Maintain Your Septic System Naturally

What can you do to proactively keep your home's septic system working efficiently before it's too late? Try these super-easy tips.

While this isn’t a pleasant topic for polite conversation, having your septic system back up into your home is anything but pleasant. There are steps that you can take, not only to prevent septic problems from happening, but to ensure that the process of breaking down flushed waste occurs as it should.

A Well-Functioning Septic System

A more descriptive title for this article could be, “The Care and Maintenance Of The Gut in Your Yard.” If you understand the importance and benefits of eating dietary fiber, alkaline forming foods and taking probiotics for your own gut health, you’ll quickly see the similarity in maintaining a well-functioning septic system.

Like our own digestive systems, there are certain things that you should avoid putting into any septic system and certain things that are beneficial. There are proactive measures that you can take to keep things functioning well in the tank beneath your lawn. If you wait until there is a problem, you’ve waited too long, and should immediately call a septic cleaning company to pump your tank.

Indications that you may have a septic system problem are slow water drainage, and water backing up in the toilet, dishwasher, tub, or sinks.

Septic System Care and Maintenance Tips:

  • A family of 4 living in a home with a 1,000 gallon tank should have their septic system cleaned every 3-4 years. Ask your local septic cleaning company how often you should give them a call.
  • Do not use products containing bleach to clean your toilets, as it destroys the bacteria needed to break down waste solids in your septic system. Try this natural toilet cleaner.
  • If you’re installing a new septic system or need to have yours pumped, it’s a good idea to know exactly where it’s located in your yard to avoid excessive digging up of your lawn during future pumping. Measure the exact distance of the septic tank lid from the house with a tape measure and take a picture with your cell phone, showing the exact measurement. Keep the photograph in a home maintenance file on your computer for future reference.
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Deborah Tukua

Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.

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Alice Carroll

Thanks for the reminder that the capacity of the tank should also be considered when planning to get septic tank repair services. I’d like to find a good septic tank repair service because my drains have been making gurgling sounds lately. It would be best to get that checked out before things get worse.


We agree! That sounds like something that a preventative measure is going to favorable over an emergency! Best of luck.

Tina M

After 25 years, my parents septic is indicating some trouble. My parents are obsessed with Charmin tissue from Costco. On average, less than 1c of solids goes down the disposer monthly. They have been using yeast, 3 pks instant every 2 to 3 months. Currently when the downstairs toilet is flushed, the sink in that room and the nearby kitchen sink (last sink on the drain line) gurgle.

I have designed restaurant kitchens and so know more than an average person about wastewater, but I am by no means an expert. Worked in a small Cafe that had a 5 gal grease trap in the kitchen floor. Cafe did not have a fryer or a hood. Mostly soups, sandwiches and ice cream made on site. Grease trap required monthly clean out and dumped into city sewage system. By law had to use bleach in the rinse water of 3 compartment sink.

I recommended we try adding rid-x once a week. Immediately, grease trap went 9 months without needing clean out. Bleach entered trap daily, used 2 tsp rid-x once a week. I’m going to try rid-x to see if it will help with current problem. I’ll try to remember to come back and post.

Monty Scott

You need to get the science correct first, Yeast is not Bacteria its a fungi. So you are not replacing bacteria, you are competing with it for a food source when adding yeast.
No supplier of a black water septic/treatment plants will tell you to add yeast to a septic tank, only a bacteria blend and enzymes.

Sandi Duncan

Hi Monty Scott,

Thank you for your comment. We did some additional research and will edit the article accordingly.

Jim Gibson

We had a bad septic backup during Covid when there was a toilet paper shortage–we bought the thick stuff at Costco because it was the only thing available. It helped cause the clog–I’ll spare you the details. The terrific septic guy told me to do an experiment–take 10 sheets of thick (Charmin type) toilet paper and put them in a quart jar. Then take 10 sheets of a thin TP–like Scott’s. Fill the quart jars 3/4 full of water and shake each one 5 or 6 times to imitate the froth of flushing. The thick paper will be a soggy mess and ready to turn into paper mache. The thin paper will have disintegrated and would have just flowed easily down the pipe. Thick TP isn’t good for septic systems, according to this guy, and he was very knowledgeable.


