A septic tank is basically a waste digester, and when it's working properly, it functions much like the human digestive system. Bacteria that thrive in the septic environment break waste down into simpler organic compounds in processes that result in the release of gases, such as methane and hydrogen sulfide. Indigestible sludge sinks the bottom of the tank, and processed wastewater flows into a drainfield, where it percolates into the soil.

Introducing an additive, such as RidX, to speed this process is akin to ingesting enzymes to aid your digestion -- it's a poor substitute for a healthy diet.

What Is RidX?

RidX is one of a number of products marketed by RB, a company that also manufactures such well-known products as Lysol disinfectant cleaner and Easy-Off oven cleaner. According to the RidX portal on the RB website, the septic system additive contains three different enzymes in a base of glycerin and water with an added fragrance. Enzymes are catalysts that speed up the rate of digestion, so by pouring RidX into your septic tank via the nearest toilet, you're not increasing the number of digestive bacteria in the tank; instead, you're increasing the rate at which the existing ones work.

Additives Not Recommended

According to a 2010 article </ahref="http:>in the "Mother Earth News," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not -- at that time -- recommend the use of additives, considering them the possible causes of clogs and groundwater contamination. In 2015, an EPA brochure merely cautioned against using additives, advising that their efficacy has not been determined. A 2009 study conducted at Kansas State University is less equivocal, stating that additives are not needed.

In one case cited in the study, additives caused the sludge layer at the bottom of the tank to decompose too rapidly, causing an excess of gases that transported solid matter into the drainfield, clogging it.

RidX -- an Approved Septic Additive

Some septic system additives contain chemicals that can harm the environment, and some can actually worsen the conditions in the septic tank. To protect consumers, the states of Washington and Massachusetts restrict the use of septic system additives to those approved by the state health departments. There are several RidX products on the approved lists of both states, so even if these products don't improve conditions in your septic tank, they should't do the tank any harm.

Proper Maintenance Trumps Additives

Just as digestive aids are unnecessary if you eat a healthy diet, septic additives are unnecessary if you maintain your septic system properly.

  • Flush only what the system is designed to handle, which is wastewater and toilet paper.
  • Never flush any item that won't biodegrade and refrain from introducing kitchen waste -- especially greases and oils. If you have a garbage disposal, drain it into a separate cistern or use the food waste to fertilize your garden.
  • Inspect the tank frequently and pump it when the sludge level at the bottom exceeds one-third of the total volume. For most systems, this occurs every three to five years.