The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 04-09-2009, 09:59 PM
WarmNPrickly WarmNPrickly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Should I use Rid-X for my septic system or not?

I just had my septic system pumped. I hadn't used Rid-X, but the guy said he could tell it had been used. It could have been the previous owner. He said You shouldn't use Rid-X. Obviously, the company that makes it would dissagree. I get conflicting information on it from the web. What is the deal?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 04-10-2009, 12:03 AM
Dag Otto Dag Otto is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Not needed. Plenty of bacteria already in the tank from normal use.


You are normal, right?
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 04-10-2009, 08:04 AM
GaryM GaryM is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: St. Louis, MO 50mi. West
Posts: 3,446
I agree. If your family is "normal", everything the system needs is in there.

Many of the additives break up the top crust layer or the bottom layer which then migrates to the drain field. Once there it can cause drain field to fail by plugging the soil with solids. The drain field is made to handle liquids, not too much in the way of suspended solids.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 04-10-2009, 01:31 PM
WarmNPrickly WarmNPrickly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
What is Rid-X supposed to do then? Why would the septic guy tell me NOT to use it?
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 04-10-2009, 03:03 PM
GaryM GaryM is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: St. Louis, MO 50mi. West
Posts: 3,446
Quote:
Addition of RID-X in to the septic tank aids in reinstating the perfect balance of beneficial bacteria and the useful enzymes required to operate the septic system with optimum efficiency. All the ingredients are scientifically tested for their contribution in braking down and decomposing the wastes. These are Cellulase (for digesting toilet paper, vegetable matter and some foods), Lipase (for digesting Fats, oils and grease), Protease (for digesting Proteins) and Amylase (to digest Starches).
From one of the websites selling the product.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 04-10-2009, 03:14 PM
Khadaji Khadaji is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Southern Pennsylvania
Posts: 21,600
I am not a septic guy, but do detergents, bleaches and soaps (and other cleaning products) kill the normally needed bacteria?
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 04-10-2009, 04:20 PM
WarmNPrickly WarmNPrickly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by GaryM View Post
From one of the websites selling the product.

I knew that, but I was hoping for something little more ... er ... solid. I was hoping for people experienced with their own septic systems or something. The fact that nobody has come out and say there is a distinct use makes me wonder why anyone pays money for it in the first place. Why did they develop the product if there was no need for it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by khadaji
I am not a septic guy, but do detergents, bleaches and soaps (and other cleaning products) kill the normally needed bacteria?
I read that as a reason, but I think if you've put enough chemicals into your system to kill the bacteria, I have a hard time beleiving that innoculating it again will solve the problem.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 04-10-2009, 08:42 PM
robby robby is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 4,498
I'm an environmental engineer who works for a public water & sewer utility. I also have a septic tank, and I have designed septic systems in the past.

You don't need to use Rid-X or any other related additive. It shouldn't hurt your system, but you are literally flushing money down the toilet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Khadaji View Post
I am not a septic guy, but do detergents, bleaches and soaps (and other cleaning products) kill the normally needed bacteria?
Not unless you are flushing industrial concentrations of chemicals down your toilet. Besides, your tank gets plenty of additional bacteria every time someone flushes human waste down the toilet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WarmNPrickly View Post
I knew that, but I was hoping for something little more ... er ... solid. I was hoping for people experienced with their own septic systems or something. The fact that nobody has come out and say there is a distinct use makes me wonder why anyone pays money for it in the first place. Why did they develop the product if there was no need for it?
I'll bet you can think of hundreds of products for which their was no need for it. Isn't it the goal of advertising to get people to want things that they have no need for?
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 04-10-2009, 09:41 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: NW Indiana
Posts: 19,307
Quote:
Originally Posted by Khadaji View Post
I am not a septic guy, but do detergents, bleaches and soaps (and other cleaning products) kill the normally needed bacteria?
Judging by my normal household practices and what I observed the last time the septic tank here under went maintenance the answer is "no".

That said - if the product is labeled "not safe for septic systems" don't use it in a septic system.

I should also add that, while I do use bleach sometimes, I am not in the habit of pouring gallons of it down the plumbing on a weakly basis. If you were stupid about it you probably could do damage. Then again, the upstairs tenant had a toddler who went through a stage of flushing towels and socks down the toilet, which wasn't good for the system, either, even if it was chemically innocuous.

I will also note that we do not use anything like Rid-X, just normal human waste products. Aside from routine maintenance and the problem with toddlers and terry cloth (since solved) we don't seem to have any problems.