That is a great point! What we put in the septic system matters!

Chad S Hyser

Myself and my best friend live in a hotel that was built in the 1960’s and we had to hang the plumber here twice within a month and a half because the toilet clogged up and overflowed into the tub. My question is will the yeast work to break down waste solids and toilet paper ?

Ann Kankaanpaa

I built my house over 17 years ago. Never pumped. I do have a septic company who recommended me to throw in a yogurt ever month or every other month. He also said if you eat yogurt your fine. It goes down the toilet eventually and will keep your septic tank moving along.I do try to stay away from bleach products and use Holy Cow Cleaner which I believe works great on everything cuts grease WELL and is OK for septic systems. We have always had 3 -5 people in our household through out the years.


Thank you for the information!


Thanks for the information

monty scott

The comment that yeast helps keep bacteria alive is not correct, its the opposite, they compete against each other. Its like when your homemade beer or wine gets infected its because of bacteria the yeast has not killed. Same goes for your own gut. You need to add compatible micro organisms & enzymes to your septic.


You are not trying to kill the bacteria in your septic, you are replacing the bacteria , you need the bacteria to destroy the waste, maybe you should reread the article.

Missy Chandler

Have you ever looked at a bag of Rid X?It looks just like cooking yeast… At about four times the price.

Also, flush your rotten tomatoes and sour milk, as both of those help keep the good stuff growing in the tank.

Monty Scott

You need to get the science correct first Marlee, Yeast is not Bacteria its a fungi. So you are not replacing it you are competing with it for a food source when adding yeast.
No supplier of a black water septic/treatment plants will tell you to add yeast to a septic tank, only a bacteria blend and enzymes.

Jerry Hill

You sir are 100% right <<

Last edited 2 years ago by Jerry Hill
sandra mayeaux

My sprinklers keep clogging up with can I keep that from happening


Does Bakers Dry Yeast need to be refrigerated after opening if only used in the Septic System?


So, I know that yeast will not “bloom” unless it is mixed with warm liquid. In baking bread anyway. I would not think that the underground temperature of 50 -60 F would be warm enough to even activate the yeast. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


They recommend instant yeast . Instant yeast does not have to be mixed with warm liquids to reactivate it the way active dry yeast does.

Nick Abellera

I had used a block style yeast for years in our new home system. I mixed it in a bucket with warm water and sugar to activate the yeast. Then poured down the toilet at bedtime. That gave the yeast time to start it’s work in the tank.


To activate yeast you typically want the water in the 105-110 degrees mark. It will still activate though even in cold water. It’s can bloom in cold temps though, takes longer, it gives a less potent reaction, but it still does it. 95 degrees being the temp that is optimal reaction for yeast it won’t proof. I’d also expect the tank to be warmer anyways though.. the microbes turn everything into liquid and gas. There’s no way your tank is only at 50-60 degrees. It’s probably near close to perfect conditions for the yeast to thrive. Now idk how great of an idea putting yeast down your toilet.. its going to break down starchy stuff, but not the fats, meat, plants etc stuff. It would compete but it’s not going to kill off bacteria. They’re 2 different things. Fungi and bacteria have been together before we ever walked the earth.. it ought to be fine, but I don’t recommend it. There are far better things you can put down the toilet that will fix water blockage or full tank you got going on. You just need to figure out what exactly you’re trying to do. If it’s TP
cellulase enzymes will break it down.

Steven Talbott

Aerobic systems any different when it comes to yeast ? My mom’s and the one I had for 17 years never had any issues with the older syetems. We will be building next year and will have to have an Aerobic system and are being told all kinds of restrictions and maintenance issues.


I have never had any trouble with my septic tank and it has never been cleaned out. I have been in my house 39 years. I worked in a maintenance dept. and the plumbers that worked with me said if I maintained it with Rid X that it would never need cleaning out unless roots got inside the tank. I took their advice and have never had a problem. It has worked so far.

