Money down the drain....
April 6, 2010 8:53 AM   Subscribe

What septic tank treatment products actually work? and how would you know if they did anyway?

Having my septic tank cleaned out today as we do every 2-3 years. They usually suck out about 1200-1500 gallons of...well, you know. Every time they come they suggest purchasing several gallons of a bacteria product called CCLS @ $70/gallon. They (the septic company) insist it is the key to a healthy septic tank. My plumber says it's a farce and chucking a couple of packets of baker's yeast down the toilet every month is sufficient, as we've done, but I have no idea if it has "worked". At least we've had no backups. As many can imagine, I have a hard time literally pouring down the drain a couple of hundred dollars of product that I have no idea if it is working.

Should I buy and use this CCLS? or is this their big money maker with no proven track record of working?
posted by teg4rvn to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'll admit to not actually knowing the answer, but I've never understood the logic of adding bacteria to a pool of bacteria. As a data point, the guys who pump out my septic specifically tell me to add nothing.
posted by sageleaf at 9:05 AM on April 6, 2010

Provided adding nothing includes adding nothing that kills the bacteria, like toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, etc.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:12 AM on April 6, 2010

IANYSTS(sewage treatment specialist), but I've had a hand in some sewage treatment system design work recently. It looks like your CCLS product is meant for breaking down a variety of organic compounds and hence reducing the crud buildup in your tank. Yeast will only break down starches as it ferments. And I'm not entirely sure how much starch you'd be pooping out, you can digest that. So the yeast part sounds hokey to me - not harmful, but not going to do the same job as CLSS.

Your "organic wastes" do provide a variety of bacteria into the system on their own, to break down the solids material. Aerobic digestor systems depend on aeration though, and I'm sure your septic tank doesn't get aeration, so there's a lot of anaerobic action going on in there, producing the smelly gases. Still, it's breaking down into liquids and non-dissolvable sludge (which has to be physically removed).

On its own, your system should be able to do a reasonable job, provided you're not dumping a lot of weird chemicals down there - soaps, solvents, cleaner fluids, etc. This kills the bacteria, which throws your tank out of whack and causes premature solids buildup and clogging. In this case, re-introducing the good bacteria is necessary, hence the CLSS stuff. So really, if you're careful about not dumping loads of soapy water or other chemicals down the drain into your septic tank, you won't have much to worry about. Use less soap, cleaners and chemicals and you probably won't need that CLSS stuff. This goes for shampoo and bubble bath, toilet bowl cleaner, scum remover, etc... all cleaning agents. Use less.

The CLSS stuff is probably worth using once in a while though, get someone to have a look at the buildup in your tank and determine whether it is a reasonable amount or not, and decide.
posted by lizbunny at 9:26 AM on April 6, 2010

IANASP (I am not a septic professional), but...
We've only had ours pumped twice so far, and the service has never suggested an additive. If you open up the tank (awhile after pumping) it will be obvious if the system is healthy, the bacteria can be seen 'shimmering' on the surface.
If my service were to insist I needed an unnecessary additive, I would consider looking for another service.
However, there could be other factors to be taken into consideration here (water quality, chlorination, fluoridation, septic design, etc...)
posted by evilelf at 9:31 AM on April 6, 2010

One more on the nature takes care of things on Her own. Check this

I'd also at least look into another service, just on the thinking that if they're this crooked or incompetent, where else might they be doing wrong?
posted by IndigoJones at 10:29 AM on April 6, 2010

Agree for the most part with lizbunny. We use the cheaper stuff, not yeast but Zep or one of those powders you can get at Home Depot (maybe $15 for a 6mo - 1yr supply). I throw a bunch down every few months to counteract any soaps etc that go down. Helps to break up toilet paper too which you dont want down in your leach field.
posted by Busmick at 1:14 PM on April 6, 2010

Spend you money on getting your tank pumped out regularly, not on treatment products. Get a septic company that will put the liquid back after taking away the solids.
posted by birdwatcher at 3:33 PM on April 6, 2010

That's interesting - I had septic for 20 years and never pumped it out once ... and had no problems (obviously). Now I have an aerated system, which automatically pumps out the treated effluent onto the paddock (soon the garden).

The only reason I know of to add anything is if you are vegetarian, where I have heard that it is necessary/desirable to throw a kilo or two of raw mince down the sewer every so often to feed the bugs, and ensure that a healthy crust forms. Apparently the vegetarian diet does not produce the right/enough bugs ... As I am not vegetarian I have no firsthand knowledge, and I will leave you to look into this if it applies to you.
posted by GeeEmm at 11:01 PM on April 6, 2010

if you are vegetarian, where I have heard that it is necessary/desirable to throw a kilo or two of raw mince down the sewer every so often to feed the bugs

Huh! Can't find anything on line that speaks to this one way or the other. Seems questionable to me....
posted by IndigoJones at 2:21 PM on April 12, 2010

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