How to Know When Your Septic Tank Needs Emptying

If your property has a septic tank for your household wastewater, regular maintenance and emptying are essential, because otherwise it will at some point overflow, and the consequences of that, to put it mildly, can be quite unpleasant.

The best way to avoid such issues is to have your tank regularly emptied; how often this should be will depend on the size of your tank and how many people there are in your household, but as a general rule, for a family of four this should be once a year.

Having said that, if you like to have regular weekend guests or to entertain a lot generally, you may produce more than the average amount of waste for your size of household. Problems can also occur when there is particularly heavy rainfall, as that could cause more water to enter the system than it can deal with.

Regular checks of your tank should therefore become part of your routine, so that you can spot potential issues as early as possible and have them dealt with quickly to stop them becoming major problems.

Here are a few things you should be looking out for:

Excess water or an unpleasant smell around the drain field

The field where your tank empties is a place you should make regular checks on – if there are pools of water (although do be conscious of recent weather conditions) or unpleasant smells, these are signs of a full tank. Check that what’s coming out is clear and contains no solids, as this will be a sign that the tank is working effectively.

Water levels in the tank

While you’re out checking the state of your drain field, take a look at the water levels in your tank – if they’re too high, it may be a sign that sludge is building up at the bottom of the tank and that it therefore needs to be emptied.

Back-up in the sewers

When the tank gets too full, it may stop accepting fresh waste, and that means it will start to back up into your house. You won’t be able to miss this one, because there will, inevitably, be a distinctive smell.

Slow draining appliances and fixtures

If your washing machine, dishwasher, toilets, baths and sinks are draining more slowly than usual, this is a sign that your tank may be full or that the system is clogged up somewhere. If a septic-friendly drain cleaner doesn’t fix the problem, then get your tank checked out as soon as possible, because the problem will only get worse.

Gurgling noises in your pipes

Connected to the above, if you’re noticing gurgling noises as water moves through your pipes, then this may well be an issue with your septic tank. 

An unusually healthy lawn

If a part of your lawn near your tank suddenly starts to outshine and look healthier than elsewhere, this could actually be a sign that there’s a problem with your tank. It may indicate that either the tank is overflowing or that there is a leak in that area.


All of these signs may indicate that there is some kind of issue with your tank, so if you do notice any of them you should get your tank checked out as soon as possible, even if you have had it emptied relatively recently.

Cammack & Wilcox can help with all your septic tank issues. With over 30 years’ emptying and maintaining tanks in the Northampton area, we have the knowledge and experience to identify and fix any problems to keep your septic tank operating efficiently. Call us today for more details.