Susan Higgins

Hi Hill, it sounds like you’ve reached a good balance over the years. RidX does contain bacteria and enzymes that do the “digesting” of waste so it may be operating at a good equilibrium. What can throw off the balance is an overuse of chemical cleaners and the like. Sounds like what you’re doing is working, so as the old saying goes, “if it’s not broken….”


where do you get the rid x from /


Got mine from Lowes


Are you using Liquid or Powder RID-X. Which is best

Jim Swartz

please I have not been able to get an opinion the use of EPSON SALTS in my bath. I have a septic tank system and use the salts once a month or so…any opinion..thank you

Susan Higgins

Hi Jim, you might find this info interesting:


We just bought a home with septic. The inspection was good and everything was fine until the top of the leach field started turning white in some areas. We do have a salt water softening system but could this be the cause of the white or something else we should be looking at?

Susan Higgins

Hi Stacy, we think you might find these articles helpful:
1. Do water softeners cause problems with septic systems:
2. Signs of septic system failure:


Salt water softener will add salt to the ground water through your leach field. That is most likely the reason your ground is turning into a salt flat. Salt water belongs in the ocean. You can add baking soda to your laundry and lotion your body. As for water fixtures you will need to maintain with regular, non toxic cleaning products.


While there is some useful information here, there is also a lot of misinformation.
If you have a healthy diet, you most probably have good gut health. This is all that is needed to start bacteria off in a new tank or after a Pumpout, providing no harsh chemicals, disinfectant or antibacterial cleaners are being put down drains. A well maintained tank does not need any additives natural or man made, simple as that.

To clean I would recommend white vinegar, bicarbsoda and gumption. Abrasive cleaners over chemical cleaners. If you do have to use chemicals, make sure to use minimal, dilute well and tip excess outside.
The other thing to think about is the ph of the tank, bacteria like a neutral to slightly alkaline environment, an acidic environment will kill off bacteria.

Do not pour off milk down drains, especially in aerated systems, as this is an oxygen thief and aerobic bacteria needs oxygen to survive.

If you want cabbage in your tank eat it and it will find its way there, putting cabbage in a tank is asking to block inlets or your irrigation lines.

If you are getting smells inside the house it could just as likely be a blockage in pipes or pipes sheared off due to settling, check your tanks sludge level and crust before you decide it is the tank.
If sludge is low and the crust is not too thick, this is where an enzyme based septic safe drain cleaner can be tried, but should not be used excessively. If this fails to fix the problem, get a plumber in to check the pipes.

If your irrigation disposal area is constantly wet and boggy this could mean there is too much water going through the system than the ground can handle or your trench/evaporation field may be failing. If there is any smell at the disposal site it is most probably the latter.

Septic systems are not rocket science, but you must be careful listening to old wives tales as most of these are more harmful to your system than helpful.
If unsure get a plumber or septic technician to inspect your system(If you get a plumber make sure they specialise in septic tanks if possible)


Where do you buy gumption??? 🙂

Patty O

Is there a difference in wich type of toilet paper or product to use . I was told by my septic tank guy who has been pumping tanks for years that the Cosco brand does not break down ? .


I bought a an 18 year old house 2 years ago and used Rid-x until someone told me to just use yeast; what about the amylase, protease, etc. to break down the fats and carbohydrates. I didn’t know not to use bleach products to clean toilets since they are the main ingredient in all toilet cleansers. I cleaning vinegar safe to use to clean toilets? I’m seeking a clear answer, thank you!


I like e in northern bc. I just did the yeast. Thank you for that. My question is…fertilizer? Many people here put 34-0-0-11 fertilizer down the pipes (toilet) say it helps to unclog and last winter septic field pipes were freezing and backing up ….does this help? We had out tank pumped in September and it backed up in March … With winter thaw??? Will fertilizer help anything???
Thank you for the reply.

