Two of the worst things that you could put down your drains and into your septic system are grease and fat. A residential septic system is designed to handle typical sewage and household waste. The amount of that waste that can be handled effectively and efficiently depends upon the number of people living in your home, the amount of water usage and, of course, the items and substances that get put down the drains.

Grease and fat are extremely dangerous substances to a residential septic system. Homeowners should monitor the amount of grease that builds up within the system through a comprehensive preventative maintenance program. However, good practices and habits will go a long way toward reducing the amount of grease and fat that enters your septic system in the first place.

How Grease and Fat Build Up in Your Septic System
There are three separate layers within a residential septic system. The bottom layer is known as the “sludge,” and is made up of sewage waste that hasn’t been broken down in the system yet. The middle layer is made up of a combination of liquids, which includes broken down solids that have moved up from the sludge layer and wastewater.

The top layer is know as the “scum” layer. This is where things like grease and fat end up when they enter your residential septic system. All solids and materials that are lighter in weight than water end up here. If this layer becomes too thick, the wastewater won’t be able to drain from the septic tank and move on to the leach field for the final stage in processing.

Grease and fat can become very thick over time, which can cause this scum layer to push down into the liquid layer and reach the exit pipes of the septic system. Once grease and fat make their way through these pipes, they will enter the leach field, plugging up the drain holes and pipes to the leach field along the way.

How to Remove Grease from a Septic System
If grease and fat have accumulated within your residential septic system, you need to have it removed. Ideally, it should be removed before it gets too thick and reaches the leach field. This can be accomplished by regular pumping and disposal. Hiring a professional septic system service company to take care of this for you is highly recommended.

If you do not remove the grease from your residential septic system and the grease and fat reach the leach field, you may need to have the pipes dug up and replaced. Do not ever use chemical additives in your septic system that promise to break down or eliminate grease. Most of these products will kill off the helpful bacteria that naturally occurs in the system to breakdown sewage and other solids.

Preventing grease and fat from entering your system in the first place is your best bet for keeping your residential septic system running clean and clear. Dump all cooking oil and grease from your kitchen into empty food cans and dispose of it with your regular household trash. Hiring a professional service provider and signing up for a preventative maintenace program, will also go a long way toward preventing grease and fat build up from ever happening in the first place.

The Destructive Path of Grease and Fat
Residential septic systems are designed to handle a normal amount of grease and fat within the tank. However, due to natural occurrences, such as the average temperature of septic tanks and the design of the tank itself, can prevent grease and fat from naturally breaking down within the system. In addition to problems caused by grease and fat reaching the leach field, here are some other issues and damage that can occur:

  • Clogged Pipes – Similar to healthcare concerns regarding grease and fat within the human body, grease can harden inside of your home’s pipes, creating a clog before it even reaches the septic system. Very much like a clogged artery in your heart, the grease makes it harder for the water to exit the pipes from the home and into the residential septic system. While clogging in this area won’t damage the septic tank at this point, it will cause the pipes to backup frequently. If you use a lot of grease and oil in your home, consider having a grease trap installed to catch some of the grease before it enters your pipes or septic system.
  • Improper Breakdown – The primary function of the septic system is to breakdown solids and eliminate them from the tank out into the leach field. A small amount of grease, oil or fat won’t harm the natural breakdown process within the residential septic system, however too much can cause a lot of problems. Other solids within the tank, such as common household waste and toilet paper, can actually bond with the grease and fat, making it harder to breakdown and biodegrade. A hard shell of grease can form and block wastewater and other materials within the tank from being able to properly exit the system.

Take Care of Your Residential Septic System
The best way to prevent issues with grease and fat, as well as other issues that can lead to septic system failure, is to have your system regularly checked. A preventative maintenance program through a reputable septic system repair and inspection service is key to a properly running system. All-Clear Septic & Wastewater serves customers throughout Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, providing Massachusetts Title V inspections, Rhode Island Town inspections, preventative maintenance program services, repairs, evaluations and more. Contact All-Clear today for information on how to give your residential septic system all the care and maintenance required to keep it running efficiently for many years to come.