Septic Tank Empty: Everything You Need To Know

Septic Tank Empty: Everything You Need To Know

Arranging to have your septic tank emptied can be an easy thing to forget but scheduling regular emptying is critical to its maintenance.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about emptying a septic tank, how often a septic tank needs to be emptied and the step-by-step process.

How to tell if your septic tank is full and needs emptying

Before we get into the emptying process, it’s important to know how to see if your septic tank is due for maintenance. You should not wait until your tank is at full capacity to schedule an empty as the build up of sludge in the tank decreases it’s efficiency and increases the risk of blockages. It is recommended to have the sludge collected on an annual basis. Here are some common signs that your septic tank is reaching it’s full capacity:

  1. Slow Drains: If you notice your sinks, showers, or toilets draining more slowly than usual, it could indicate a full septic tank.

  2. Odours: Foul smells in your garden or near the septic tank area can signal that the tank is nearing its full capacity.

  3. Pooling Water: Puddles or standing water around the drain field area may indicate that wastewater is not being properly absorbed, possibly due to a full tank.

  4. Gurgling Sounds: If you hear gurgling noises in your pipes, it could be a sign that the septic tank is full, and wastewater is backing up.

  5. Lush Grass: While it might seem like a positive side effect, an unusually green and lush patch of grass over the septic tank area can suggest that it’s overflowing and over-fertilising the soil.

How often should a septic tank be emptied?

The frequency of how often you should have your septic tank being emptied will depend on a variety of factors, with the main one being it’s size. The smaller the tank, the quicker it will fill up and require more frequent emptying.

The number of people in the household will also affect the frequency as more waste is being generated and going into the tank.

To prevent any build-up, sludge and floating scum, it is recommended to have the septic tank emptied/pumped out once a year. Regular emptying and servicing is the cheapest and more effective way to maintain your septic tank system and keep it in top working order.

What happens during a septic tank empty?

1 . Contact a professional liquid waste company with a waste carriers license to get a quote and schedule the empty. Most companies will have their waste carriers licence displayed on their website, you can find ours on our accreditations page. You can also click here to check the Environment Agency website to find registered waster carriers in your area.

2. Preparation: Ensure their is clear access to the septic tank for the operative. Remove any obstructions or objects such as garden gnomes to make sure the lid is accessible and easy to locate.

3. On Route: The vacuum tanker will make it’s way to you. Most companies will not require you to present as you should be able to inform them the directions to the tank and any other important information that the operative will need to know when booking the empty. This means you do not have to make arrangements or take time of work.

Many companies will also not be able to give you an exact time of when the operative will arrive as traffic delays and if another job takes longer than predicted. At CountyClean, we can arrange our operatives to give you a call when they are 1hr or 30mins away.

4. Pumping: The tanker operative will lay out the amount of pipes required from the tanker to the septic tank and begin connecting them together. The operative will then insert the end of the pipe into your septic tank and turn on the powerful suction force to pump out the solid sludge and liquid waste from the tank. Once the correct volume has been collected, they will put their pipes back on the tanker and close the lid of the septic tank, leaving it in the same condition as they found it.

Our operatives will also take a before and after photo to add to the job service card.

5. Documentation: Our operative will fill in the job report and if you are present on site, they discuss any maintenance or repairs that may be required and any recommendations for future septic tank empty’s and services.

How much does it cost to empty a septic tank?

The cost of emptying a septic tank can vary depending on a variety of factors including:

  • The size of the tank and how much needs to be collected. We work in gallons with the most common amounts being collect being; 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 gallons
  • The type of tank; whether it is single or multi-chambered
  • The location of the tank; Whether it is easy to access and how away the tanker will be from the tank, meaning more pipes will need to be laid which could take longer.
  • Your location: If you are slightly outside our local area there might be a small additional charge depending on the distance.

How long does a septic tank empty take?

Emptying a septic tank is a relatively quick service and for most domestic customers it will take less than an hour for the tank to be pumped out.

Of course, other factors can affect the length of time required to empty a septic tank, these include:

  • The amount being collected: The higher the gallons of waste there is to be collected, the longer this can take to pump out.
  • The location of the tank: If you tank is very easily accessible with fewer pipes needed to be laid, it will take our operative less time.
  • If the tank is easy to find: We ask several questions when booking in a septic tank empty to provide our operatives with as much information as possible prior to their arrival so they don’t need to waste any time locating the tank. This also means that the someone does not need to be present for our operative to empty the tank, making less hassle for you to make arrangement or book time of work.

What happens if a septic tank is not emptied regularly

If you do not have your septic tank emptied or pumped out regularly the sludge and solids will build up and cause blockages and clog up the pipe that feeds the drain field. Once this pipe gets clogged, the following can happen:

  • A foul smell of sewage in the garden and around the tank
  • The areas around and over the drain field will become swampy and waterlogged.
  • Waste water backing to the property
  • You could have to pay a fine for environmental damage


As the owner of a septic tank, it is your responsibility to adhere to the Environment Agency’s general binding rules.

These rules came into force back into 2015 and they have recently updated these regulations. To learn about the new septic tank regulations that come into force on the 2nd of October 2023, click here. 

Failure to comply to these regulations could face legal enforcement, including costly fines.

Septic Tank Emptying

As a Environmental Agency registered waste carrier with over 16 years experience we can offer friendly advice for your septic tank empty with no obligation to book.

If you would like a free quote, get in touch today.

Call us on: 0800 171 2204 or 01323 741818

Email us at: 

Fill in our Contact Form Here to have a member of our team give you a call back.

Get In Touch

Our teams are available 24 hours a day – every day. We will work with you to understand what you need and help you find the best solution for your business or home.