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What is the Difference Between Septic Tank Cleaning and Pumping?

Often the terms “cleaning” and “pumping” are used interchangeably when referring to septic tanks. However, there is a slight difference between these two terms. Cleaning a septic tank refers to removing all the water from the septic tank, including the accumulated sludge at the bottom. While pumping a septic tank refers to removing liquids and some floating debris. With an average of 70 gallons of water being used in a single-family home, it’s only a matter of time before your septic tank will need cleaning or pumping.

There are some typical signs that your septic tank needs cleaning:

  1. Strong odors
  2. Backed up sewage
  3. Gurgling noises
  4. Frequently clogged drains


The EPA recommends that septic tanks should be pumped out every three to five years. A professional should inspect your septic tank every two to three years to ensure it is functioning properly and there are no problems.

When pumping out a septic tank, some of the sludge and floating solids are removed along with the liquid from the tank. This must be done before the sludge accumulates and clogs the drain pipe. The sludge flows out of the drain pipe into the drain field.

A professional septic service technician will advise you when you need to have your tank pumped. This usually happens when the scum layer is about six inches from the drain pipe.

A large tanker truck with vacuum equipment is used. The technicians insert a large hose through the manhole into the septic tank. They then vacuum the contents of the septic tank. The technicians stir the contents of the tank to break up the solids and mix them with the liquids. This makes the disposal of waste much easier.


Septic tank cleaning, on the other hand, means removing all liquids and sludge from the bottom of the septic tank. The same procedure applies to cleaning the septic tank. This procedure is much more thorough because, instead of removing only a portion of the sludge, all of the sludge is removed and the tank is properly emptied.

Septic tank cleaning is much better for the system as a whole as it ensures that all of the sludge that may cause a blockage is removed. If the system is cleaned out regularly, then removing solid waste is much easier. Septic systems are expensive to replace and therefore require proper maintenance and cleaning.

If your septic tank needs pumping or cleaning, be sure to reach out to Red Dirt Septic to handle your needs.