How Much Does It Cost to Clean a Septic Tank? (2024 Guide)

Clean septic tanks help prevent sewage from backing up and creating a potential health hazard. The cost to clean a septic tank averages $400, but the actual cost can fall between $250 and $550.
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  • On average, the cost to clean a septic tank ranges between $250 to $550, with a national average cost of $400.
  • Septic tank cleaning costs are made up of several factors, some of which are the size of the tank, amount of usage, frequency of cleaning, location, and any needed repairs.
  • Clear signs that a septic tank is in need of cleaning or repair include persistent foul odors, slow-draining sinks, and standing water or extra-green grass over the drain field.
  • Because of the odors and ick factor associated with a septic system, homeowners usually prefer not to work with it. For these reasons, homeowners often choose to hire a professional septic company to handle this job. These pros have the proper equipment, protective clothing, and know-how to safely remove and dispose of contaminated waste.
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Regular maintenance is a necessary part of keeping a septic tank running smoothly and doing its very important job. When someone flushes the toilet, runs water in the kitchen sink, does a load of laundry, or takes a shower, all the wastewater is transported to the septic system for filtering or draining. The solid waste accumulates in the bottom, where it’s broken down naturally. Eventually, the solid waste will need to be cleaned out to prevent any odorous problems or backups.

According to Angi, the cost to clean a septic tank typically falls between $250 and $550 with a national average of $400. Factors that impact the cost include the length of time between cleanings, the size of the tank, any needed repairs, and aeration of the drain field. Putting off this important task for too long can lead to much more expensive problems, which is why regular septic tank cleaning is recommended by manufacturers and septic system companies.

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Key Cost Factors

When calculating the cost of septic tank cleaning, homeowners will need to factor in several elements, such as the size of the tank, the frequency of use, the cleaning schedule, and the geographic location.

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Septic Tank Size and Usage

The size of the septic tank and the number of people who use it will affect how often the septic tank needs to be cleaned. Smaller septic tanks used by several people need more frequent cleaning, whereas a large tank used by fewer people can get by on a more infrequent cleaning schedule. Finding the optimal cleaning schedule for a particular home may take some time, but once homeowners have had the tank checked or pumped a few times, they’ll have a better idea of the ideal schedule for their system.

Small septic tanks usually hold between 600 and 750 gallons and cost about $250 to $550 to clean. Medium-size septic tanks hold about 1,000 to 1,500 gallons and have a cleaning cost of $325 to $1,100. The cost of cleaning large septic tanks with a capacity of 1,750 to 2,000 gallons starts around $550 and can reach higher than $1,250.

Homeowners will need to be aware of any change in the septic use and adjust the cleaning schedule accordingly. More frequent houseguests can lead to shorter time periods between cleanings.

Cleaning Frequency

On average, the system needs to be cleaned about every 3 to 5 years. But the amount of usage the septic tank gets can affect how often homeowners have to schedule professional septic tank cleaners. For instance, homes with a large tank but only a few residents may need less frequent cleaning. Homes with many occupants will benefit from a regular 3-year cleaning plan, which can help homeowners keep ahead of signs that sewage tank maintenance is necessary.

Geographic Location

The geographic location of the home can also affect the cost of septic pumping. Septic tanks are often found in rural areas that don’t have access to the city’s main sewer lines. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 20 percent of U.S. households use an individual septic or small community cluster system. The cost to clean a septic tank depends on the local cost of living, current labor rates, and service demand.

LocationAverage Cost (Materials and Labor)
Boise, Idaho$250 to $440
Denver, Colorado$260 to $350
Little Rock, Arkansas$260 to $510
Louisville, Kentucky$274 to $367
Minneapolis, Minnesota$175 to $275
Orlando, Florida$252 to $395
Phoenix, Arizona$360 to $600
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania$235 to $296
Richmond, Virginia$300 to $325
Seattle, Washington$427 to $685

Additional Costs and Considerations

For homeowners estimating local septic tank cleaning costs, there may be additional factors to consider. Ongoing maintenance and inspections can add to the cost, in addition to necessary repairs. Some repairs may be from normal wear and tear or the result of accidental damage or infrequent septic tank cleaning.

Maintenance and Inspections

If the septic tank needs more maintenance than just the standard septic tank cleaning, the cost can increase by a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the problem. Clogs are the most common maintenance issue and cost about $1,700 to resolve. Septic tanks are prone to clogs if items other than solid waste (hygiene products, kitchen grease, etc.) get flushed down the drains.

Sometimes all that’s needed is septic tank pumping, which only removes liquid and floating solid waste. Septic tank cleaning drains all water and removes the accumulated sludge at the bottom of the tank.

