septic-specific enzymes for digesting grease, paper, sludge, and other organic waste. This concentrated formula is available at an inexpensive cost and contains odor-eliminating enzymes to protect your nose from rancid scents while it does its job. However, this septic tank treatment doesn’t work well for households that use excessive amounts of toilet paper, so it may not be best for large families with young children.
FAQs About Your New Septic Tank Treatment
Before deciding on a new septic tank treatment, consider these frequently asked questions and answers so you can be confident in your purchase.
Q. How often do I need to treat my septic tank?
On average, you should treat your septic tank once a month to once a year depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations, and you should have your tank pumped out once every two to three years to keep it functioning properly.
Q. Is it possible to use too much septic tank treatment?
Yes, though the effects depend on the type of treatment you use. Too many biological additives will increase the number of bacteria in the tank, causing a much faster breakdown of solid materials and a build-up of methane gas. The gas pushes solid waste around within the tank and can cause the absorption and drain field system to clog.
However, if too much inorganic acid and organic solvent additive is used, it will kill the bacteria in your tank needed for it to function. Hydrogen peroxide won’t kill the bacteria if you use too much, but it will degrade the soil structure in the surrounding area and reduce the ability of the drain field to treat and absorb wastewater effluent.
Q. How else can I maximize the life of my septic tank?
There are a few simple steps you can take to extend the life of your septic system. Avoid unnecessary wastewater usage by increasing water conservation efforts. This puts less strain on your septic system over time and allows it to function for a longer period. You must also follow a proper pumping schedule to ensure that the tank is pumped at least once every two to three years. Lastly, watch what you flush. Inorganic materials like diapers or feminine hygiene products can create clogs in your septic tank if they are disposed of in the toilet.