Septic Tank Additives

Using bacterial additives will not fix septic tank problems. A look at recent caller’s story and some surprising facts show how little impact these additives have on a septic system’s performance.

Recently I was speaking with the owner of a new mound system in the North East area of the US. The mound system is only 4 years old and the owner was complaining that ever since they installed his new mound system, he had to clean the outlet filter monthly or the system would back-up into the house.

He went on to rant that we have all of this new technology and it appears to perform worse than the old septic system that he has at his other property. As the conversation moved forward, I continued to quiz him about the details of the mound system. Everything we discussed appeared normal and reasonable. His flow rates were low, he was careful about what went into the septic tank, he pumped the septic tank regularly, etc.

All the facts did not highlight anything out of the ordinary until I asked him if he has ever used any septic additives in his system. He explained that he was using an additive product since the system was new. Bingo! I suggested that his stop using this or any other additive immediately as many of these products claim they “liquefy the waste”.

I did a quick internet search and found the company that made the product he was using. As I suspected, the site is full of hype about their products and how easy they are to use. If you click on the buy icon they have a clever statement “You get a 100% money…” Are they implying a money back guarantee? Who knows?

Yes, these products are easy to use. We call products like these “flush and hope” products; flush them down the toilet and hope they perform as claimed. Do you really want to do this and risk experiencing what the consumer did in the story above? I have searched for years for third party testing that supports these companies’ claims, but, to date, I have come up with none.

This particular company bases their claims of success on high bacterial concentrations. They claim the “strongest” 4 billion bacteria per gram and 56 billion bacteria per pack. All you need to do to fix septic tank problems is flush one pack down the toilet every 2 – 3 weeks. This got me thinking. Just how much is 56 billion bacteria? I began doing some research and found an informative article published in the American Society for Microbiology (

According to this report, “the average human stool weighs approximately 100 g and contains a total of about 1 Trillion bacteria (18)”, or 10 billion bacteria per gram. This is 2.5 times more bacteria per gram than the additive companies’ product! In fact, the stool has almost 20 times more bacteria than the pack the additive company recommends flushing every 2 – 3 weeks! The pack contains an insignificant amount of bacteria when compared to an average human stool!

It would seem logical that if this additive company claims that cleaning products and sanitizers kill bacteria in the septic tank, you had better be adding at least 2 ½ packets of their product with each flush. On one hand they may appreciate my recommendation. On the other hand, I believe most consumers would not buy this product if they had to spend $11 per flush to adequately supplement the natural bacteria! No wonder it doesn’t do anything to resolve the septic tank problems!

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