How Much Does Septic Tank Cleaning Cost?

A septic tank is an essential part of any home that is not connected to a main sewer line. Septic tanks collect and treat waste from your home before releasing it into the drain field. Over time, solids can build up in the septic tank, reducing its efficiency and potentially clogging components of the septic system. To prevent problems, it’s important to have your septic tank professionally cleaned on a regular basis. But how much does septic tank pumping cost? Here is an in-depth look at the factors that influence septic tank cleaning costs.

What is a Septic Tank and How Does it Work?

A septic tank is an underground chamber made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. All of the wastewater from your home empties into the septic tank through the inlet pipe. Inside the tank, the waste separates into three layers:

  • Scum – Fats, oils, greases, and other light solids float to the top and create a scum layer.
  • Sludge – Heavy solids sink to the bottom and create a sludge layer. This consists of the solids that did not break down.
  • Wastewater – The middle layer is the clarified wastewater. It contains smaller food particles and waste that begins breaking down.

The wastewater exits the septic tank through the outlet pipe and flows into the drain field. A series of perforated pipes allows the wastewater to filter through gravel and soil. This provides additional treatment as bacteria in the soil break down impurities.

Over time, the scum and sludge layers build up inside the septic tank. If not removed through periodic pumping, these solids can carry over into the drain field and clog the system. That’s why routine septic tank cleaning is so important!

How Often Should You Pump Your Septic Tank?

Septic tank pumping frequency depends on the size of the tank and the amount of wastewater entering it. Here are some general guidelines:

  • 1000 gallon tank – Pump every 3-5 years
  • 1500 gallon tank – Pump every 4-6 years
  • 2000+ gallon tank – Pump every 5-7 years

However, there are many factors that can increase pumping frequency:

  • Large household size – More people means more wastewater.
  • Use of garbage disposal – Adds more solids to the tank.
  • Heavy appliance use – Washing machines, dishwashers produce more wastewater.
  • High amounts of fats/grease – Quickly build up scum layer.
  • Sludge depository – Solids settle to the bottom faster.

If you notice any of the following, it’s time to have your septic tank pumped:

  • Slow draining sinks/toilets
  • Gurgling sounds
  • Plumbing backups
  • Sewage odors
  • Bright green grass over drain field

Routine pumping extends the life of your entire septic system. Consult with your septic contractor to determine the right pumping frequency for your household.

What’s Included in Septic Tank Cleaning?

When you hire a contractor for septic tank pumping, they will perform the following services:

1. Locate Access Lids

Your septic tank will have one or two access points with lids at ground level. The contractor will locate the lids and dig down if they are buried.

2. Remove Lids and Inspect

The lids will be opened to inspect the interior components like baffles/tees. A probe is used to measure sludge and scum levels.

3. Pump Out Waste

A large vacuum hose is lowered into the tank. The pump truck uses suction to remove all of the scum, sludge, and wastewater.

4. Clean Interior Surfaces

The walls of the tank are washed down and cleaned using a high pressure spray. Baffles are also cleared of any clogs or buildup.

5. Check Drain Field (Optional)

Some contractors will use a camera scope to inspect the drain field for any signs of clogging or failure.

6. Dispose of Waste at Treatment Facility

The contractor will transport the pumped out waste to an approved wastewater management facility for proper disposal and treatment.

7. Replace Access Lids

Once the tank is empty, the contractor closes up by replacing the access lids and filling in any holes.

Reputable septic companies will also provide you with an inspection report on the condition of your tank.

What Are the Factors That Determine Septic Pumping Cost?

Septic tank pumping costs can range widely, from $200 up to $600 in most cases. However, there are many factors that influence the total pricing:

Size of Septic Tank

Larger tanks (>1000 gallons) require more time, effort, and waste disposal fees for pumping. Smaller tanks can be emptied quicker.

Type of Septic Tank

Some materials like concrete are easier to access and clean. Fiberglass or plastic tanks can have more restricted access.

Location of Tank

If the tank is buried deep or difficult to access, more excavation work may be required. Easily accessible tanks have lower costs.

Amount of Sludge

Tanks overloaded with sludge can take longer to pump out completely. Routine pumping prevents excessive buildup.

Additional Services

Extra services like drain field inspections, baffle repairs, riser installations, permitting fees all add to costs.

Local Rates for Pumping

There is geographic variance in pricing based on local labor costs, disposal fees, and competition. Rural areas may have higher rates.

Special Disposal Requirements

Some waste may need hazardous materials disposal, which could increase pumping costs.

The best way to estimate cost for your specific scenario is to request quotes from septic professionals in your area. They can assess your unique conditions and equipment requirements. Expect pricing to be higher for emergency pump outs verses routine maintenance pumping.

Here are Cost Ranges Based on Septic Tank Size:

500-1000 Gallon Tanks

$170 – $350

Tanks of this size are commonly found on older homes or smaller properties. Cleaning costs are lower due to faster pump out times. Most single family and 1-2 bedroom homes have 500-1000 gallon septic tanks.

1000-1500 Gallon Tanks

$310 – $510

A 1000-1500 gallon tank is sufficient for most 3-5 bedroom homes. The larger capacity means longer pump out times and higher waste disposal fees. But cleaning costs are still reasonable.

