Septic System Soakaway Worms: Solution or Scam?

When I hear about ‘miracle’ fixes and old wives tales, I like to check them out. I like to test their validity, and pass along the findings to you.  I want to either help you find an great fix for a certain situation, or I want to save you from being scammed or wasting time and money on something that doesn’t seem like it will work.

When you understand how worms live, and what worms eat, you will realize septic worms and soakaway worms look a lot like a scam.  Not only will worms not survive inside a sealed septic tank, they will not travel freely to the leach lines, and they will not eat up a clog of septic sludge. If you have drain field problems, worms will not fix it.

Companies are popping up who are happy to sell you a bucket of septic worms or soakaway worms, which, they say, will clean up the sludge in your septic tank and clear your drain lines While this would be a welcome fix…. easier and far less expensive than a new drain field, they simply will not work and we will tell you why. Further, we will show you where wastewater treatment plants are trying to actually kill the worms in their systems.

Is this the solution to your drainfield problems?

Why are they Selling Soakaway Worms?

Companies will try to sell you septic worms because…. it makes them money!  (Gasp!)

Septic system owners (ourselves included) turn to using septic tank additives and alternative septic problem solving solutions for a couple reasons. 

First, we want to avoid any kind of problem with our septic tank, am I right? 

I don’t know you , but I’m going to go out on a limb and say you do not want any kind of wastewater backup in your house or in your yard. 

Call me Carnac the Magnificent.

If we can add something to our septic system that will help it do what it’s supposed to doo-doo (ha!) then we consider that a worthwhile upfront investment to avoid gross, inconvenient, and expensive repairs later on.

The second reason we try additives and alternatives is that something has gone awry too long and now there is a problem and we’d like to fix it quickly, naturally, easily, neatly, inexpensively, and any combination thereof, right?

Enter the Septic System Worms, or the Soakaway Worms. 

You send the company a bucket of money and they send you a bucket of worms.  You open the lid to your septic tank, plop the entire contents of dirt and worms into the tank, and then, they say, the worms either fall to the bottom and eat the solids, or they stay on the top and eat the fats. 

Supposedly, after the worms eat the sludge, they reproduce and work their way up the out-spout, eat all the caked up sludge in the drainfield pipes, and voila, your problem is solved. THAT’S WHAT THEY TELL YOU!

There are so many problems with this, I hardly know where to start.  

Problem #1
IF the worms go to the sludge layer at the bottom and eat at the solids, how do they get into the outlet pipe?

I watched a video from a company promoting these worms and his diagram shows the outlet pipe in the septic tank all the way down in the sludge layer at the bottom of the tank.  Septic tanks are not designed like this!  He is misleading the public from the very onset of the video.  

The outlet pipe is somewhat near the top of the tank and it hangs out in the water/effluent section, not the sludge section, because it’s the water/effluent that flows out of the outlet pipe.  It is designed to keep sludge and scum out of your outlet pipe.

If your outlet pipe truly is in the sludge, then that means your sludge layer is entirely too big and you need to have your tank pumped out immediately.  The sludge layer should never, ever be as high as the outlet pipe.

Period. This will absolutely clog your drainfield. And worms will not fix it. And it will cost a lot to repair.

Problem #2.
IF the worms are hanging out in the fat/grease/scum layer at the top, then how are they getting to the drain field, because the scum layer is above the outlet pipe, specifically to keep scum and grease and fat from getting into your drain field.

The only way the scum layer would be at the outlet pipe, is if it is tremendously  thick and extends down into the area that should be full of water/effluent.  And again, you need to pump that tank out immediately to get rid of all that scum.  And then you need to stop letting so much grease, soap, and fats accumulate in the tank, either by not letting so much down the drains, or having the tank pumped more frequently.

Okay, I just presented you with two “IF” situations — IF the worms go to the sludge sections and IF the worms stay on the scum section — and those were big “ifs” because they won’t happen. 


Worms surface when the ground soil is too saturated with water.

How Worms Live, How Worms Die

Problem #3.
Worms live in soil.  Worms die in water.  

(Mostly, anyhow.)

Worms, especially earthworms, live in soil and cannot survive in water too terribly long.  They ‘breathe’ by absorbing oxygen through their skin and if the soil gets too waterlogged, they have to surface above ground in order to breathe.

A septic tank is an anaerobic system.  Anaerobic means without air. 

