What Causes A Scum Layer In Your Septic Tank And How To Control Its Size

1 March 2018
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog

While you know solid matter collects in the bottom of your septic tank and needs cleaned out on a regular basis, you may not know about the layer of oily scum that floats on top of the tank and its importance. This scum layer affects how often your tank needs to be pumped out too and it can even affect the functioning of your septic system. Here's a look at why this layer develops and why it needs to be removed before it gets too thick.

What Causes A Scum Layer To Develop

The contents of your septic tank settle into distinct layers. The solids are on the bottom and water floats on top of them. Then, everything that's lighter than water floats on the very top of the tank. This floating layer is called the scum layer. It is composed of oil, fat, soap scum, hair, and even paper products like facial tissues that float before they sink. The scum layer forms naturally, and it has an important job. It acts as an internal lid for the contents of the septic tank that keeps air out. This allows bacteria to thrive and break down waste in the tank.

Why The Scum Layer Needs To Be Removed Before It's Too Thick

Water drains out of the septic tank on a continual basis. When new water goes down your drain and into the tank, water that was sitting in the tank is pushed on out. The drain for water to flow out of the tank is located in the middle of the tank so solids on the bottom and scum on the top can't reach it. However, if the scum layer gets too thick too fast, it can reach the drain and leak out into the drainfield or clog up the filter. Having your septic tank pumped on schedule keeps fat, oil, and scum from causing clogs that damage the septic system.

How To Keep The Scum Layer From Getting Too Large

There are things you can do to keep the scum layer from getting larger than it needs to. For instance, you shouldn't pour cooking oil down the drain, even through the garbage disposal. You may also want to avoid placing fatty foods in the garbage disposal as well. Buy products that are labeled safe for septic tanks when possible. The ideal toilet paper for a septic system is the kind that immediately starts dissolving in water. Toilet paper and facial tissues treated with lotions can repel water and float. These also take much longer to break down inside the tank. By controlling the amount of oily materials that go down your toilet and drains, you can control the size of the scum layer in your septic tank. This allows you to go longer before you need the tank cleaned and it also helps prevent the need for costly repairs to clean out a clog.

Contact a service, like Lutzky Contracting, for more help.