Have you recently moved to a new home? Does this new home have a septic system instead of being hooked up to a city sewer system? When you live in a home that is more rural than urban, it's not uncommon to find that your home has a septic tank instead of being hooked up to a larger method of waste disposal. While caring for a septic system is largely the same as the things you'd do for a city sewer system, there are a few differences. The biggest one is that you need to have the septic tank pumped out every so often instead of it simply disappearing forever. If you've never had to deal with this in the past, here are some signs that your tank is getting full and needs to be emptied:
Time: This will largely depend on the size of the tank in question and your household usage, but you'll likely need a septic tank pumping every two to three years. If the previous owners of your home didn't tell you how long it's been since the tank was last emptied, now is a good time to have it done so that you can start the countdown clock. It's also a good idea to have the tank inspected every three to five years or so in order to make sure that it is intact and not leaking. This means you should try to have an inspection performed approximately every other time you have the tank emptied.
Sluggish toilets: As your tank starts to fill up with solids, it will become harder and harder for water to flow through the tank. Although any drain can start acting slow and seem like it's clogged due to this slowness, it will be most obvious in any toilets you have. If a good plunging doesn't clear up the toilet issue, there's a good chance that you're in need of a septic tank pumping in order to set things right again.
Odd smells: Being full of solids also means that it's more difficult for sewer gasses to properly escape from the tank. This may send some of these gasses back up to your bathroom or your kitchen, resulting in odd smells that refuse to go away no matter how much air freshener you may use. Sometimes the smell is sulfurous, as you might expect, but other times a system in need of septic tank pumping will simply emit vaguely musty or damp odors. These odors may also linger outside in the vicinity of the septic tank itself, but there may be no external smell at all.