Clogged Septic System - What to Do

The term, “clogged septic system”, is somewhat unclear and could refer to various problems, each with a different solution, so it’s important to understand the exact issue.


  1. A clog in a drain pipe mistaken for an issue with the system
  2. Any sort of blockage in the pipe from the house to the tank
  3. An overflowing tank that’s “clogged” because it’s making drains sluggish
  4. Damage to the tightline, distribution box, or distribution pipe
  5. Large amounts of grease and solid particles clogging the distribution pipes and/or soil
  6. An overgrown biomat
  7. Clay soil bonding and turning into a blockage, known as hardpan

In other words, a clogged septic could refer to any condition that leads to sluggish drains in the house and/or sewage in the yard.


  1. If a drain is sluggish don’t jump to the conclusion that the system is the problem. Try other drains in the house. If only some drains are sluggish, then there could be a blockage in a main branch. Call a plumber or try one of the tools at the bottom of the page.
  2. A blockage from the house to the tank could be more serious than a normal pipe clog. If there are trees in the area, then root intrusion could be the problem. Also, tanks can settle and snap the somewhat frail connection between the pvc pipe and the concrete tank. Root intrusion can potentially be fixed with a chemical product; anything else probably requires a plumber.
  3. The tank could be overflowing because
    • The tank has a crack and is flooding with rainwater.
    • The effluent filter (if you have one) is dirty.
    • The outlet tee or outlet tee/tightline junction is damaged.
    • Excess water or solid waste is put down the drain.
    • There’s a problem further down the line.
    • (If you’re brave and know the location of the outlet riser, then you can clean the effluent filter with a hose and reinstall. The rest of the issues probably call for a contractor.)
  4. Damage to the tightline, distribution box, or distribution pipes usually occurs because vehicles are driven over the drainfield not realizing these components are only shallowly buried. The solution is hiring someone to excavate and replace the broken component.
  5. If the tank isn’t pumped often enough, then grease and fecal particles can accumulate in the distribution pipes and soil. Once there, they can be very difficult to remove. Please see my post on drain field restoration for a variety of solutions.
  6. Around the distribution pipes a black, sticky layer of bacteria grow called the biomat. They digest harmful contaminates in the effluent making the water safe to reenter the water table; however, if they grow too thick, the layer becomes water-proof. See the link on #5, particularly the Terra-lift machine.
  7. If you have clay soil, then the sodium in many household products will find its way into the drain field and potentially react with the clay soil to form a denser, water-resistant soil, known as hardpan. For this issue, I recommend a product called Septic Seep.

Clogged Septic

 Clog Removing Products


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