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How Often Should Septic Tanks Be Emptied?

Septic tanks must be regularly maintained so they can function as intended and do not pose a hazard to the environment or public health. Ideally, septic tanks should be emptied annually, but this can depend on the size of the tank, for example, those used by business premises may be larger and therefore take longer to fill to capacity.


With over 20 years of experience in septic tank emptying and maintenance, Universal Tankers provides a professional and reliable service to ensure our clients' septic systems are safe, functioning and compliant with environmental regulations. In the following blog post, we explain everything you need to know: how often your septic tank should be emptied, the signs indicating it might be time for a service, and why regular maintenance is so important.




Understanding the Basics of Septic Tanks


A septic tank is an underground chamber designed to treat and manage wastewater from your home or business. Wastewater flows into the tank from the property’s plumbing system. Inside the tank, solids settle at the bottom, forming a sludge layer, while oils and grease float to the top, creating a scum layer. The liquid between these layers, known as effluent, flows out of the tank into a drain field or soakaway system, where it undergoes further natural treatment.


Septic tanks partially treat wastewater before it is discharged into a drain field. They rely on bacterial action to break down solids, which reduces the amount of waste that needs to be emptied. Cesspits are sealed underground tanks that store wastewater and sewage without treating it. They require more regular emptying as they do not discharge any treated effluent.


Why You Need to Empty Your Septic Tank System


Failing to maintain your septic tank in the UK can lead to legal penalties, including fines. Regular maintenance is mandated by the English Environment Agency’s Septic Tank Regulations.


From a practical perspective, regular emptying prevents overflows, which can lead to blockages and backups in your plumbing system and ensures it operates efficiently. This will extend the system's lifespan and can save you from costly repairs and inconvenient disruptions. A well-maintained septic system protects the health and safety of your household or business environment by preventing contamination of the local water supply.


Factors That Affect How Often Your Septic Tank Needs Emptying


As we stated above, some factors can affect how often your tank needs to be emptied. While we recommend doing so annually, our operators will take these factors into account and offer you a flexible service:


  • Household or premises size: the number of people using the system affects how quickly the tank fills up. Larger households or premises with more users will need more frequent emptying.

  • The volume of wastewater produced: including from bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry.

  • Types of waste: non-biodegradable materials like sanitary products, wipes, and certain chemicals can accelerate the rate at which the tank fills.


Indicators That Your Septic Tank Needs Emptying


Here are some common indicators to keep an eye out for that your septic tank may require attention:


  • Unpleasant odours near the tank or drain field.

  • Slow draining sinks, showers, and toilets can indicate that the tank is nearing capacity and causing a backup in the system.

  • Water pooling on the surface of the drain field suggests that the tank is overflowing and effluent is not being properly absorbed.

  • Sewage backing up into your home or business premises clearly indicates that the tank needs immediate emptying.

  • Regular inspections that show sludge levels nearing or surpassing the tank's capacity indicate it is time for a service.


If you notice any of these indicators, you should arrange for your tank to be emptied.


Universal Tankers' Septic Tank Emptying Service


At Universal Tankers, we offer a nationwide septic tank emptying service tailored to meet the needs of both our domestic and commercial clients. We ensure your wastewater is safely and reliably transferred to a sewage treatment plant. Compliance with the UK’s regulations is a priority, and all emptied waste is documented to maintain adherence to legal requirements.


No matter where you are in the country, we guarantee next-day service. Our fleet of modern tankers, operated by fully trained specialists, ensures efficient and reliable service for homes and businesses across England, Scotland and Wales.


As a homeowner, maintaining your septic tank is critical to ensuring the health and safety of your living environment. We provide regular maintenance to prevent backups, overflows, and system deterioration. Our service includes inspections for potential issues and advice on necessary repairs or improvements to maintain your system’s health.


Businesses, schools, and hospitality venues often have larger and more complex septic systems due to the higher volume of waste they produce. These systems require more frequent emptying and must meet stricter environmental and health regulations. Universal Tankers can handle larger volumes and offer consistent service quality, ensuring your operations remain compliant and uninterrupted.


We also maintain a digital record of every job so you can be confident that your wastewater is handled efficiently and in compliance with the law. This documentation will support your regulatory compliance and provide peace of mind.


We understand the unique needs of residential and commercial septic systems. Universal Tankers offers flexible scheduling to fit into busy lives, ensuring that septic tanks are emptied in good time, typically every three to five years based on usage and system size. When issues arise unexpectedly, we offer emergency call-out services to address urgent concerns, reducing the risk of backups and damage.


Get in Touch


If you need a septic tank emptied, get in touch with Universal Tankers today by calling 0800 180 4474 (England and Wales) or 01236 434422 (Scotland), or fill out the contact form on this page to arrange a time for us to call you back.


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