Pump that Septic, pumps out a septic tank using an International 7400 with a 3,200 gallon tank purchased from Imperial Industries

Pump that Septic, headquartered in Cassopolis, MI pumps out a septic tank using an

Septic tank pumping is an essential maintenance task to keep a wastewater system in order. But how much does it cost to pump a septic tank?

Septic tanks need to be pumped every two to three years to keep working properly. Done on time, the service costs a few hundred dollars. But left for decades, septic cleaning can turn into septic replacement and cost you $5,000 to $10,000.

Here are some important facts about septic tanks, including how they work.

Where the Waste Goes

Unlike an urban sewer system that runs wastewater into a central drainage system, septic tanks are a house-by-house system. Their capacity is based on the size of the home, and they are the ultimate destination for all of a house’s wastewater — from bathtubs, showers, sinks, toilets and washing machines.

Most tanks rely on gravity to work. Wastewater flows into the tank, which is buried in the ground outside the home, and water in turn is carried from the tank to a drainage field using sloped pipes.

How a Tank Works

When wastewater enters a septic tank, it naturally divides into three parts:

Solids sink to the bottom and form a sludge layer. Liquids stay in the middle and form a layer of mostly water. Oils and fat rise to the top and form a scum layer.

The liquid layer accounts for 90 percent of a tank’s capacity, meaning excess water use can affect the tank’s performance over time.





Ideally, water in a tank flows through in the course of several days while materials on the bottom are broken down by bacteria. Water is then carried through drain pipes to the drainage (or leach) field, where it is distributed into the soil. The size of the drainage field depends on the type of soil. Clay, for instance, holds a limited amount of water.

The sludge at a tank’s bottom requires periodic septic cleaning or pumping. Even the best bacteria can’t fully break down all organic material, meaning it will start to build up and take more of the tank’s space. If there’s not enough room for water, the sludge will start to back up into the leach field, a home’s pipes or may cause a tank failure.

Homeowners can clean out their septic tanks, but they will need to store the sludge for transport and safely dispose of it. Professional septic cleaners come with a tank truck that hooks up to the septic system and removes its contents, then transports it all safely off the property.

Average Septic Tank Pumping Cost

Angie’s List members who recently had septic tank cleaning performed reported paying an average of $270, with a general range of $245 to $295, not counting discounts many service providers offer to members.

Septic Tank Maintenance

There are several ways to keep cleaning costs lower and limit the chance of a broken tank:

  1. Create a diagram showing the home in relation to the tank, along with distances and depth.
  2. Knowing exactly where the tank is will let the homeowner tell the cleaner exactly where to dig and find the tank quickly in an emergency.
  3. Don’t park cars or build structures atop the tank, as this increases pressure and may cause a rupture.
  4. Don’t plant anything in the drainage field. Natural grass is the best choice.
  5. Watch what is put down the drain. Baby wipes, diapers and paper towels can clog pipes, while harsh chemicals may kill helpful sludge bacteria, resulting in a backup.

Going Pro

Call several contractors in the area for estimates, and check Angie’s List to find reputable providers. Ideally, look for a company that does tank maintenance in addition to septic pumping because they can to spot problems along with signs of wear and tear.

Read any agreement carefully. Where will they take the waste, and what will they do with it? While a low price or special deal may seem good upfront, fly-by-night companies may damage the tank when trying to drain it as quickly as possible.

To keep a septic tank in good working order, schedule cleanings every two to three years with a reputable provider.


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22 Responses

  1. Shane says:

    Thanks for the write up and great information for people new to septic systems, very important to call around and get estimates. Would recommend asking what each companies pumping services involve as well since some do more than just a pumping with a standard pumping service. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rosie Beckett says:

    I had no idea that it is important to schedule cleanings for your septic tank every two to three years with a company that you trust, so I’m glad that I found this article! My sister moved to a fixer-upper home in the country last month, and she has noticed some issues with the sinks clogging. I will let her know that it would be best to hire a professional to come to clean out the septic tank to fix the problem.

  3. Derek Swain says:

    Thank you for mentioning how knowing where your septic tank is located will allow a septic system professional to access it quickly. My wife and I are interested in having our septic system pumped before we invite our nephews to spend the summer with us, but we are not sure where the system is located since we recently bought our home. We’ll hire a professional that can help us locate and pump our system.

  4. Greta James says:

    Thank you so much for your advice to not park cars over the septic tank as this puts unnecessary pressure on the tank walls. About a week ago, I was talking to my sister, and she mentioned that she is thinking of building a new home outside of the city. I think the lot will require a septic tank. I will have to tell my sister about your tips and help her look for pumping, maintenance services that could help keep things running smoothly.

