Ashburn, VA

How Much Does Septic Tank Pumping Or Cleaning Cost?

$275–$580

The national average cost to clean and pump a septic tank is between $295 and $610 with most people spending around $375. Depending on the size of your septic tank, pumping could cost as low as $250 for a 750-gallon tank, or as high as $895 for a 1,250-gallon tank. Get free estimates from septic professionals near you.

Average Cost To Pump A Septic Tank

The national average cost to clean and pump a septic tank is between $295 and $610 with most people spending around $375. Depending on the size of your septic tank, pumping could cost as low as $250 for a 750-gallon tank, or as high as $895 for a 1,250-gallon tank.

National Average Cost $375
Minimum Cost $250
Maximum Cost $895
Average Range $295 to $610

According to the American Ground Water Trust, 35.7 million homes in the US have a septic system installed, which means that no matter where you live, there should be plenty of professionals available to pump your septic tank at an affordable cost.

This pricing guide covers:

  1. Septic Tank Pumping Cost
  2. How Often To Pump?
  3. Septic Tank Cleaning Cost By Size
  4. Septic Tank Emptying Breakdown
  5. Septic System Pumping Process
  6. Septic Tank System Maintenance
  7. Septic Tank Repair Costs
  8. How A Septic Tank Works
  9. Questions To Ask Your Pro

How Often Do You Need To Pump Your Septic Tank?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, your septic tank must be pumped if the scum layer is within 6” of the outlet pipe. If you’re putting off the $375 job, keep in mind that it can cost up to $10,000 to replace your septic system, whereas proper maintenance can help it last for up to fifty years.

It's recommended to pump your tank every 3 years. Most tanks will store three years’ worth of a home’s wastewater before they are due to be emptied.

Signs That Your Septic Tank Is Full

  • Toilets and drains running slowly
  • Foul odors in your home
  • Pooling water above your drain field
  • Sewer backup
  • Overly healthy lawn above your septic bed

Septic Tank Cleaning Cost By Size

Knowing the size of your septic tank is really important when establishing a plan for how often to have it emptied. Be sure to ask the previous homeowner the exact size to make sure your plans for pumping out the septage are adequately matched to your family size and water usage.

While building codes will vary somewhat across the country, an average baseline guide would look something like this:

  • Homes less than 1,500 square feet with one or two bedrooms: 750-gallon septic tank which costs $250 to pump
  • Homes less than 2,500 square feet with three bedrooms: 1,000-gallon septic tank which costs $375 to clean out
  • Homes less than 3,500 square feet with four bedrooms: 1,250-gallon septic tank which costs $475 to empty

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Don’t pump your septic tank if...

  1. Your property has flooded – the tank might float up and damage the pipes, or floodwater might flow into the tank when it’s opened.
  2. You don’t know how old or fragile your tank is – it might collapse when it’s pumped, so make sure you have it inspected before you have someone pump it.
  3. The sludge level is shallow – there’s no need unless you think it’s developed a leak and should be inspected.
  4. Within the two weeks before a septic inspection and test – an empty tank means it can’t be tested.

Septic Tank Emptying Breakdown

Solid Waste

To put the numbers into perspective, a typical adult in the US will consume an average of one quart of food per day. The lion’s portion of that quart will end up in your septic system. When multiplied out across a year, that amounts to about 90 gallons of solid waste produced per adult. Given that the standard performance of most septic systems reflects a 50% reduction of solids, this reflects an annual total of 45 gallons per person.

In a three-bedroom house with a family of four (two kids and two adults), we would expect to see annual solid waste production at 135 gallons and recommend a 1,250-gallon septic tank. Septic tanks maintenance schedules and environmental regulations state that septic tanks should not be allowed to be more than 30% filled, and that puts the pumping schedule right at 30–31 months if all four family members are home all day every day, which is rarely the case.

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Liquid Waste

According to the US Geological Survey website, most people in the US use between 80 and 100 gallons of water per day through flushing the toilet (3 gallons), taking showers (up to 5 gallons per minute and newer showers about 2 gallons), running a bath (36 gallons), washing clothes (25 gallons), and running the dishwasher (13 gallons). Other contributors also include dishwashing by hand, watering the lawn, brushing teeth, drinking, cooking water, and washing your hands and face. All this water will occupy a percentage of the remaining 70% of the capacity of your septic tank before it continues on to the drain field.

Pumping it every 3 years is considered a safe estimate for that size of a family.

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Septic System Pumping Process

If you have done nothing to prepare the area, your contractors will have to locate the septic tank and uncover the tank lids, which is something they will charge for. If you want to save some money, locate them before the truck arrives.

For homes built since 1975, there will typically be two compartments in the tank. Each compartment has its own lid that will need to be located and opened so each compartment can be inspected and pumped. Your home should come with a map that will make it an easy task to locate whatever kind of system was installed.

