How much does it cost to clean a septic tank?
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Septic Tank Cleaning Cost Guide
Updated: August 18, 2022
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 is not cleaned or pumped at regular intervals, you could damage the tank or your leach field. The terms cleaning and pumping are used interchangeably throughout this guide, although there are different levels of septic tank maintenance and tank parts that may be cleaned. These variables could lead to a wider range of costs, along with the tank size and how easy it is to access.
The national average cost to clean a septic tank is $300 to $600, with most homeowners paying around $400 to pump a 1,250-gallon tank in good condition. This project’s low cost is $200 to pump a 750-gallon tank in good condition, with the homeowner uncovering the tank’s surface. The high cost is $1,100 to clean the walls of a 1,500-gallon tank in poor condition before pumping and cleaning the filter.
Septic Tank Pumping Cost
|Septic Tank Cleaning Price|
|National average cost||$400|
Septic Pumping Cost per Gallon
Septic tanks are pumped regularly to remove sludge and solids that cannot flow into the leach field. Larger tanks tend to cost more to pump than smaller tanks because they hold more waste and take longer to pump. Most companies do not charge per gallon, but you may be able to get a per-gallon cost if you want to shop around for the best prices. Most costs are between $0.30 and $0.40 per gallon to pump the average tank. The cost per gallon tends to go up slightly for larger tanks because they take more time to pump than smaller tanks.
Septic Tank Cleaning Cost by Method
Most septic tanks require very little maintenance and cleaning. They need to be pumped regularly to remove the solid waste that cannot flow into the leach field. When you do this, it is basically all your septic tank needs.
However, if you do not have your tank pumped regularly or it sat unused for an extended time and was not pumped or emptied beforehand, you may need more invasive cleaning. If a tank is not pumped regularly, the solid waste can dry on the sides of the tank, so it cannot be pumped out. When this happens, the tank walls need cleaning, usually through pressure washing or hydro jetting. Once the walls are cleaned, the tank can be pumped as usual. If the tank is serviced regularly, pumping is generally all that is necessary. However, neglecting the tank can lead to further problems, including needing a full cleaning. Below are the average costs for cleaning the walls and pumping a standard 1,250-gallon tank.
|Hydro Jetting Walls||$250 - $300|
|Pumping||$300 - $600|
Septic Hydro Jetting
The cost to hydro jet the walls of a septic tank averages $250 to $300. This is done in cases where the septic tank has not been cleaned regularly. For example, if you have a larger-than-average tank and it does not get full often, you may go longer between pumps. If this happens, you may need to have the walls jetted first and then the tank pumped. Or, if the property has been empty for an extended time, the walls may need to be cleaned before the tank can be used or pumped properly. After the walls are cleaned, the tank will need to be pumped, which has its own set of costs. For tanks with a lot of dried sludge, you may need to pump the tank again 6 months later.
Septic Tank Pumping
The cost to pump a septic tank averages $300 to $600. This is for regular maintenance pumping, which should be done every 2 to 5 years, depending on the tank size and your household size. Most larger homes have larger tanks and can be pumped every 3 to 5 years. However, if your home has a smaller tank, you may need it pumped more often. If you have a larger tank and only 1 or 2 occupants, you may need it pumped less frequently. Pumping involves using vacuum hoses to suction out the sludge produced by the breaking down of the solid waste at the bottom of the tank. This helps keep the tank working properly and prevents the system from backing up or overflowing.
Septic Tank Cleaning Prices by Size
Septic tank cleaning costs vary depending on the size of the tank, ranging anywhere between $175 and $700. 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. Septic tank sizes differ between house sizes, with larger homes and more occupants requiring larger septic tanks than smaller homes. The most common size for a septic tank in the U.S. is 1,250 gallons. However, there are many older homes with smaller tanks of 750 or 1,000 gallons because the tank was never expanded with the addition of extra bathrooms or space in the home. Concrete tanks can last 40 or more years, so it is common to still find small tanks in some areas. Bigger tanks are also available for larger homes of 5 or more bedrooms and multi-family properties and compounds. For example, if you own a duplex, you want a larger tank than you would need for a single-family home. The chart below highlights the most common sizes of septic tanks and their respective costs for cleaning.
|Size||Average Cleaning Cost|
|750 Gallons||$175 - $300|
|1,000 Gallons||$225 - $400|
|1,250 Gallons||$300 - $600|
|1,500 Gallons||$345 - $600|
|1,750 Gallons||$400 - $700|
RV Septic Tank Pumping Cost
Expect to pay between $10 and $25 per dump to clean out an RV septic tank. However, many campsites allow you to dump your waste for free as part of your contract. If you have a permanent spot for your RV, you may pay between $200 and $1,500 yearly in septic fees, depending on the site. 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 traveling in a big group, you may need to empty your tanks more often.
Cost to Pump a Holding Tank
If you live on a lake, pond, river, or other body of water, you may have a septic holding tank rather than a septic tank and leach field. While a normal septic tank only holds solid waste until it decomposes into a sludge that can be pumped while the liquid drains into the leach field, a holding tank does not drain liquids. Instead, the holding tank holds both liquids and solids. They may be smaller than regular septic tanks, and you will need to pump them more frequently. Most holding tanks have a light or indicator indoors telling you when they are full and need to be pumped. A holding tank needs to be pumped every 6 to 8 weeks and costs $100 to $150 per pump.
How Often Should a Septic Tank Be Pumped?
