If you’re one of the estimated 27 million homes that use a septic system, then you may be wondering whether or not you can add a garbage disposal to your kitchen sink. After all, a disposal can make your life much more efficient by providing a quick and easy way to dispose of food waste. However, how will it affect your septic system? Let’s take a deep dive and figure out what you can and can’t do with a garbage disposal hooked up to a septic tank.
How do Septic Systems work?
Unlike homes that are connected to the city’s plumbing and water supply, a house with a septic tank deals with its waste on its own. Usually, all of the water is pumped in from the grid, but it pumps out into a large underground tank that then disperses water into what’s called a Drainfield. Let’s go over the different components of a septic system.
The waste tank is the main part that you have to manage, as that is where all of the waste from your toilets, sinks, and other appliances (such as a dishwasher or washing machine) goes. As they empty into the tank, surface sludge collects on top while larger particles sink to the bottom. In between is water that then drains out as the reservoir fills.
Leading away from the tank is one or more pipes that go into the Drainfield. This is an area of your property that is specifically designed to allow wastewater to disperse without causing any pooling. The Drainfield is usually made up of loose soil and rocks that allow the water to empty evenly while also separating any sludge or waste particles that may have made their way out.
Finally, one other component of a septic tank is the presence of bacteria that break down the solid waste and makes it more manageable. Without this bacteria the waste would collect too fast and build up, clogging your system. Even with it there, the microorganisms can only process so much waste, which is why it’s imperative to be careful about adding more.
Is it Safe to Use a Garbage Disposal With a Septic Tank?
The short answer to this is yes. Nonetheless, there are a lot of different things that you have to consider when installing a disposal into your system. First and foremost, you have to remember that you only have so much space in your tank for waste, meaning that if you start adding a lot from a new source (a disposal), then it could cause the tank to overfill and either create puddles on your property or backfill your sinks and toilets. Either situation is bad, so you want to avoid it as much as possible.
Proper Use of Your Garbage Disposal with a Septic System
As we mentioned, one of the components of your waste tank is a layer of sludge on top. This is usually comprised of oils and other liquids that are lighter than water and thus float above everything else. More than anything, the sludge is what can cause problems in your Drainfield as it can mix with the wastewater that pumps out. If there is too much sludge going along for the ride, it will start to collect in the rocks and soil, causing backups and pooling.
To avoid this, you never want to dump any food oils or fats down the drain and into your disposal. Some will be unavoidable as it is part of the food waste itself, but never add things like bacon grease as that will create more sludge and it could also clog your drains regardless.
The other thing you want to avoid is putting too much food at once. If you start adding more waste particles, then it will create a larger pile at the bottom of the tank which will make water dump faster into the Drainfield and could lead to problems.
Overall, the key thing to remember is moderation, and don’t put more food than is necessary. Cleaning your garbage disposal regularly is recommended. This helps to avoid garbage smell and prevent this device from clogging the drain. Cleaning leftover bits on a plate is one thing, but don’t use the disposal as a trash can. Instead, start a compost pile so that you won’t overload your septic tank.
Related: Unclog Your Garbage Disposal
Proper Septic Maintenance With a Disposal
Because you are adding more waste than was originally intended for your system (unless it was built specifically to handle a garbage disposal), you will have to drain it and clean it out more frequently. How often will depend on the amount of food you put down the drain. It can be hard to gauge at first. The best thing to do is increase your cleanings at first until you have figured out how exactly the disposal is affecting everything. It’s much better to be proactive than wait for something to go wrong.
Another thing is to use a garbage disposal that is designed to use with a septic system. The best garbage disposal with septic system on the market is InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist because it is designed to be use with the system. This one horsepower disposal comes with an bio-charge enzyme to help break down the food. InSinkErtor is one of the best garbage disposal brands on the market. It offers a 4-year in home full-service warranty for this model. However, if you want a larger garbage disposal, Waste King 1 HP (L-8000) is also safe for the septic system.
Signs of a Backed Up Septic System
If you notice any of these things happening, it means that you need to empty and clean your tank ASAP.
- The grass is growing taller in the Drainfield. As more sludge builds up out there, it will act as fertilizer for plants, meaning that they will grow faster than the rest of your yard.
- Your toilets or sinks start to smell. If you notice any foul odors coming out of your drains, then it means that the system is backing up into the pipes.
- Pipes take longer to empty. If you flush the toilet and it takes a while to drain, or you notice that your sink is not emptying as quickly, then it means that your septic tank is overloaded.
Overall, if you think that the benefits and convenience of having a garbage disposal are worth the extra upkeep for your septic tank, then feel free to install one into your kitchen. Just be hyper aware of what you’re adding to it and make sure that you are paying more attention to the tank than normal, and you’ll be just fine.