For tanks that need a deeper cleaning, septic tank hydro-jet cleaning will give the tank a more thorough cleaning than just pumping alone. It’s also ideal for clearing out clogged pipes beyond the tank. Hydro-jetting costs can add $150 to $450 to the project, though the cost may be worth it for a squeaky-clean septic system.

Sewer line inspections typically cost between $250 and $1,175 with an average cost of $450. To conduct a sewer line inspection, a plumber will snake a camera through the plumbing pipes, looking for clogs, debris, or other issues.


Quickly repairing a damaged septic tank or drain field is essential to ensure the home’s occupants can use the system safely without risk of contamination. A damaged septic tank or drain field allows contaminated wastewater to leach into uncontained areas, which can be dangerous to pets and humans. If the septic line is damaged, repairs typically average $150 to $3,800. For example, pump repairs might cost $250 to $400, while clog removal can cost about $1,700.

Sewage Overflow Cleanup

If sewage ends up overflowing into the yard, cleaning it quickly is essential for protecting the yard and residents from coming into contact with it. Sewage overflow cleanup costs between $7 and $15 per square foot and is best done by a professional who has proper protective gear and is trained to clean up contaminated waste.

Septic Tank Additives

Homeowners have the option to use septic tank additives that facilitate speedy breakdown of waste. While these additives aren’t always necessary for proper septic function, they may enhance the population of bacteria that breaks down the waste.

Some professionals believe additives can extend the longevity of the septic tank and reduce the frequency of septic tank cleaning, though others warn that some chemical additives can damage the septic system. Additives usually cost between $20 and $600. Homeowners are advised to consult one of the best septic tank cleaning services (such as Mr. Rooter or Roto-Rooter) before using one of the best septic tank treatments to ensure it’s the right option.

Drain Field Aeration

Septic tank drainage happens in the drain field that collects the treated wastewater from the tank for dispersion into the surrounding soil. Sometimes these drain fields stop draining properly. Drain field aeration, also called leach field rejuvenation, breaks up soil that has become compacted over time by shooting compressed air into targeted areas across the drain field. This creates pathways for the wastewater to penetrate and helps the drain field be more effective. Aerating a drain field can cost between $1,000 and $5,000which can end up being less than the cost to replace the septic tank and drain field.

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Types of Septic Tank Cleaning Services

There are two main ways to clean a septic tank, and a septic system service can help homeowners decide which is best for their home. The choice between the two methods depends on the current state of the septic tank and what exactly the septic tank service needs to clean.

Type of Septic Tank Cleaning ServiceAverage Cost (Materials and Labor)
Jet cleaning$150 to $450
Pumping$200 to $600

Jet Cleaning

Jet cleaning costs between $150 and $450 and is the process by which a septic professional shoots pressurized water through the sewage lines to clean out clogs and buildup. This is a good option if the sewage lines aren’t draining water and waste efficiently or if there is a foul smell emanating from drains or toilets.


Sewage pumps are critical to the success of the septic system, so it’s ideal for homeowners to choose one of the best sewage pumps for reliability, efficiency, and capacity when it’s time to replace or repair it. Septic tank emptying is done with a pump, and the cost of septic pumping falls between $200 and $600. To clean a septic tank, the septic professional will remove the cap on the septic tank and run a hose to the sewage pump in the tank. The hose is attached to a storage tank on their truck, and it will suck up floating waste and water. The septic service will dispose of the waste properly.

Homeowners may be curious about how often they should get the septic tank pumped. Smaller systems may need pumping every 1 to 2 years, while larger systems can go 3 to 5 years between appointments.

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Do I need septic tank cleaning?

Most systems can go as long as 5 years before they need to be cleaned. Still, there are some signs homeowners can watch for to determine whether it’s time to call a septic tank pumping service. If there is increased septic tank use due to extra occupants in the home, the tank may need to be cleaned ahead of schedule.

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Unpleasant Odors

If residents notice persistent unpleasant odors more often than normal, a clogged or full septic tank may be the issue. When properly maintained, sewer lines and septic tanks do a great job of removing waste and odors from the home. When the drain lines are clogged or the septic tank is full, there may be a lingering scent of sewage coming from indoor drains or around the outdoor septic tank or drain field.

Slow-Draining Sinks and Toilets

Slow-draining sinks and toilets can be a sign that the septic tank is full and not functioning properly. Sometimes this shows up as occasional toilet clogs, but when the problem persists after basic troubleshooting, the culprit is likely the septic system. Homeowners can ask about jet cleaning to clear out their drains and facilitate septic tank drainage.

Standing Water in Yard

The drain field that’s located near the septic tank is where much of the treated wastewater will flow. If the drain field isn’t working properly, it can result in a buildup of untreated waste that pools in the yard. Not only can this be a smelly problem, but it can also be a health hazard and needs to be addressed immediately.

