How to Reduce Septic Tank Odor?


How to Reduce Septic Tank Odor

A properly functioning septic system should be odor-free. If you notice a foul smell lingering inside your home or near the leach field outside, it’s a telltale sign that something’s amiss.

Unpleasant septic odors don’t necessarily indicate an immediate need for septic tank cleaning, but they do signal an underlying problem that needs addressing.

These noxious aromas are caused by a buildup of gases like carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and methane within the system. At high concentrations, these gases can be toxic and potentially explosive  definitely not something you want wafting through your living spaces!

Don’t worry though, this comprehensive guide will cover all the common culprits behind septic stench and provide effective solutions for reducing that putrid pong.

Septic Scents Seeping Indoors? Here’s What to Check

If unpleasant odors are making their way inside, it usually points to a plumbing issue. Like a detective sniffing out clues, start by checking these common indoor suspects:

Dried out floor drain traps in the basement can act as a direct pathway for sewer gases. The fix? Periodically refilling these traps with water creates an airtight seal.

A loose cleanout access plug inside the drain pipe could be the culprit, allowing those foul aromas to escape. Don’t try tightening it yourself – call a licensed plumber to properly clean the line and secure the plug.

Imagine your plumbing system as a set of lungs. The plumbing vent on the roof acts as an exhale valve, releasing air pressure as wastewater moves through. If this vent gets clogged (say, by leaves or a bird’s nest), it can’t equalize pressure properly.

This often leads to gurgling sounds from your tub, sinks and toilets, along with those dreaded septic smells. Check the cover on your ejector sump pump basket. An improperly sealed cover means sewage odors have a free pass into your home’s air. Replacing the seal should solve the stink.

If bathroom whiffs are particularly pungent, a dried-out toilet wax seal could be the issue. Detaching and resetting the toilet with a new wax ring can eliminate offensive odors. Pro tip: stacking two rings helps if your flange isn’t raised above the ceramic tile floor.

Less frequently, plumbing joint issues or hidden drain line leaks under sinks could also be letting septic smells seep indoors.

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That Putrid Pong Near the Tank? Likely Culprits

While a faint scent around the septic tank itself isn’t too concerning, if the stench is overpowering, there are a few potential problems to investigate:

That Putrid Pong Near the Tank Likely Culprits

Manhole covers and tank lids that are cracked, improperly sealed or installed incorrectly can’t contain septic odors inside the tank like they’re supposed to. Inspect the risers and manhole cover. It should be a concrete lid, metal lid or plastic lid with a tight-fitting rubber seal secured by lag screws. A temporary fix is adding weatherstripping until a permanent repair can be made.

Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Leach Field Whiffs

Catching a strong whiff from your soil treatment area or in-ground drain bed/field/mound is definitely cause for concern – it indicates partially treated sewage could be surfacing.

This stinky situation demands immediate action, as exposed sewage poses a serious health hazard to both animals and humans. Possible culprits include:

  • Blocked or crushed septic pipes, preventing proper soil dispersion
  • Root infiltration clogging and breaking pipes (as the old saying goes, nip it in the bud!)
  • Visible areas of soggy or wet soil signaling sewage has risen to the surface

No matter the underlying cause, call a professional plumber ASAP if leach field odors persist. They’ll be able to inspect the system, identify the issue, and recommend the best repair solution before the situation gets even messier (and smellier!).

General Foul Odors Wafting Outdoors? Vents or Wind Could Be Why

General Foul Odors Wafting Outdoors Vents or Wind Could Be Why
  • Sometimes septic smells seem to just linger in your yard or other outdoor areas, with no obvious point source. If this is the case, inadequate venting or poor airflow could be to blame:
  • If your home’s plumbing vent pipe isn’t tall enough, it may not effectively disperse septic odors before they waft back down towards your property.
  • Homes nestled in low-lying areas, valleys, or heavily tree-lined spots often struggle with stale air and lack of winds to clear away odors.
  • Extending the vent pipe height or installing a carbon filter on top can help odor dissipation. These filters will need replacing every 1-5 years, but it’s a small price for fresh air!