Last edited by Broomstick; 04-10-2009 at 09:43 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 04-22-2009, 10:18 PM
Septic guy Septic guy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
UMN Onsite wastewater treatment

The university of MN has no agenda. They do not sell additives but have studied the subject for years.

They specifically do not recommend additives.

I used to get a lot of offers to sell these products. The sales pitch was how much it can add to my bottom line. I got so tired of the calls that one day I told the salesman that picking peoples pockets would also add to my bottom line and I don't do that and this is about the same thing.

Here's a link to UNM.

http://septic.umn.edu/factsheets/additives.html

BTW - I have been in the business for over 6 years. The health of a tank will have a lot to do with the health of the family. I have a lot of old people who are on a lot of meds. High blood pressure and chemotherapy drugs are very hard on the bacteria in the tank. The use of anti bacterial everything from soap to cleaning agents also has a negative effect.

The most serious problem I run across is a failed outlet baffle or one that was not sized properly. Poor bacterial growth will not affect the drainfield very much but solids exiting the tank to the drainfield will damage and eventually ruin the drainfield.

Bottom line. Make sure that the baffle is in good shape and long enough. We size them to 1/2 the distance between the floor and the center of the outlet pipe. There should be an elbow at the bottom.

This is getting a little long, if you have other specific questions perhaps my wife will alert me that someone has written me back.

Even if bacterial additives worked, they cost about the same as regular service. Get the tank serviced once a year and you will likely have not problems.

Septic guy
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-18-2014, 01:08 PM
katusharuso katusharuso is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Keeping bacteria killing compounds out of your septic tank such as detergeants, toilet bowl cleaners, lye for drain stoppages, chlorine bleaches, even bath and hand soap helps a healthy septic system function.

Solution 1. When building a house/building, if local regulations permit, build into the structure TWO drainage systems, one for black water from toilets, the other for grey water from showers, lavatories, laundries. The grey water can go if permitted by local regulations to gardens, lawns, shrubbery, crop fields etc.. I do this myself and had two drainage systems built into my new home and my garden loves all those nutrients leaving the kitchen sink, shower and laundry room. Skin cells slough off constantly especially in the shower and contain protein which contains sulfur and phosphorous among other elements/nutrients which plants love. Plants don't need lots of nutrients, rather a steady dilute flow which effluent grey water provides. Detergents are great fertilizer, much to the lament of rivers which get clogged with algae and plants feeding off them, so gardens welcome them. Chlorine in reasonable ammounts is also used by many plants. Lye is nasty stuff such as drain clearing products which are essentially lye (NaOH). Most folks don't use much of it so it's not often an issue.

You can store grey water in a tank to gravity feed to crops/gardens/lawns but it gets stinkey fast, like in a day or two due to bacterial action so it likely must be used pretty quickly else a stinkey fluid results which, if you are downwind of it (or neighbors downwind of it) may produce stinkey air and less desirable ambience.

To reduce grey water, recycle washing machine rinse water into the next wash cycle if clothing dyes and excessive lint aren't an issue. Place a holding tank ofthirty gallons or more slightly above the washing machine and let it pump rinse water into that tank to gravity feed into the machine in the next wash cycle. It contains some detergent which reduces detergent you must add to the next wash cycle.

Recycling water and running grey water out onto the ground helps any septic system by reducing the amount of fluids and preserving bacteria in the tank (anaerobic without oxygen) and leach field (aerobic with oxygen). Adding a few tablespoons of ordinary baking yeast to the toilet flush also aids fermentation (anarobic) in the tank before it flows out ot the leach field. The ideas is to aid microorganism breakdown in both the tank and leach field, not deter from it.

I have plastic above ground tanks for several reasons. 1. I live in a non freezing zone, it NEVER gets cold enough to freeze the tank. 2. Sun warms the tank aiding in microorganism breakdown of solids. 3. I installed a valve at the bottom of the tank and an effluent pipe. Instead of paying for pumping, I simply open the bottom valve and let the tank contents flow downhill through a PVC pipe to a catch hole into which I put a gallon of chlorine bleach to kill everything since it's not going to the leach field. I don't put bleach into the tank only the catch hole. The bleach sterilizes the effluent and it soaks into the ground harmlessly and I hose out the tank as well with a pressure nozzle on the hose or my pressure washer and that also goes into the catch hole and the tank is squeaky clean.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-18-2014, 02:09 PM
katusharuso katusharuso is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
I can add a few things to the above post.
If local regulations permit, if you already have built your house/building, and want to run grey water out to lawns, gardens, agriculture etc. you can modify the plumbing possibly under the crawl space if any which the structure has under it. If this is possible it's a one shot deal and worth it.