1500-2000 Gallon Tanks

$390 – $630

Larger homes with higher wastewater usage often require 1500-2000 gallon tanks. Their size means pump outs take more time. Properties with rental units or mother-in-law suites may need tanks this big.

2000+ Gallon Tanks


Commercial properties like restaurants, apartments, hotels, and office buildings can use very large 2000+ gallon tanks. Their massive capacity equates to longer pump outs and higher costs.

Keep in mind that unique factors for your property can alter costs. Differences in tank material, burial depth, and local rates all contribute to pricing variances.

What is Included in the Cost of Septic Pumping?

When considering septic tank cleaning costs, it helps to understand what is included in pricing:

Labor – The time and personnel required to locate, access, and pump out the tank. More difficult access adds labor expenses.

Equipment – The vacuum pump trucks and related gear needed to remove and transport waste.

Materials – Any supplies, such as risers or replacement lids needed to access and seal up the tank.

Waste Disposal – Fees charged by treatment facilities to handle and process the pumped out septic waste.

Transportation – The cost of transporting waste from your property to the disposal site. Distance factors in here.

Administrative – Billing, scheduling, routing, reporting, and other office-related expenses.

Overheads – Insurance, licensing, equipment maintenance, and other operating costs incurred by the contractor.

When comparing prices from different septic companies, pay attention to exactly what services are covered in their fees. Get an itemized breakdown for the best understanding.

How Can You Save Money on Septic Pumping?

While septic tank cleaning is an essential periodic expense, there are ways you can minimize the costs:

Stick to the recommended schedule – Routine cleanings every 3-5 years prevents excessive sludge buildup, saving you money over the long run.

Compare contractor rates – Get multiple quotes rather than going with the first bid. But make sure to verify license, experience, and service inclusions.

Ask about off-peak discounts – Some companies offer lower rates for having your tank pumped in the slower colder months when demand decreases.

Combine with other maintenance – If you also need drain field repairs or inspections, some companies provide package discount pricing.

Consider DIY cleaning – In some areas, homeowners can save by renting a pump truck and doing it yourself. However, this is physically demanding work requiring proper equipment and disposal.

Reduce waste/water usage – The less wastewater that enters your tank, the slower it will fill up. Using less water and installing eco-fixtures helps maximize time between cleanings.

Install risers – Having an access riser pre-installed saves the contractor time and effort on the pump out date.

Ask about loyalty discounts – Some companies reward repeat customers with special pricing or perks.

FAQs About Septic Tank Pumping Costs

How much does it cost to pump a 1500 gallon septic tank?

For a 1500 gallon septic tank, expect to pay $310 – $510 for cleaning by a professional contractor. Tanks in this range are common for 3-5 bedroom family homes.

How much is an emergency septic tank pumping?

Emergency septic cleanings typically cost 50-75% more than routine maintenance pump outs. Expect to pay at least $500 for emergency service for a 1000 gallon tank. Exact fees depend on the contractor and complexity of the job.

Can I pump my own septic tank?

In some areas it is legal for homeowners to rent a septic vacuum truck and pump out their own tank. However, this requires proper equipment, physical labor, and arranging waste disposal. DIY septic pumping can save money but is best left to experts.

Does septic tank size affect cost?

Yes, septic tank size significantly impacts pumping costs. The larger the tank’s capacity, the longer it takes to empty out and the more waste there is to dispose of. 1500-2000 gallon tanks cost considerably more to pump than 1000 gallon or smaller tanks.

How much does it cost to install a septic tank?

Installing a new septic tank and full drainage field system for a home costs $3,000 to $7,000 on average. Tank size, soil conditions, permit fees, and labor factors into the installation cost. Just pumping out an existing tank is far less.

Is there a yearly fee for septic system maintenance?

Some septic companies offer annual maintenance contracts that cover the cost of routine inspections and pumping on an annual fee basis. This can save money compared to paying per service. Expect to pay $200 – $400 per year for full septic maintenance.

What happens if you don’t pump your septic tank?

Neglecting septic tank pumping leads to excessive solid buildup. This causes expensive clogs and backups. Failing to pump a tank for many years can ultimately result in a full system failure requiring replacement. Routine pumping every 3-5 years prevents major issues.

Key Takeaways on Septic Tank Pumping Cost

  • Regular septic tank pump outs every 3-5 years prevent system failures and maximize function.
  • Cost for cleaning septic tanks ranges from $170 – $350 for 500-1000 gallon units to over $480 for large 2000+ gallon tanks.
  • Multiple factors like tank size, materials, ease of access, sludge levels, and local rates determine pricing.
  • Ask septic contractors for itemized quotes to understand exactly what labor, equipment, transportation and other costs are included.
  • Compare multiple bids for the best value, but confirm licenses, experience, and service details.
  • Sticking to a regular maintenance schedule, reducing water use, and installing risers can help minimize pump out costs over the long term.


Regular septic tank maintenance is critical to the performance and longevity of any septic system. Knowing how much septic pumping costs allows you to plan and budget for this essential service. With routine cleanings every 3-5 years, you can avoid expensive emergency pump outs while keeping your septic system functioning safely and efficiently. Considering factors like tank size, ease of access, and local rates allows you to better understand cost variances and make informed decisions when hiring a contractor. Sticking to a regular maintenance schedule and employing cost-saving strategies provides optimal septic function.