The exact timing for your septic tank’s pumping schedule varies greatly, depending on several factors. According to the EPA, you should ideally have it pumped once every 3 to 5 years, but depending on the tank size and number of occupants in your home, you may need to have it pumped more or less frequently than this range.
For example, if you have a 750-gallon tank and 3 to 5 people in your home, you will need it pumped every 2 years. However, if you have a 1,500-gallon tank and only 2 people in your home, you could go 7 or 8 years between pumps. Generally, your septic tank company will assess your tank and make a recommendation based on the size and occupancy. The goal is to have the tank pumped before it becomes full, so if the tank were to be full in 4 years, you might have it pumped in 3 to avoid overflowing of the tank and issues with odor or drain problems. Because of the timing, most companies give you a courtesy reminder in the form of a postcard or phone call, but contracts with the company are not typically offered. Below is a general guideline for tank sizes and timing based on the home’s occupancy. Always check with your local septic company to set up the best maintenance schedule for your home.
|House Size||Tank Size||Cleaning Frequency (in Years)|
|1 - 2 Bedrooms||750||2 - 5|
|2 - 3 Bedrooms||1,000||3 - 5|
|3 - 5 Bedrooms||1,250||3 - 5|
|5 - 7 Bedrooms||1,500||3- 5|
|8+ Bedrooms||1,750||3 - 5|
Signs That Your Septic Tank Is Full
Ideally, you want to get into a good schedule with your septic company, where they will come out before your tank overflows. However, if you are not on a current schedule, there are many signs that can indicate if your tank is full. This can include a foul odor near the tank or in the drains of your home. Your leach field and the area around the tank may have soggy areas or not be draining properly. The drains inside your home may also be draining slowly. If you notice the water draining slowly in all your sinks and tubs at once, this is a sign that your septic tank is full and needs to be pumped.
Septic Tank Maintenance Cost
In addition to having your septic tank pumped and visually inspected regularly, you can do things to help maintain your septic tank. A new septic tank can cost thousands of dollars, so proper maintenance can help you avoid repairs or replacements.
Proper maintenance includes limiting the amount of wastewater that flushes into the system. Use water-friendly or water-saving faucets, showerheads, and toilets whenever possible, and run your washing machine with the lowest amount of water.
Keep things out of your septic system that do not belong there, such as coffee grounds, oils, grease, cat litter, facial tissues, paper towels, diapers, and baby wipes. Only use septic-safe toilet paper and wipes, and do not flush sanitary products.
Do not park or drive on your leach field. Do not plant trees, bushes, or anything other than grass on top of your leach field, and ensure that any trees or plants are far enough away that their roots will not damage the tank.
Direct gutters and rainwater away from your leach field whenever possible. French drains and dry wells can help keep excess water out of this area if needed.
Do not use chemicals, cleaners, or bacteria that claim to clean your tank. This can damage the tank. Speak to your septic company if you have concerns.
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. Most repairs average $750 and $3,000.
Septic Tank Replacement
A septic system replacement cost ranges between $4,500 and $9,000, 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. In addition to the system itself, you may need to replace specific sections of the system. This can include the filter ($200 - $300), which keeps solids from entering the drain field, the drain field or leach field itself ($3,500 - $11,000), which is what drains the liquids from the tank, and the lid on the tank ($150 - $500). When you have your tank pumped, some of these issues will be noticeable, and your company can alert you if they need replacement.
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 to the drain field. Under healthy conditions, your filter will function for many years before cleaning is required. In most cases, the price of cleaning the filter is included in the overall cost of pumping the tank. If not, expect to pay between $100 and $200 additional.
When tanks go too long without being cleaned, sludge and scum accumulate, causing the filters, pumps, and drain fields that are designed to process the effluent to clog. 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.
Jetting Septic Lines
The lines that lead to your septic tank from your home can become clogged. Too much grease, hair, or other contaminants in the line can clog it, which can cause backups and slow drains inside your home. This is similar to the problems that can occur with sewer lines for those not on septic. The cost to have them hydro-jetted as well as the process is the same as with a sewer line. Expect costs between $350 and $650.
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. Also, most tanks are buried and do not have an obvious lid or cap. If you are unsure of your tank’s location, your septic service can find it for you by following the plumbing, or you can get an as-built diagram from your local county records office.
- Uncovering the lid. If your tank is buried, the lid will need to be uncovered before the tank can be pumped. If you do this yourself, your company usually offers a discount on the service. Otherwise, you can ask them to install a riser, which extends the cap to ground level for easy access. This can have an additional cost of $100 to $200.
- Roto-Rooter. Septic tank pumping is not done company-wide by Roto-Rooter, but a few individual companies may offer it. Contact your local provider to see if this is a service they offer.
- Inspection. Your septic company will usually do a cursory inspection of your tank at the time of pumping. They can alert you to issues with the tank that may require repair. However, if you suspect there are issues with the tank and it is not time for a cleaning, you can schedule a one-time inspection. You can also have an inspection done when you purchase a new property. If repairs are needed, the inspection cost generally rolls into the repair cost. Otherwise, expect costs of between $100 and $300.
- 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.
- 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 often should a septic tank be emptied?
The exact timing of how often your tank should be emptied can vary depending on the size of the tank and how many people are in your home. The average rule of thumb is to have it emptied every 3 to 5 years. However, some smaller tanks may need more frequent emptying. Speak to your local septic company about what they recommend.