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How To Winterize A Septic System

Septic systems, like all other types of plumbing systems, need to be adequately prepared for the winter months, as freezing temperatures can wreak havoc with the plumbing and the tank itself. In order to prevent any and all damage, there are a number of steps that you can take to prepare your septic system for the winter months.

Pump the Tank

If the septic tank is not going to be used for most or all of the winter, consider draining it. Leaving a full tank over the course of the winter months can cause the sewage inside to freeze, which can cause damage to the tank. Even if the frozen sewage does not damage the tank itself, cold sewage can seep into the soil treatment area once a thaw occurs, which can severely reduce the rate at which the bacteria breaks down the sewage.


Before the snow falls, you should take care to not cut the grass of your lawn in the area right above your septic tank. The added mass a few inches of grass offers can help insulate the tank, and reduce the likelihood of freezing occurring. On the other hand, depending on where your septic tank is located, you can build a flowerbed or place mulch on top to increase the amount of insulation.

Drain the Supply Lines

Even if your home or cabin is well insulated, it is a good idea to drain all of the water supply lines to prevent the water inside of them from freezing. To do this, simply turn off the main water supply, and then run the taps and pumps to allow all the water to leave the system. Failure to do so can cause a break, which means that when you come back and turn the water back on, you'll have water damage on your hands.

Run Warm Water

If you are not leaving your home or cabin in the winter, you should make use of your warm water appliances throughout the winter. Do this on a cycle, to ensure that all the pipes get a dose of warm water. Running the dishwasher one day, the washing machine another, a shower the third, and so on, can keep a constant stream of warm water flowing into your septic tank while also preventing your water pipes from freezing.

Don't Use Antifreeze

Some resources recommend diluting antifreeze and allowing it to sit in your pipes. While this will prevent any standing water in your pipes from freezing, it is a bad idea. Antifreeze is a toxic chemical that will kill off the bacteria that decomposes the waste in your septic tank, which can ruin the efficiency of your system and increase the rate at which you'll have to have your tank cleaned out.