How Much Does It Cost to Clean a Septic Tank?

Average range: $400 - $1,000
Average Cost
(initial inspection, assessment and pumping of a 1,000-gallon tank)

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Reviewed by Sophia Fennessy. Written by

A septic tank is a critical part of waste management, especially if you live in a rural area. It needs to be cleaned regularly to keep working efficiently. If a septic tank isn’t cleaned at regular intervals, you risk experiencing some unpleasant side effects. Odor is one of the first signs your tank needs cleaning. It could get to the point where you hear icky gurgling sounds and experience slow drains. You may also notice wet spots in the yard. In a worst-case scenario, you may even deal with sewage backlogs and illness. A septic tank needs to be pumped once every two to five years, depending on use.

The national average cost to clean a 1,000-gallon septic tank (including initial inspection and assessment) is between $400 and $1,000. Most homeowners pay around $700 for an initial inspection, assessment, and pumping of a 1,000-gallon tank. At the low end of the spectrum, you will pay around $300 for regular inspection and pumping. At the high end, you may pay up to $1,300 for an inspection and pumping of a 3000-gallon tank.

Septic Tank Pumping Cost

Septic Tank Cleaning Cost
National average cost$700
Average range$400 - $1,000
Minimum cost$300
Maximum cost$1,300

Septic Tank Cleaning Cost by Project Range

Regular inspection and pumping
Average Cost
Initial inspection, assessment and pumping of a 1,000-gallon tank
Inspection and pumping of a 3,000-gallon tank

Septic Tank Cleaning Cost by Method

The type of cleaning method you select influences the cost of septic tank cleaning, averaging between $20 and $895. Usually, when people talk about cleaning a septic tank, they’re more specifically talking about pumping the tank. The tank must be pumped, but there are also other ways to clean and maintain your septic tank. The chart below highlights the most common cleaning methods and their costs, followed by an explanation of each process, equipment, pros and cons, and cost.

Septic Tank Cleaning by Bacteria Additive, Chemical Treatment, Filter Cleaning, Hydro Jetting, and Pumping Method

Septic Tank Cleaning by Bacteria Additive, Chemical Treatment, Filter Cleaning, Hydro Jetting, and Pumping Method

MethodCost (Materials and Labor)
Bacteria Additive$20 - $300
Chemical Treatment$20 - $300
Filter Cleaning$100 - $200
Hydro Jetting$250 - $300
Pumping$250 - $895

Septic Bacteria Additive

Septic Bacteria Additive, also referred to as a Biological Additive, is a treatment that boosts the bacteria in the septic tank by introducing enzymes that help break down solid waste, fibers such as in toilet paper, or scum that gathers. Normally a healthy septic tank contains enough bacteria to support decomposing without additional stimulation. However, if toxic substances exist in the tank, it may hinder the bacteria needed for digestion. In these cases, a professional may use a bacterial additive to boost the bacteria to promote and support decomposing. In situations where the bacteria in the tank are healthy, an additive may cause the bacteria to compete, leading to a reduced tank efficiency. Adding additives to the tank has to be done so wisely. A professional septic tank contractor can decide if it's the proper method for your tank. A septic tank bacteria additive ranges from $20 to $300, depending on the type and quantity.

Septic Tank Chemical Treatment

Septic Tank Chemical Additives such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, and commercial draining cleaning products are often used in septic tanks to clear clogged pipes, control odors, or unclog a drain field 1. Chemical additives can be difficult to use as they can sometimes cause more harm than good to your system. They contain extremely harsh chemicals. If used in the wrong way, they can damage your system rather than fix it. Many chemical additive products on the market differ in price, averaging from $20 to $300. If a chemical additive is required, a professional will select the best one on the market for your septic tank.