Dianna Urbigkit

I have fermented cabbage that I need to dispose of…Can I dump it into toilet and flush! Will it hurt or help my septic. I have leech lines and do not use harsh chemicles. Thanks!

We have been in our home 23 yrs. We have 2-500 gal and a 250 grease trap. We add 2 packets of yeast per tank a month. Never had a problem with them till this year. One tank got clogged because a tree root got in. Had a cleaning company clean out the tanks. Found only 2 inches of sludge in 2 tanks. The grease trap had non. I would say that plain old yeast does the trick.

Susan Higgins

Thanks Claude, glad it worked!


Looking for bulk yeast try a Amish or mennonite community store.


We use to buy our yeast in bulk at Sam’s Club. They no longer carry it.
Anyone know where yeast can be purchased?
Thank you for all this useful information!
It is gratefully appreciated.


Purchsed yeast at Sam’s Club in Fort Smith, Arkansas 03-07-2020.

dennis williamson

I installed an all gravel leach field below my septic tank (1000 gallon)… covered it with plastic…then topsoil and planted grass. A year later, a contractor drove heavy equipment over it and got it stuck in the muck. I refilled it with topsoil and replanted grass. Did I do the right thing? The system has not backed up and no problems are obvious at this time.

Susan Higgins

Hi Dennis Williamson: It sounds like it’s doing OK but I’d check with a septic professional just to be safe.


My 92 year old mother says to cook a pot of pinto beans and flush every couple of month for a reliable septic treatment. Is this true or another fable ?

Susan Higgins

Hi Cathy, that’s a new one to us. Did it work?


You can do what you want with your system but as new home owners with a septic system, we had the tank cleaned and inspected after 6 years. The results on our 1000 g tank was only 4″ of sludge and the filter needed cleaning (which I will now do annually). The inspector said the system looked real good and will probably see us again in 8 years for another pumping. This after using Rid X every 3 months and allowing vary little to no food products go down the drain.

Vic Laurent

Regular pumping septic system is essential,small price to pay for peace of mind.NEVER allow coffee grinds to enter system an totally avoid any harsh chemicals.I have just my wife and I and pump the tank every 3 years.You have peace of mind especially in mid winter.Remember a Royal flush beats a full house…


I’m no expert,can only share my experience. Had our tank emptied after living in our home for 2yrs. That was 14yrs ago.I have faithfully used RidX monthly. No problems until we got a grease clog,a couple of weeks ago,which was in the drain.We went ahead and had the tank emptied. The septic company recommended yeast.I decided to research, ended up here.Think I’ll stick with what’s worked,RidX.


yeast is the active ingredient in ridX, smart guy

Jersey jim

Yeast is nowhere in the ingredients. Hopefully after five years you grew up enough to now research things before giving a snarky answer.
Each box and bottle of RID-X® contains the following ingredients scientifically proven to break down household waste:
Cellulase breaks down toilet paper, vegetable matter and some foods
Lipase breaks down fats, oils and grease
Protease breaks down proteins
Amylase breaks down starches


Yeast does not produce bacteria for your septic system but it does help to break down the starches which is one of five types of waste found in your septic tank the other four are Proteins, fibers, greases, and pectin. Some experts believe that Yeast can be harmful because it can cause frothing which hinder grease and other solids from settling. I read that Rid-X is mostly yeast I have also heard that bakers yeast is better to use than Rid-X because Rid-X tends to cake up causing potential clogs. I am not an expert just someone who has researched many different sources and this is my conclusion of what the most reputable sources are saying.


My parents used shredded cabbage for over 30 years and never had any issues. Is this still considered a good idea to use. Also does anyone know if the yeast should be put down the kitchen sink for cleaning


are you sure it wasn’t sauerkraut? probiotic cultures in sauerkraut keep sewage broken down


Makes sense , I actually make sauerkraut from cabbage I grow and the bacteria that turned it into sauerkraut are already present on the cabbage. Litchins eat the sugars in the cabbage turning it into sauerkraut in 14 weeks.

