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Let's talk dirty. I mean real dirty -- like sludge and scum dirty. If you think I'm referring to your last boyfriend, however, you're wrong. I'm talking about the complex, bacterial interactions that take place deep within the bowels of your septic tank.

This typically isn't something the average homeowner likes to think about, but if you ignore the health of your septic system, you're going to find yourself up a certain kind of creek (quite literally) without a paddle. One of the best over-the-counter septic tank activators is made by Rid-X, and their website has a fascinating and succinct explanation of how septic systems operate:

"The septic tank holds wastewater from the home until solid debris settles at the bottom of the tank (the sludge layer) and lighter waste, such as oil, rises to the top to form the scum layer. Between the two layers lies clarified water, which flows into an outlet pipe and is gradually dissipated through a drain field. Bacteria in the septic tank naturally break down organic waste matter and slow the accumulation of the sludge layer.

Some common household chemicals like antibacterial soaps and bleach, when overused, can kill off the beneficial bacteria that populate your septic tank. Additionally, excessive amounts of water going down the drain will flush out a large portion of the beneficial bacteria growing in your septic tank. In such a weakened system, the sewage can build up more quickly, eventually blocking the outlet pipe or possibly clogging your drain field. When that happens, a backup can occur, requiring emergency pumping and possible drain field replacement."

[ via Rid-x ]

So what does Rid-X recommend to keep your septic system healthy? Use Rid-X Septic System Treatment once a month, of course! That's all well and good, but what if you're worried about what's in that store-bought powder? I'm sure it's safe for your septic tank, but what if your dog gets into it? What will it do when it eventually drains out into the soil under your yard? The good news is, it's possible to roll your own environmentally-friendly septic activator, and the even better news is, it's simple!

LifeSpy suggests mixing together two packs of active dry yeast and one pound of brown sugar in four cups of water. Place your concoction somewhere warm for the next few minutes, allowing the yeast to blossom, then flush the entire mixture down the toilet!

In case you're like me, and hate to see all that sweet, sweet brown sugar flushed into oblivion, The Super Handyman has an alternative mixture. Throw two packages of active yeast, two cups of cornmeal, and two cups of regular sugar (cheaper than the delicious brown variety) into some lukewarm water. Super Handyman doesn't mention allowing a few minutes to let the yeast activate, but it never hurts to let the mixture get a little frothy. Once you think it's ready, pour your yeasty sugar soup down the toilet closest to the septic tank, and keep flushing until it's gone.

I'd imagine that if you followed one of these routines every few months, you'd be in just as good shape had you used the name-brand stuff, and when it comes to your septic tank, it's always better to be safe than sorry.


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