Solution 2. If no crawl space/access, and if appearance is OK, exit the shower and laundry room effluent through the outside wall discretely using elbow fittings, and underground enough to prevent freezing onto planted areas using a system of pipes and ball valves to distribute it in a controlled even manner. Install a concrete clean out sump along the tubing for obvious reasons. Soil particles wash off the body in the shower and also off vegetables in the kitchen sink which will clog pipes of grey water without clean out sumps. Use a holding tank if possible especially if you want to put water downslope from the house/structure. By eliminating soil particles alone, you eliminate a LOT of sediment in the septic tanks and leach field! So Grey water separation from the septic system not only lessens the load on the system it lessens the undissolvable portion of the effluent in the tanks.

Especially where water rationing is an issue or lower than desirable water supplies for plants, grey water is the trick and nutrient rich as well.

You can reduce fluids entering a septic system by urinating in a separate container which is plumbed to the inside via a tube and funnel. This is good for shops using the same septic system as the house, where males mostly dominate the "facilities" for they can direct urine easier than females usually. Contain the urine in a five gallon covered paint pail or similar recipient so smell isn't an issue. "Flush" the funnel with a small amount of water to preven odors and install a goose neck of sorts into it also to prevent backwash of odors. This may seem undesirable but read on. Urine contains a potent nitrogen fertilizer, urea. When the bucket is full, remove it from the effluent tube and install a 2nd bucket. Allow the capped first bucket to sit and ferment a month. A brownish tea colored liquid results which is strong in ammonia (nitrogen). Dilute this 1 to 20 parts water to side dress gardens/crops. Bacterial and viruses do NOT exit the kidnies therefore urine is sterile in itself and no diseases can be spread by urine, unlike feces.

By not urinating in the septic system and flushing the toilet each time, you substantially reduce septic tank intake, prolonging the time for cleaning it out/pumping and the leach field receives less "stress".

A friend who is an ag engineer has a special outhouse just for urinating with a toilet seat on top of a sheet metal stool which is used by both males and females in the house. It is odor free and not "gross".

In the USA civil war, through the streets ran wagons with fluid tanks on them, horse drawn of course, into which urine from all the houses was dumped. In the South this was common for nitrates (potassium and sodium) were getting scarce and were a necessary constituent for black power used in fire arms and cannons an explosive artillery projectiles. The urine was used to make nitrates for black powder for the armed forces of both sides, especially the Confederate States of America. Today, synthetic urea is sold as fertilizer but it is the same thing as "real" urea. Shower water contains also, urea, from perspiration from the skin. Literally you also urinate through your skin via perspiration 24/7.

Last edited by katusharuso; 01-18-2014 at 02:12 PM.. Reason: added conent
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-18-2014, 03:00 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
having a grey water system is good.

if your governmental bodies don't allow grey water system they should be encouraged to change the regulations.

even if not currently allowed then you still could ask for a zoning variance to allow you to do that. they may be interested in seeing alternatives at a local level. universities and state level environmental agencies may be interested in testing grey water system and might aid you.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01-18-2014, 04:59 PM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
In a house I used to own I had a cesspool, which is a very primitive and compact way of waste disposal, sort of a porous tank that acted as it's own leach field.

I could monitor the level of liquid, and for a while used Pequa (I guess similar to ridex) for a while. I did knotice a drop in liquid level after using it, quite a drop, every time. If taht gummed up anything further downstream I don't know.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 01-19-2014, 10:03 AM
VunderBob VunderBob is offline
Mostly harmless
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: The VunderLair
Posts: 14,725
I had a house with a septic system. I used Rid-X a few times, and saw no benefit. After a while, it was time to have the system pumped, which happened without issue. The guys that cleaned the system out advised me to use the stuff immediately after to jump start the bacteria, but don't bother until the tank is pumped again in 2 years.

FWIW, YMMV and all the other usual disclaimers apply.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 01-19-2014, 01:29 PM
bob++ bob++ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Quote:
Addition of RID-X in to the septic tank aids in reinstating the perfect balance of beneficial bacteria and the useful enzymes required to operate the septic system with optimum efficiency. All the ingredients are scientifically tested for their contribution in braking down and decomposing the wastes. These are Cellulase (for digesting toilet paper, vegetable matter and some foods), Lipase (for digesting Fats, oils and grease), Protease (for digesting Proteins) and Amylase (to digest Starches).
From one of the websites selling the product.