Robert Bateman

In our old house, we had our first experience with a septic tank. It was pumped out when we bought the house for inspection and the tech recommended that we put a packet of dry active yeast down the toilet every 3 months. After 5 years, we had it pumped again. Same people did the job and he said that the sludge was so loose and easy to clean that he didn’t charge me full price for the cleaning. At the time, yeast WAS the active ingredient of Ridx but isn’t any more. Our current house has a septic tank and I continue to use yeast every 3 months. After 5 years, no problems. Knock on wood! I’ll add an extra pack 2 days after using any bleach products like bowl cleaners, etc.

r smith

what are you using now bakers yeast or stilll using ridex or buttermilk

Arleen sandberg

It’s amazing that every so called septic expert gives different answers to the same questions. Is there a real live source out there who can scientifically tell all as well as reply to the above comments? So confusing and oft contradictory. Help!


I was told potash works ?


Kris your leach field may need to be replaced or repaired where the farmer drove over it. If the thing fills up the effluent is not flowing. Get out there in the spring and dig out one of the dents from the tires. If the pipe is crushed time to patch it. No need to replace the whole finger. PVC couplings and some glue to be had at any big box or small hardware store. We use yeast from the donut shop. Cut it in slivers and flush. Installed in 1988 to 2002 had it pumped and the guy said uh, no solids keep up whatever your doing no need to pump.


You said you cut slivers of yeast from donut shop. Can you elaborate on what size slivers and how often done. Than you as I am new to septic systems.

Mike Brain

Good article Deborah.

My father-in-law has a septic system which has the draining from the house come to a crawl. We believe it is mostly due to using harmful chemicals such as bleach in cleaning products. Is there a good way to “recharge” the system? They have it pumped every 2 years but never inspected. In other words, they stick a hose down the pipe but never remove the lid to take a look inside.

Will the yeast trick mentioned do it or will we have to go a more expensive route.

Thank you.

pollyanna thurmond

Should the ground above the septic system have trouble growing grass and have yellow grass or is this because there has been bleach in the products? Can oxy clean or other whitening detergents be used in the laundry ?


Has anyone answered this question yet? I have a leech field that does the same….

Kyle Ross

Knowing the location of your septic system is a good idea. The last time we had to have ours pumped, it took a while to find and we had to dig in several places in the yard. You can save a lot of time and effort by keeping record of where it is. I also liked your tip about flushing yeast down the toilet. I will definitely try that!


My mother in law only knew the general location of her tank and needed a pump out. I used a heavy ground rod used for house grounding. It was heavy enough and pointed so it would sink into the ground. We struck the top of the tank and marked it.

Stephie smith

It’s crazy how long people go without checking their septic tank. It seems to be a commodity that people take for granted, and don’t really think about until it’s causing issues. It’s good to know that I should avoid using bleach to clean my toilets. I’ll try flushing a 1/2 cup of yeast as well, it wouldn’t hurt. Thank you!

Joey Vicars

Septic systems when serviced or pumped ever 3 to 5 years needs no special additives to work. Ridex or yeast cakes is not needed. But if it helps you sleep better at night then by all means use them


It just occurred to me should people with septic systems also avoid spiting our mouth wash into the sinks after brushing your teeth that will flow into the septic tank also? Is what little mouth wash you spit out enough to harm and kill the good bacteria especially when you consider each person that lives in the house twice a day?


i get nasty “odors” from my toilets occasionally and bleach helps get rid of them. Does anyone know why this happens? Tank was pumped within the last couple of yrs so it’s not time for that……


This article does not indicate if this applies to aerobic septic systems. I am guessing that many of the systems refers to here are not. I have no lateral or leech lines. Three sprinkler heads in my back forty as I call it. My system requires the addition of chlorine as the effluent goes into the last tank. My wife and I have lived here for almost 11 years and the system has not been pumped. The company that maintains the system says there is not enough build up yet. Note that we NEVER put anything down the garbage disposer. If it will compost it goes in the compost bin. If not the trash.