Septic Tank Filter Cleaning

A septic tank filter is a device that is located near the end of the septic tank where effluents leave the tank and are transported to the leach/drain field. Filters trap large solids and particle matter that was not caught in the tank where the majority of the scum is found. Filters allow for a cleaner effluent to exit the tank. Cleaning the septic tank filter minimizes blockage and prevents solids from going through the outlet pipe 2 to the drain field. Under healthy conditions, your filter will function for many years before cleaning is required. The filter should be cleaned whenever the tank is pumped, at least every three to five years. When you ask a septic specialist for a quote, be sure to confirm if cleaning the septic filter is included in the price. In most cases, the price of cleaning the filter is included in the overall cost of pumping the tank, between $250 and $895. The cost of septic filter cleaning averages between $100 and $200.

Septic Hydro Jetting

Hydro jetting is the process of cleaning out the pipes in the drain field using a high-pressure hose. Hydro jetting is most commonly used for bigger, more complicated problems in the septic field lines and not the tank itself. If you are experiencing an issue with the tank, it may not be a good idea to use this method. It can cause additional damage to your tank due to its powerful pressure. Hydro jetting effectively clears out and removes sludge, clogs, and even tree roots that have intruded into the septic lines. Although hydro jetting can be a great tool, it is best to leave it up to the professionals to decide whether using this method is best for your septic system. The average cost for hydro jetting averages around $250 to $300.

Septic Tank Pumping Cost

The average cost to pump 3 a septic tank is between $250 and $600, with most homeowners spending around $425. The cost is highly dependent on the size of the tank. For smaller, 750-gallon tanks, you can expect to pay as low as $250. A larger 1250-gallon tank can cost upwards of $895. Most tanks require pumping every three to five years, with inspections every one to three years. When it comes to septic tanks, septic tank cleaning and septic tank pumping are often used interchangeably. However, they refer to slightly different things. Septic tank cleaning is more thorough in the sense that it removes all of the compacted sludge from the bottom of the septic tank. Septic tank pumping means removing liquid and some floating solids or sludge.

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Septic Tank Cleaning Prices by Size

Septic tank cleaning costs vary depending on the size of the tank, ranging anywhere between $250 and $475. Septic tank cleaning is an important service for anyone who has a septic system in their home. Cleaning your septic tank regularly helps reduce maintenance and repair costs and provide a longer-lasting system. The sizes for septic tanks differ between house sizes. The chart below highlights the most common sizes of septic tanks and their respective costs.

750 Gallons, 1000 Gallons, and 1250 Gallons Septic Tank Cleaning Cost

750 Gallons, 1000 Gallons, and 1250 Gallons Septic Tank Cleaning Cost

SizeAverage Cleaning Cost (Materials and Labor)
750 Gallons$250
1,000 Gallons$375
1,250 Gallons$475

Average Cost to Clean Septic Tank

The average cost to clean a septic tank is $400 to $1,000, which usually includes the inspection cost. Approximately 40% of the final costs are made up of materials, and the other 60% made up of labor.

Pumping a septic tank is not a job that you can do yourself. This job requires the work of a septic tank professional. These pros know the signs of a troubled septic system and assess your system while facilitating the pumping process.

The septic pump operator uses a hose to extract the scum, sludge, and effluent. The operator may use a special tool called a muck rake, which helps agitate the sludge at the bottom and helps the sludge get out of the tank.

It usually doesn’t take too long to pump a septic tank, often around 30 to 45 minutes for a 1,000-gallon tank. It can take up to a couple of hours if you have a larger tank or any unforeseen issues are found with the tank or drain field.

Cost to Empty a Septic Tank

The average cost to empty a septic tank ranges between $250 and $450. This cost varies depending on the size of the tank. Most often, septic tanks need to be completely emptied only if they are being removed or replaced. In these instances, the water and scum have nowhere to go and need to be emptied. Septic tanks are not completely emptied in the process of cleaning or pumping them.

