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All Need To Know About DIY (Buttermilk, Baking Soda) Treatment, and More

This article is for those city-slickers or suburban dwellers who have always had the luxury of using municipal sewer systems and are now considering buying a property that uses septic systems technology instead of centralized, city-owned, sewer. This article will help you with the following:

  • 1.    Tell you what septic tank does (I will get into what it does and the basic science on how it works)
  • 2.    Provide two simple DIY septic treatment methods. Spoiler- One treatment involves buttermilk. 🙂

What Is a Septic Tank?

Septic Tank Diagram

Septic Tank Illustration

If you are a city or suburban dweller you might not even know what a septic tank does. A septic system is critical as it is a “sewer” system for those who live in an area without a centralized sewer. The septic tank system deals with wastewater from the following:

  • Toilet
  • Garbage Disposal
  • Sink, Showers, bathtub

Pretty much anything in a house that has a drain.

The toilet is number one on this list to emphasize that if a septic tank system is ignored or breaks down, your property might be subjected to nasty raw sewage backing up and contaminating your property.

Specifically, a septic tank is an underground tank designed to hold and treat wastewater. The septic tank is just one part of this system, with the other part being the drain field.

All parts of a septic system are essential. However, the septic tank arguably has the most technical job, which is to contain wastewater until solid organic material entering the water floats down to the bottom of the tank and other matter (I.E., grease) floats to the top. (Sediments at the bottom of the tank are called the sludge, and the matter at the top (grease) is scum)

How Does A Septic Tank Work?

As I stated, a septic tank’s job is to eliminate organic matter, different oils, grease, and other debris in the waste water. The non-toxic water is then discharged from the septic tank and emptied into a drain field.

Below is a summary of how most septic tank systems work. This summary is crucial as it will help you better realize the importance of septic tank pumping and treatment.

Septic Tank System Process

1.        House Water-Wastewater is (I.E., toilet water, laundry water, bathwater, shower water, etc.) drains and enters the septic tank.

2.        Septic Tank-A septic tank then treats the wastewater by separating the sludge at the bottom of the tank and grease at the top of the tank. (Please see above on the section “How Does a Septic Tank Work?” for more details) The pretreated wastewater is then drained into the drainfield.

3.        DrainField (AKA “Leach Field)-The drain field is a covered, shallow hole where the pretreated water ends up. The soil from the drain field organically removes harmful bacteria and enzymes from the water, which makes it safe to be released into the environment.

Septic Tank Care

Toxic matter, if not dealt with, in a septic tank (I.E., Sludge and Scum) will build up and cause a backed up tank, which might cause the following problems:

1. In House Contamination-With a backed-up sewer line, at best, you’ll have a nasty sewer smell in your home. And at the worst raw sewage contaminates your home.

2. Outside-Toxic matter from the septic tank will escape near the drain field, which will likely result in contamination of your property’s groundwater and soil.

How Do You Stop This from Happening?

A professionally done septic tank pumping and regular septic tank treatment is the best way to prevent a toxic backup and contamination.

Septic Tank Cleaning vs. Pumping

Septic tank cleaning and pumping are often thought of as the same procedure. However, they are different. A septic tank pumping is, as is where the sludge is removed, which in turn prevents a backup and potential contamination. Septic tank pumping is a routine procedure that should happen once every three years or when needed. A tank cleaning, on the other hand, is a much more drastic measure. With a septic tank cleaning all the liquid matter and sludge are removed from the tank. This is only usually done if your tank has problems like a serious backup.

DIY Septic Tank Treatment

Under normal circumstances, the pumping and cleaning of a septic tank should be left to the professionals. However, there are several easy and safe septic tank treatment methods.

Why Septic Tank Treatment Is Important

Healthy bacteria in the septic tank break down organic material entering the tank. If this did not happen, your tank would need to be pumped more often. DIY septic tank treatment ads beneficial bacteria and enzymes, which in turn, the added bacteria helps break down the solid sludge in your septic tank.

Is Buttermilk Good for Septic Tanks?

Buttermilk has a sour, and to put it nicely, an acquired taste. The sour taste is from live lactic acid bacteria added to store-purchased buttermilk. The live lactic acid counteracts harmful bacteria found in the buttermilk, which in turn makes the buttermilk drinkable. The live lactic acid bacteria does pretty much the same thing to organic material that enters the septic tank; it gobbles it up and digests organic material, which in turn, helps prevent a smelly backup.

How Do You Do the “Buttermilk Septic Tank Treatment”?Butter Milk

The buttermilk septic tank treatment is quite complicated and . . .just kidding, if you can empty a milk container, you can do this treatment. All that is needed is the following:


1 cup to a liter of buttermilk (spoiled buttermilk will work just fine)


1. Pour a quart of buttermilk into the toilet.

2. Flush the toilet.

3. Repeat the process every two-three months.

Seriously, this is so easy that you’ve no excuse not to do it.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Treatment Mix

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, 15 Pound (2 Pack)

A baking soda and vinegar treatment is an excellent organic cleaner that will work wonders on your drains, bathtub, shower, etc. And as a bonus, it is also great for your septic tank.

This recipe is just as simple as buttermilk treatment. The only additional work is combining vinegar and soda. It does the same thing as the buttermilk treatment by adding good bacteria to your septic tank. All you do is add the ingredients, mix them together, and use them to clean your sink, toilet bowl, shower, etc. The drainage from the baking soda and vinegar will add the good bacteria that your tank needs.


1/4 cup-Baking Soda

1/2 cup-Vinegar

2 Tsp-Lemon juice


WARNING: Septic tank owners should never use powerful household chemicals like Liquid Drano, ammonia, bleach, an industrial-strength toilet bowl cleaner, etc., for septic tank treatment. These harsh chemicals kill good bacteria, which over time can result in you having to pump out your septic tank more often or, even worse, having a disgusting septic tank backup.


Only Flush Down Toilet Paper

Last and certainly not least is that a septic tank is not a garbage disposal. The only items that should go into the septic tank drains are toilet paper, urine, and human waste. The reason for this is that particular objects like tampons, and even paper towels, are not eaten by healthy bacteria. So, these forbidden items will be stuck in the tank, which means more chance of a septic tank backup,

Final Thoughts

Septic tank care isn’t a sexy part of self-sufficiency or bugging out. However, hygiene problems can be a make it or break it when it comes to survival. Above all, it would be horrific to be in your bug-out cabin, waiting for life to return to normal, and in a few days waking up to the rancid smell of human waste. So, as the Boy Scouts say, be prepared by getting your septic tank pumped every three years and performing the regular DIY treatment.