  5. gus white says:

    I love that you mentioned that the cost is an important aspect when you are choosing a septic maintenance company. We have been talking about moving into a home that will have a septic tank, and we want to make sure that we would have the proper services lined up to help us take care of it. When we look for some, I will be sure to consider their costs.

  6. Darrien Hansen says:

    It makes sense that you should avoid putting paper towels down the drain since it can clog your pipes. Recently, my son has been flushing paper towels down the toilet whenever it is his turn to clean the bathroom. It may be best to have my septic tank pumped before it begins to clog.

  7. Roby says:

    Why not? For me, there is always a good effect when you have regular maintenance of tanks. It helps you no to worried about the unclogged problems and an unpleasant smell.

  8. Ellie Davis says:

    I liked that you mentioned it is recommended not to park cars at the top of your septic tank to prevent a rupture. My husband noticed that my brother leave his truck on my top of the septic tank at my mother’s house, and we are looking for information. I will let him know that doing that can lead to rupture and expensive repairs to our mother’s septic tank.

  9. Callum Palmer says:

    I’ll need to get my septic tank looked at as I think it’s been causing me some problems as of late. As you said here, it would be best to get professional help for something like this. I’ll look more into that as I know that there are multiple services that I can go with.

  10. Callum Palmer says:

    I don’t think that my septic system has ever been looked at. As you said here, it would be a good idea to keep track of the maintenance being done. I’ll for sure start doing this once I get someone out here to get it checked out.

  11. Katie Wilson says:

    Thanks for these tips on how to manage your septic tank. I agree that you want to get your tank cleaned every two to three years in order to make sure it is working right. My husband and I are have been living in our home for about three years now, so maybe it’s time to get our tank cleaned.

  12. Silas Knight says:

    It’s good to know more about septic tank pumping. I like how you said that the average price is only around $270. That’s not too bad. We’re hoping to get our new home’s tank pumped, so I’ll remember that for our budget.

  13. Michael Lee says:

    My wife and I recently moved into a house with a septic tank. I want to make sure that the septic tank is regularly taken care of. It is good to know that the average septic tank cleaning service will cost about $270.

  14. Arya Smith says:

    Thanks for helping me understand that the tank should be scheduled for professional inspections at least every two to three years to keep it in good condition. I guess I need to call one already because we have moved into this house in April of 2016 which means that we are already three years here. We have never thought of getting it checked until now that it sometimes produces a foul odor.

  15. Sam Li says:

    I like what you said about homeowners being able to clean out septic tanks themselves. However, contacting a reliable company is the first step towards getting a septic tank in the first place. I will be sure to contact such a company if I ever make the decision to install a septic tank system on my large property.

  16. Sariah Meagle says:

    Our home smells awful and it’s coming from our yard where the septic tank is. It was explained here that it’s best not to park cars atop the tank for safety. Moreover, it’s recommended to hire professionals for quality septic tank pumping.

  17. Taylor Anderson says:

    My uncle recently moved to a home with a septic tank, so he’s been wondering how to care for it. It was helpful when you mentioned that a septic tank should be pumped every two to three years. However, my uncle has 7 children, so should he get it pumped more often? Either way, thank you so much for explaining how often one should pump their septic tank.

  18. Mark Murphy says:

    I really appreciate your tip to avoid letting any harsh chemicals down your drain when you are flushing things! My wife and I recently had a baby, and there are a lot of toiletries that come with that. I will be sure to tell my wife that we should avoid flushing those!

  19. Gary Puntman says:

    I agree that you should look for a company that will do septic tank pumping as well as other types of maintenance. I like that you said this will be best because they can spot any problems. I’ll have to find a company like that when I have my septic tank pumped.

  20. Sarah Smith says:

    My husband and I are looking into buying a new house and the one we would really like has a septic tank. He had heard that he could potentially save money by pumping the cesspool himself, but I am not entirely comfortable with him doing so. Your information that we will need to store the sludge and find a way to safely dispose of it makes me more inclined to hire a septic service to take care of this for us.

  21. Kenneth Gladman says:

    I try and tell my wife that the baby wipes she flushes are bad for the system. She needs to read this article and learn. I don’t want to have to have some emergency work done to fix any issues that it could cause.

  22. Millie Hue says:

    It really helped when you said that we could find a good septic company by checking third-party websites and getting estimates. I think that is true because the testimonials of their previous customers can tell a lot. I will be following this advice because we needed our septic system checked. It has been producing foul odors around our house, and we don’t have any idea how to fix it. Thanks for the tips!

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