Professional Septic Tank Cleaner Emptying a Septic Tank

RV Septic Tank Pumping Cost

You will pay anywhere between $150 and $300 to clean out an RV septic tank. RV septic tanks also referred to as holding tanks, are part of your RV's plumbing system. The septic tank holds any waste water that goes down your sinks, toilet, and shower. Waste tanks allow an RV to be self-contained, storing gray water and black water until it can be dumped at an appropriate area for RV holding disposal. How often you need to empty your tanks is relative to the use. If you are travelling in a big group, you may need to empty your tanks more often.

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Septic Tank Inspection Cost

The average cost for a septic tank inspection ranges between $100 and $900, depending on the type. Septic tank inspection is essential to keeping your system running efficiently without future costly repairs. It also plays a crucial role in keeping you and others healthy and safe. There are three types of inspections, including an initial inspection, annual inspection, and camera inspection. Each type serves a different purpose, each of which is explained in the subsections below. The chart highlights the average range cost of each.

Septic Tank Annual, Initial, and Camera Inspection Cost

Septic Tank Annual, Initial, and Camera Inspection Cost

Type of InspectionCost (Materials and Labor)
Annual$100 - $150
Initial$250 - $500
Camera$250 - $900

Annual Inspection

One way to prevent problems before they start is to have your septic system inspected annually. Doing annual inspections is much cheaper than replacing or fixing the tank, so it is an important investment in the long run. A contractor who specializes in septic systems can be hired to carry out the inspection. During the annual inspection, the contractor gauges the scum and sludge levels 4 to determine when the tank needs to be pumped out next. The average cost for an annual inspection ranges between $100 and $150.

Initial Inspection

Before cleaning your septic tank, a contractor must perform an initial inspection of your tank and area. This initial inspection ranges in price between $250 and $500, depending on the complexity of your system. A professional contractor will take a look at the tank using special tools to assess inside the tank. They will inspect the filter and drain field 1 and determine if there are any issues with the system.

Septic Tank Camera Inspection

If you are experiencing issues with your pipes or your drains are not functioning properly, your tank can be inspected easily using cameras. A camera inspection system can help to diagnose the problem with your system quickly. The cameras are waterproof and can be lowered right into the tank, where a video can be captured on tape to review. Camera inspections are quite costly and are only carried out if necessary. The cost for a camera inspection is $250 to $900.

Signs That Your Septic Tank is Full

Some common signs indicate that your septic tank is full. If you start to notice foul odours in your home or standing water, it may be time to have your system checked. Clogged drains and sewage backup are also good indicators of a full tank. In addition, an overly healthy lawn in the drain field may indicate that more than just water is coming through the pipes, and your tank might be full. If you experience any of these signs, it is good to contact a contractor specializing in septic systems to have them drained.

Septic Tank Cleaning Frequency

There are two main types of septic systems, aerobic and anaerobic. The basic difference between the two types of systems is the presence or absence of oxygen. Anaerobic systems open in underground tanks in the absence of oxygen. This means that the bacteria that break down the sewage can live without oxygen. Aerobic systems depend on oxygen and rely on an “aerator” to inject oxygen into the tank. They support aerobic bacteria. Aerobic septic system maintenance cost and cleaning are the same as anaerobic.

A septic tank is a critical part of waste management that requires regular cleaning to keep working efficiently. If a septic tank isn’t cleaned regularly, you run the risk of many unpleasant side effects. A professional contractor should clean your septic tank. The frequency will be determined during the initial assessment. The contractor will estimate how often your tank should be cleaned and create a septic tank maintenance schedule. This ensures that required cleanings aren’t missed and your septic tank continues to run efficiently.

Several factors affect the frequency of cleaning of your septic tank. These factors include the tank size, frequency of use, and the number of people living in the household. A family of six creates three times more waste compared to a family of two, which increases the frequency of cleaning. If your home has a small septic tank, you can expect to have it cleaned out more regularly than a larger tank. The chart below highlights the frequency of cleaning your septic tank, taking into account the house and tank size. You can see that the larger the tank size, the less frequent the cleaning required.