I would not, on principle, buy anything from a company that doesn't proof-read their sales literature. That's always the easy way to spot the scam emails.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 01-19-2014, 07:55 PM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by VunderBob View Post
I had a house with a septic system. I used Rid-X a few times, and saw no benefit. After a while, it was time to have the system pumped, which happened without issue. The guys that cleaned the system out advised me to use the stuff immediately after to jump start the bacteria, but don't bother until the tank is pumped again in 2 years.



FWIW, YMMV and all the other usual disclaimers apply.

You have your tank pumped every two years? I had mine pumped 17 years ago when I thought I had a slow drain (it was actually a faulty toilet) and haven't touched it since.

I guess I don't know what "routine maintenance" is. We do have extremely sandy soil and that might help with drainage.
__________________
I've decided to spend more time criticizing things I don't understand. - Dogbert
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 01-19-2014, 09:02 PM
robby robby is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 4,498
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nars Glinley View Post
You have your tank pumped every two years? I had mine pumped 17 years ago when I thought I had a slow drain (it was actually a faulty toilet) and haven't touched it since.

I guess I don't know what "routine maintenance" is. We do have extremely sandy soil and that might help with drainage.
It's typically recommended that you have your septic tank pumped every 3-5 years. Every time I have mine pumped (twice in the last 8 years), I'm there to see the condition of the tank and see if I waited too long or not.

Not pumping a tank for 17 years is a very bad idea. You are putting your whole septic leach field at risk. The point of the tank is to retain solids, and allow only liquids to go into the leach field. If the tank is packed full of solids, the solids will overflow and end up in the leach field, which will ultimately clog it and require replacement of the whole leach field. Not only can the leach field pipes clog, but so can the soil itself, which is why leach field replacement is so expensive ($10K - $20K). It only costs about $250 to pump a septic tank, though.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 01-19-2014, 09:19 PM
Nars Glinley Nars Glinley is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
Huh. I guess I never really thought about how they're supposed to work. Oh well, there's a guy with a truck about 2 miles from my house. I guess I'll give him a call.
__________________
I've decided to spend more time criticizing things I don't understand. - Dogbert
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 01-19-2014, 11:22 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
in order to promote septic systems functioning well some locations will require inspection and pumping (if needed) by a septic tank pumping firm in a 3 to 5 year interval

also if you have an outflow filter then rinse it every year.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 01-19-2014, 11:35 PM
Isilder Isilder is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by WarmNPrickly View Post
but the guy said he could tell it had been used.
The guy cannot tell... Rid-X won't make any difference. Perhaps your family don't deposit much fat into the kitchen sink ? that would explain a lack of fat in the septic tank..


Rid-X is just enzymes. They wash away.
Not needed when the system is working properly, as bacteria produce the same enzymes anyway. Apart from the fat layer ?

Last edited by Isilder; 01-19-2014 at 11:37 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 06-17-2014, 06:48 PM
MrsPutz MrsPutz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
We have learned the hard way not to use antibacterial soaps and not to put rid x and all those other septic system cleaners in our septic tank. What happened to us is it caused all that slurry to float and to go into the leach lines and plug up. We dug up the leach line, drilled holes in the leach piping and flushed them out. What a pain!! To unblock the leach lines we had to use lots of lye with hot water and funnels in those holes we drilled, and when it startd to break up we flushed them out with the garden hoses. Took us three weeks to get it working ok, but saved us thousands becaus ewe didn't have to put in a new leach line.
Then we didn't learn (dumb, dumb, dumb) and made the mistake of listening to a "expert" guy in our area who recomended Green Pig every month to prevent it from happening again. Now we are digging again. We have our tank pumped every three yrs, and in the spring when the water tables are full i do the laundry at the laundromat.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 06-17-2014, 08:09 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
don't put shit in the shit.

see if you can have a filter installed on the outlet of the tank. it mounts inside the tank, made of plastic, you pull it out and rinse once or twice a year.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 06-17-2014, 09:11 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
We moved into our first house when out daughter was a month old. Being ignorant of the ways of septic tanks, we didn't know to have it pumped every three years or so. Disaster ensued - the tank eventually stopped up, and water backed up through the washing machine discharge into the basement. Our daughter, then nine, was the one to first see this and report it to us.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:05 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.