A man who has a septic tank service told us to buy a gallon of whole milk and let it go bad a few days and flush it into the septic tank to feed the bacteria. He said to do this about once a month.

Teresa anderson

Where do I buy yeast for septic a?

Susan Higgins

Hi Teresa Anderson, the article states you can simply buy packaged yeast such as Fleishmans.


What about vinegar as a cleansor? Baking soda? Lemon/salt? I’ve been where I am for two years and they’ve had to empty the tank three times. Add a helpful neighbor mowing our lawn for us drove his tractor over the leach lines. We were told just add top soil? Doesn’t seem right.


People labor under the erroneous idea keeping your septic healthy allows them to avoid pumping.

Keeping your tank healthy is like an investment in that it results in thousands you wont have to pay out [and inconvenience you wont have to suffer].

Septic systems must drain off liquid (effluent). If everything going into a tank were broken down, then carried out into the drain field, the solids, even if iniscule, would build over time and plug the drain field.

Pumping the tank rids it of the fats and oils that build on the top (the crust). While normal, it shouldn’t be allowed to grow for decades, since it, essentially, would reduce space for effluent.

Pumping tanks also remove the solids that settle to the bottom of the tank and rise, over time, to meet the crust, so also reduce tank size for effluent.

On the other side of the coin, a system should not be pumped too often either.

In short, have your tank pumped consistent with use.

Melissa Priest

Rid x does nothing for your septic. It’s not live bacteria. Our well/ septic supplier sells a live bacteria for the septic that you add once a year. Pretty cheap too.

Pam Moore

does yeast work in a grease trap also? If not, what do you recommend?


do you have to flush the yeast down all toilets in a house or does doing just one work?


also watch for “anti-bacterial” and “anti-septic” on your cleaning products. Do not buy or use the septic additives. You have active bacterial in what you flush. NO baby wipes or tampons. Dont have your water softner or sump pumps discharge to the tank. Dont plant on top of or near the tank or discharge field. Dont drive heavy equipment on your tank or field….You left alot out of this article….


These are the AI’s of Rid-x, I looked them up, they are enzymes, and would not appear to hurt the septic system. I will however switch to yeast due to its recommendation from TOH.

Cellulase breaks down toilet paper, vegetable matter and some foods
Lipase breaks down fats, oils and grease
Protease breaks down proteins
Amylase breaks down starches


Do not use Ridex, it kills the good bacteria.


Seriously, I can reasonably understand the hesitancy towards utilising Rid-X, but your post is the dumbest I have read in a long time. I shudder to ask questions for which I already know the answer to, but where did you receive your bioengineering degree from‽ The issues surrounding Rid-X have nothing to do with intentionally killing bacteria. Rid-X works just fine, when it works, and this is the primary issue. The bacteria inside needs to be fresh and stable, but once it leaves the factory, the manufacturer has no control over the product or the conditions all the way to the septic tank. The media Rid-X contains is also a potential factor. Someone can believe they are adequately treating their tank, but it’s impossible to know without a thorough examination of the contents after the treatment has had time to work. Bad Rid-X won’t kill good bacteria but won’t work as well or at all, and cross-contamination with harsh chemicals and other substances affects performance. Bleach tablets in the tank that the Rid-X is flushed down will have a cancellation effect. Some people choose to pour a liquid treatment through the cleanout port to bypass the toilet route though.

I would, instead, suggest buying high quality treatments right before the time you intend to use them and from a reputable dealer of such supplies. Buying a perishable product in bulk, especially one so relatively cheap, does not make a lot of sense for long term storage . Walmart in a region with a lot of septic tanks should have enough turn over to nearly always have fresh supplies, if one is looking for convenience though.

The people who usually have trouble with septic tanks don’t understand how those function and make serious mistakes. Forgetting to treat a week after taking a round of antibiotics won’t necessarily be atrocious for a previously healthy system, but one that has been neglected and mistreated under the same conditions will most probably need to be pumped and reset soon thereafter.

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