Septic Tank Cleaning Frequency in a Two-bedroom house, a Three-bedroom house, and a Four-bedroom house

Septic Tank Cleaning Frequency in a Two-bedroom house, a Three-bedroom house, and a Four-bedroom house

House SizeTank SizeCleaning Frequency (in years)
Two-bedroom house7004.2
Three-bedroom house1,0003.7
Four-bedroom house1,2503.4

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Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Septic Tank Repair

As you might suspect, there’s sometimes more to the cost than just the price for cleaning. When your septic professional is inspecting your septic system, he or she will inspect the filter and the drain field. If you’ve noticed any potential problems like sewage backups or clogged drains, you’ll want to let your pro know. That being said, if your contractor finds out that something isn’t working the way it should, it needs to be repaired. Repair costs will vary depending on the specific issue. Replacing a filter is an average expenditure of around $200 to $300. However, if the drain field is in trouble, loosening the soil can sometimes solve the issue, but that can cost anywhere from $1,100 to $4,200.

Replacing Septic Tank Cost

A septic system replacement cost ranges between $5,000 and $11,000, depending on the pieces that require replacement. Unfortunately, just like everything else, septic systems don’t last forever. With proper maintenance and cleaning, you won’t need to think about replacing your system for up to 15 to 20 years. A tank could fail if there are cracks, leaks, or damage. Septic tank replacement starts with the removal, which includes emptying the tank first. Pumping the tank can range in price between $250 to $600, depending on the tank size, distance from the dumping ground, and dump fees.

Septic Tank Filter Replacement

Replacing your septic tank filter is one of the most common repairs you will perform on your system. A filter is a cylindrical device installed on the outlet baffle of a septic tank that removes solids from the water before entering the drain field. Filters allow for cleaner effluent to exit the tank. The elimination of solids by installing a filter minimizes the possibility of a blockage or failure of the drain field. The lifespan of a filter depends on many factors, including maintenance, manufacturer, and number of people in your home. It is a good idea to replace your filter every three to five years, just as it is to have the system pumped 3. You can expect to pay between $230 to $280 to install a quality filter for your septic tank.

Septic Field Replacement Cost

Septic drain or leach field 1 replacement costs between $3,500 and $11,000, with most homeowners paying approximately $7,000 on average. The drain or leach field is the part of the septic system responsible for transporting waste water into the soil. When working efficiently, a leach or drawing yield is invisible and silent. The first sign of a problem is issues with toilet flushing, sewage odors that come from the drain, septic tank, or leach field, or standing water or wet, mushy grass of the drain/leach field. If any of these problems occur, a professional septic tank company should be contacted immediately.

Septic Pump Replacement Cost

When your pump goes out or starts giving you problems, it will cost between $500 and $1,200 for replacement. A pump is an essential part of the septic system that brings effluent to the drain field. If your septic tank sits lower than the drain field, gravity cannot carry and/or push the effluent out of the tank; therefore, a pump is required. A septic tank system requires pumping every two to three years, even if it's running efficiently. This pumping costs around $250 to $600, with most homeowners spending around $425.

