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Septic Tank Pumping vs. Cleaning: What’s the Difference?

The terms septic tank pumping and cleaning are often used interchangeably. Septic tank pumping and cleaning are two distinct but related activities that keep septic tanks working at their optimal efficiency. Septic pumping is the process of removing liquid and some floating solid/sludge, while septic tank cleaning entails removing water and sludge from the bottom of septic tanks.

If you are looking for Sonoma County septic pumping, then reach out to the experts at L.J. Construction.

Here’s the difference between the two:

Septic Tank Pumping

  • Purpose: The primary purpose of septic tank pumping is to remove the accumulated solids and sludge from the bottom of the septic tank
  • Process: Professionals use vacuum trucks to extract solid waste, including sludge and scum from septic tanks
  • Frequency: Septic tanks usually need to be pumped every 3 to 5 years, but the ideal pumping frequency can vary depending on factors such as household size, water usage, and the capacity of the septic tank

Septic Tank Cleaning

  • Purpose: While the main purpose of septic tank pumping is to remove leftover solid sludge and scum solids, septic tank cleaning involves the removal of accumulated scum and sludge as well as through tank cleaning
  • Process: Professionals use powerful vacuums and high-velocity water jets to clean the walls and baffles of septic tanks. Septic tank cleaning equipment is designed to remove tiny debris particles and clear blockages and can help prevent buildups
  • Frequency: Septic tank cleaning is not typically required as often as pumping. It may be carried out on an as-needed basis, depending on the condition of the tank and whether any septic tank problems are brewing up

Factors That Can Affect the Septic Tank Cleaning Process

If you have your tank pumped regularly, your septic tank contractor should have no trouble removing solids. In case, however, you haven’t had your septic tank pumped for years, the waste in your tank may have formed a thick layer of sludge at the bottom, which will be very difficult to remove. Your contractor may add extra water to the tank or use advanced equipment to remove the buildup.

Your contractor may also have difficulty cleaning your tank if roots are entangled with solids or the opening is only a few inches wide and can’t accommodate the vacuum truck hose.


Septic pumping is the process of removing solids from the tank to prevent blockages and system failures. Septic tank cleaning goes a step further. During a septic tank cleaning session, your contractor not only removes solids but also cleans the interior surface of your tank.

How frequently you should have your tank pumped and cleaned depends on many factors. Both septic tank pumping and cleaning are an important part of septic tank maintenance. Regular pumping and cleaning can improve septic system performance, prevent costly repairs, and extend the lifespan of the septic system.

L.J. Construction specializes in Sonoma County septic pumping and cleaning. Regardless of the type of septic tank you have, we can help you maintain it all year long. To learn more, call (707) 823-0247.