Green Grass Over Drain Field

If the grass over the drain field is greener than normal, it’s likely that the drain field is leaking too much. The untreated waste can act as a fertilizer for the grass. While it may look beautifully lush, extra-green grass likely means that the septic tank needs repairs or the drain field is compacted. Any of these circumstances can add to the septic tank pumping cost.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional 

Septic tank cleaning involves the use of special equipment and tools to complete the job safely and effectively. That means this is not a DIY job. A professional septic tank cleaner can ensure that the sewage is handled and disposed of properly, reducing the likelihood of contamination.

If the septic tank is clogged or otherwise damaged, it’s even more important to have a professional clean and repair the tank, drain lines, or drain field. The average homeowner doesn’t have the skills or access to the tools or equipment needed to remove the sludge from the septic tank and contain it until it can be properly disposed of. This is critical since exposure to raw sewage, sewer gases, and wastewater can lead to serious illnesses. Septic tank pumping may even require certain permits and licenses that are not available to homeowners.

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How to Save Money

Scheduling regular maintenance can lengthen the lifespan of a septic tank. A lack of proper maintenance can cause an existing system to fail, and routine maintenance delays the need to budget for the cost of a new septic tank. Proper septic tank use can help lower the frequency of paying for the cost to clean a septic tank, but there are a few other ways to save money.

  • Minimize what goes down the drain. Items such as hygiene products, wipes, and paper towels can clog a septic tank system if flushed. But even kitchen grease can eventually clog the drains, so ensuring that very few products enter the drains can help homeowners avoid excess pumping and cleaning costs.
  • Keep the drain field clear. Homeowners can keep vehicles and other heavy objects or equipment off the drain field to avoid compacting and damaging it.
  • Reduce water usage. Leaky faucets, long showers, and frequent washing machine usage adds extra wastewater to the septic system and decreases the amount of time between septic tank cleanings. Being mindful of water usage can help homeowners save money with fewer septic pumping and cleaning costs.
  • Make access easy. Labor is one part of the cost to clean a septic tank, so homeowners can reduce that cost by making sure the septic tank lid is removed and the tank is accessible without obstructions.
  • Get multiple quotes. Homeowners who speak with at least three septic tank companies can compare quotes and offerings to find the best value.

Questions to Ask a Pro

Asking the right questions can help homeowners understand the process of cleaning a septic system and the cost to empty a septic tank.

  • Are you licensed, bonded, and insured to perform work on the septic tank?
  • Are any permits required, and who is responsible for obtaining them?
  • How much does a septic inspection cost?
  • How many septic tanks do you clean per year?
  • Does my septic tank need pumping or cleaning?
  • How long will the process take?
  • Is there anything I can do to prepare the area?
  • How will you protect my property during the cleaning process?
  • Could I experience any backup sewage in my house while you’re cleaning?
  • What are common problems that you encounter when cleaning a septic tank?
  • How will you communicate any issues to me?
  • Do you offer a guaranteed quote?


Since septic tanks only need to be cleaned every 3 to 5 years, it’s common for homeowners to have questions about the process. The answers to frequently asked questions can help homeowners feel more confident about the process and how their septic system works.

Q. How often should you clean your septic tank?

This depends on how much use the system experiences and how large the tank is. A small tank being used by one or two people may only need cleaning every 5 years or so. A large septic tank on a property with numerous people living in the home will require more regular cleaning every 2 to 3 years.

Q. What time of year is best to empty a septic tank?

When a septic tank is full, then any time is the best time. But if the tank hasn’t reached capacity and there’s time to plan the cleaning around the homeowner’s schedule, then spring is typically the most popular time of year to empty a septic tank.

Q. What happens if you don’t clean your septic tank?

Putting off septic tank cleaning can lead to disastrous problems. If the sludge builds up in the bottom of the tank, it can seep into the drain field too quickly and pool in the yard, creating a health hazard. Excess sludge can also cause clogs to form in the pipes, making the septic tank less efficient and more prone to backups. Backed-up septic systems have unpleasant smells and slow drains that will get worse over time.

Q. How long does a septic tank last?

When properly maintained, a septic tank can last between 20 and 40 years. Homeowners will need to schedule regular septic tank inspections and septic tank cleaning every 3 to 5 years. They can also keep an eye on the condition of their drain field and pipes to watch for any backups or leaks that indicate a problem that needs attention.

Q. Does shower water go into a septic tank?

Yes, shower water goes into the septic tank and is considered wastewater. It goes to the tank for treatment and is then dispersed through the drain field. All sources of water in the home, from kitchen sinks to washing machines, will be connected to the septic tank. This ensures that the home’s wastewater is properly contained, treated, and disposed of without contaminating the area.