Soil Fracturing

When tanks go too long without being cleaned, sludge and scum accumulate, causing the filters, pumps, and drain fields to clog that are designed to process the effluent. In these cases, professionals cannot pump your system and can only rejuvenate the system by fracturing the soil. Fracturing the soil requires a hole to be drilled in the soil where a tube will be inserted. A huge blast of hundreds of pounds of air is blasted into the soil, which creates “fractures” where wastewater can flow. This process involves specific equipment and significant time and must be performed by a professional. The cost of soil fracturing averages $1,000 to $2,000 to perform.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Septic safe toilet paper. You may notice that some stores sell “septic safe” toilet paper, which is supposed to break down into smaller pieces. However, just because it says “septic safe” doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice for your system. Biodegradable toilet paper is one alternative. Recycled toilet paper usually lacks bleach, which helps support the helpful bacteria in your system.
  • DIY. Septic tank cleaning is not a project to take on yourself. To start, there is the issue of dealing with hazardous materials. The sludge and scum need to be disposed of properly according to local regulations. Septic system professionals have the knowledge and certification to do so. Professionals have the proper protective equipment when working with septic tanks. Septic tanks produce methane gas, which can cause suffocation, so you don’t want to stick your head in the tank to look around. Also, it is important to refrain from lighting any flame around the system, including cigarettes. Septic systems are a serious fire hazard and can cause an explosion.
  • Maintenance. One of the best ways to maintain a healthy septic system is to use less water. The more water you use, the more water ends up in the septic tank, which hinders the breakdown of waste. You can use less water by installing high-efficiency toilets and showerheads and using a high-efficiency washing machine. Other ways to save water include not running the faucet while brushing your teeth and using a dishpan for washing dishes.
  • Hiring tips. It is important to get at least three written estimates for work before selecting a professional company. You want to make sure that your scope of work is in line with their experience based on previous references and want to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable company.
  • Location. Your location can influence the cost of septic tank cleaning. The prices vary from city to city as there are different companies in different locations that offer different prices.


  • How much does it cost to get your septic cleaned out?

The average cost for cleaning a 1000-gallon tank is $700, including the initial inspection and assessment.

  • What are the signs that your septic tank is full?

If you notice an odor or standing water, it may be time to have your system checked. Clogged drains and sewage backup signal a full tank. In addition, lush grass in the drain field indicates that more than just water is leaching through the pipes, indicating the tank may be full.

  • How often do you need to empty the septic tank?

A septic tank should ideally be emptied once every three to five years.

  • What happens if you don't clean your septic tank?

If you fail to clean your septic tank, you can experience severe consequences, including damage to your system. You can experience things such as sewage backups and odor in your home. Eventually, the solids reach the pipe that feeds into the drain field, causing a clog and cracking pipes. Waste water will then start leaking onto your property.

  • How many years does a septic tank last?

Steel septic tanks have a shorter lifespan because the parts start to rust over time. You can expect a steel tank to last 15 to 20 years. A concrete tank, on the other hand, can last 40 years or more if the system is well cared for and pumped regularly.

  • How much does it cost to pump a septic tank?

The average cost to pump a septic tank is between $250 and $600, with most homeowners spending around $425. The cost is highly dependent on the size of the tank. For smaller, 750-gallon tanks, you can expect to pay as low as $250. A larger 1250-gallon tank can cost upwards of $895.

  • How does a septic tank work?

A septic tank works by receiving all of the wastewater from your home through pipes located underground. Once the wastewater enters the tank, it sits there and eventually forms a sludge. Oils and grease form a scum that rises to the top of the tank. The scum is kept inside the tank, where the liquids drain through pipes into the drain field. The effluent makes its way to the gravel and soil before going to the water table below. When the effluent passes through the gravel and soil, bacteria are filtered out and removed from the water.

  • What’s the difference between a septic tank and a cesspool?

Septic tanks and cesspools are similar in that they are both designed to receive and hold sewage, but what happens after that differentiates both types of systems. With a septic tank, the wastewater transfers to a leach field where it undergoes filtration. A cesspool is a pit with an outlet pipe connected to another pit, lined with cement or stone. Cesspools cannot filter waste, and therefore can be harmful to the soil.

Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Leach field: (Also known as Drain field) The part of a septic system that is used to remove pollutants and impurities from the fluid coming out of the septic tank.
2 Outlet pipe: A long hollow cylinder which enables the escape or release of water, gas, steam, air, etc
glossary term picture Pump 3 Pump: A device used to move air, liquid, or gas by mechanical means
4 Levels: The process of evening out the ground's surface, making it either flat or sloped.

Cost to clean a septic tank varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

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Open Access Hatch of a Septic Tank Being Cleaned
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