The technician will:

  • Note the tank’s liquid level to ensure there’s no leak
  • Lower a vacuum hose into the tank
  • Begin pumping waste to the truck
  • Watch out for any backflow—a sign of a drainage issue
  • Clean and backflush the tank to rinse out any remaining sludge
  • Assess the tank for damage

Septic Tank Pumping

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Helpful Information

The following is a list of what would be the most helpful information the contractor can provide to you in relation to the work carried out on your property. Run through the details of this list, so they are prepared to make notes as they carry out the pumping.

  • Pumping company name, address, phone number, and & name of contractor
  • Number of compartments
  • Number of gallons removed from your system
  • Septic tank condition
  • Septic tank baffle condition
  • Details on any additional work done to baffles or lids
  • Details on any work done to the septic tank and/or pump
  • Details on scum and sludge depth measurements
  • Any other work is done

Not only is this information useful for you as the homeowner; it will give future buyers of your property the confidence that the system was well maintained. It will also let you know when to schedule the next pumping, based on the sludge levels at the time of pumping.


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Septic Tank System Maintenance

The Environmental Protection Agency has an extensive body of knowledge about septic systems on its site, including some excellent pointers on how to treat your septic system in order to ensure its long life and avoid any unnecessary expenses. Simple considerations like the following will make a big difference:

  • Have your tanks pumped and inspected frequently.
  • Try to minimize the wastewater generated in your home through efficiency toilets, showerheads, and washing machines.
  • Remember that whatever gets flushed or poured down the sink goes into your septic system—including grease, oil, wipes, hygiene products, floss, diapers, cat litter, coffee grounds, paper towels, household chemicals, etc.
  • Don’t park or drive on top of your drain field.
  • Only plant grass on top of your tank and drain field.
  • Make sure any rainwater runoff from your home or on your property is directed away from your drain field.
  • Avoid using products that claim to clean your tank—they usually do more harm than good.

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Septic Tank Repair Costs

The most common repair you will perform on your septic system is filter replacement. Expect to pay around $230 to install a quality filter for your septic tank. Additional repairs include fittings, pipes, risers, and lids which can likely be fixed for around $100 or less. Other times when your septic pump goes out, this repair will generally cost near $500 to replace.

Soil Fracturing

In some cases where your septic professional is unable to pump your system, they may recommend cleaning the drain field lines, replacing the filter and fracturing the soil. This process involves a 300-pound blast of air through a hollow tube in the ground, which costs around $1,500 to perform.

Septic Tank System Cost

Did the septic cleaning service determine you might need a new system? A traditional septic tank for a three-bedroom house will average around $3,250. For conventional systems, it might be possible to get a suitable system installed for under $5,000 in the Midwest, whereas in coastal areas, one could cost $10,000 or more. For an engineered system, the costs will average around $15,000.

Looking for more details? We wrote the book on Septic Tank System Costs, check it out here.

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How A Septic Tank Works

A septic system works by receiving all the wastewater from your home through underground pipes in a buried tank that is usually made out of concrete, plastic, or fiberglass. Once the wastewater goes into the tank, it will sit there until the solids separate from the liquids, at which point they will sink to the bottom of the tank and form a sludge, while the oils and grease form a scum which rises to the top.

How A Septic Tank Works

A special compartment keeps the scum inside the tank as the water-based liquids drain off through the second set of pipes into a filtration area called a drain field. To ensure even distribution across the entire drain field, the next set of pipes are perforated. The effluent then makes its way down through the gravel and soil before eventually making its way into the water table far below. As the effluent is passing through the soil and gravel, harmful coliform bacteria are naturally filtered out and removed from the water.

While septic tank systems vary in capacity to suit the wastewater output from your home, they are designed to be big enough to store roughly three years’ worth of sludge before needing to be emptied.

If proper maintenance is not carried out on your septic tank, which includes the periodic removal of the sludge every 2–3 years, the solids will have risen to the height of the exit pipe for the effluent fluids and travel with the liquids, unless there is an exit filter. Once they leave, they will block the perforated pipes intended for distribution on the drain field, or they will make it down to the drain field and contaminate the soil and gravel designed for the filtration of the effluent liquids.

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Questions To Ask Your Pro

  1. How much do you charge per gallon?
  2. Is locating the tank lids covered in the price? If not, how much is that?
  3. Is digging up to gain access to the lids included in the price? If not, how much per lid do you charge?
  4. Is the disposal of the septage included? If not, how much is that? This could be an additional $25–$100.
  5. Are all inspections of the baffles covered in the price? If not, how much is that?
  6. Is there an extra charge if you are working with a system that hasn’t been maintained well? How much is that per hour?

Shorten your list to 3-5 certified septic tank pumpers for your tank’s maintenance. Look for those who have as many checks as possible against the following items:

  • Have been in business for a while
  • Are A+ rated with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Offer same day service 24/7
  • Are certified and insured.

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Author: Daniel W.
Millions of people ask HomeGuide for cost estimates every year. We track the estimates they get from local companies, then we share those prices with you.

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