When Septic pH Levels Go Awry – A Stinky Situation

Inside your septic tank, armies of microbes work tirelessly to break down solid waste. But like Goldilocks, these bacteria need conditions to be just right – specifically, a pH level between 6.8 and 7.6 – to do their job effectively.

If pH veers too far into acidic territory, it creates a perfect storm for foul hydrogen sulfide production. You’ll know it when you smell that distinct “rotten eggs” stench!

What throws off that delicate pH balance? Several common culprits:

  • Flushing non-organic waste like feminine products, cigarette butts, etc.
  • Pouring harsh cleaning products, fats, oils, coffee grounds, or other chemicals down drains
  • High acidity from some medications, chemotherapy, or even just drinking too much coffee

The simple solution? Pour a cup of baking soda down drains weekly to help neutralize acidity. And avoid putting anything non-biodegradable into the septic system.

Proactive Prevention: Your Septic Sweet (Smell) Spot

While tackling acute odor issues is important, the best defense is a good offense when it comes to keeping septic stink at bay. Make these smart maintenance moves:

Proactive Prevention Your Septic Sweet (Smell) Spot
  • Schedule regular septic tank pumping and inspections every 3-5 years with a reputable septic company. They’ll utilize a vacuum truck to completely clean out the tank and check all components.
  • Be mindful of what goes down your drains. Stick to just human waste, toilet paper and household water from sinks/showers – harsh chemicals like bleach are a no-no.
  • Avoid flushing prescription or over-the-counter medications, which can kill off helpful bacteria.
  • Space out laundry loads and install low-flow fixtures to prevent hydraulic overloading of the system.
  • Keep tree and plant roots away from the tank and leach field to prevent cracking or damage.
  • Never drive over, build on, or compact soil in the leach field area.

By staying proactive with good septic hygiene and maintenance, you’ll avoid stenches and costly repairs down the line. Not sure where to start? Reach out to a licensed septic tank contractor for an evaluation and advice.

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Frequently asked questions

Why am I getting septic smells in my house?

Septic smells in your house could be due to a clogged vent pipe, dried-out drain traps, or a full septic tank needing maintenance.

How much baking soda do I put in my septic tank?

Add 1 cup of baking soda in septic tank monthly to help maintain a neutral pH and promote bacterial activity.

What neutralizes the smell of sewage?

Activated charcoal or baking soda can help neutralize sewage smells by absorbing odors.

Is septic smell harmful?

Yes, septic smells can be harmful as they may contain harmful gases like methane and hydrogen sulfide, which are toxic in high concentrations.

Does vinegar help septic tanks?

Yes, vinegar is a safe, natural cleaner that won’t harm the septic tank bacteria and can help with maintenance.

What is a home remedy for a full septic tank?

Pumping out the septic tank is necessary; there are no home remedies that can adequately handle a full tank.

How do I clean my septic tank naturally?

Use a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and lemon to naturally clean and maintain your septic tank.

How to increase bacteria in septic tank naturally?

Adding a mixture of brown sugar and water or using septic tank bacteria additives can help boost the bacterial population naturally.


An unpleasant smell around your septic system is more than just an annoyance – it’s a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored. This guide has covered the most common culprits behind septic stench. From dried-out household drains to cracked tank lids and beyond.

While some odor sources can be DIY-remedied with a little baking soda, often errant aromas indicate more serious repair needs. It’s best to leave these to the professionals. Regular inspections, tank pumping and overall good septic hygiene are preventing noxious gases from accumulating in the first place.

If stubborn septic smells are making your living spaces reek, don’t just mask the stench. Contact a reputable septic service for long-lasting odor relief. With their expertise and services like inspections, repairs, and installation, they can get your system back into tip-top, sweet-smelling shape.

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