Worms are aerobic. They need air.

So how do worms who need oxygen (aerobic) survive in a tank that has no oxygen (anaerobic)?

They don’t. They can’t.

What Worms Eat; What Worms do not Eat

Problem #4.
Worms like to eat decomposing food like fruits, vegetables, grains, eggshells, even horse and cow manure.

But eating grease and scum isn’t their idea of a good meal.

Think about compost piles, which worms love!  Those are full of kitchen produce scraps, leaves from the yard, grass clippings, and the like.  You aren’t supposed to put greasy, fatty, meaty products in a compost pile.

When I was a little kid and went fishing, I dug for worms in the rich soil by the river bed. I didn’t go digging by the outhouse.

What the Wastewater Industry Does with Worms

Problem #5.
Worms multiply and often hang out together. If concentrated in one area, they become a big clump of squirmy wormies and will clog up that area.

I’ve found that some people say the ‘septic worms’ are actually Tubifex worms, also known as sewer worms.  Now that name might make you think that a sewer or septic tank is where they love to be, and where they should be, right?

Let’s take a look at what the large wastewater industries do when they get sewer worms in their systems.

Municipal wastewater treatment plants collect and strain all the city’s wastewater, then it goes into huge drying fields.  This is a generalization, because not all wastewater treatment plants are the same, but it’s the type we see in our example. 

A company called Aquafix has worked with some wastewater treatment plants to eradicate the worms!  That’s right.  These worms that are supposed to help our septic sludge are wholly unwanted by wastewater treatment plants.  Why?  Don’t they help break down the yucky stuff?   Nope, they just congregate into huge masses and clog the filters.

This is a quote from their website:

“Tubifex worms, aka sewer worms, are not often seen in wastewater plants, but when they are, they end up clogging filters and eating bacteria and other proteins. And unlike red worms, there is no definitive control method for tubifex worms anywhere in the industry.”

Did you read the part where the Tubifex worms eat the bacteria? Tubifex worms eat the bacteria that break down the sludge and poo in your septic tank… bacteria which end up naturally inside the tank.

No bacteria? No breakdown of solids.

Bringing it All Together

  • Worms don’t live well in water. 
  • Worms don’t like to eat grease and sludge.
  • If your drain field is full of sludge or scum from your septic tank, you have an issue that worms will not fix anyhow.
  • Worms congregate and make huge wormy masses that clog things; they don’t squirm around single file like good little kindergartners.
  • If your drain field area is a good environment for worms, then the worms will find their way there anyhow.
  • I challenge you to find one legitimate testimonial which proves that worms freed up a clogged drain field.
  • I challenge you to find a septic professional who will recommend worms in your septic tank.

Are there some worms that can live in water?  Are there some worms that will eat human poop?  It’s possible, but definitely not the norm.

To be fair, I’m no worm expert.  But I love to chase down something that sounds too good to be true and sounds like a cash cow for someone unscrupulous enough to prey on people in a rough situation.

I’ve presented some information to you so that you can be more educated and make up your own minds.  As for us, however, no worms!

What Should You Do to Reduce Sludge in your Septic Tank

If your drain field truly is clogged up with solids from your septic system, you should be calling a few septic experts to come out and assess the situation.

I say a few because with jobs that big and potentially that expensive, I think it’s a good idea to get a few quotes and make sure they all agree upon the issue and the solution. 

If your drain field lines are good, but you suspect an excessive sludge or scum layer in your tank, you should just have it pumped out.  It will cost you a few hundred dollars, and your tank will be fresh and clean (well, empty at least… maybe not “fresh”) and ready to start doing its thing again.

What Should You Do to Fix a Sluggish Drain Field

A sluggish drain field can have a few causes.  One of them can be overloading of the system by washing too many loads of laundry on a day, having more people in the house than the system is designed for, long showers, or other things that put lots of water into the system.  The water that flows into the drain fields needs time to filter down and dry out regularly.

Have you seen how slimy algae will grow on something that is always in water?  The same thing can happen to your drain field pipes if they’re constantly wet from overuse and never get a chance to dry out.  That slimy gooey stuff will grow and clog the drain holes.

Also, compacted soil in the drain field area can cause draining problems.  If the soil is relatively loose, then water can filter down, but if the soil has been compacted, perhaps by driving over it, though that is not the only cause, then the water will take much longer to filter down.

So there you have it, folks.  Worms are not your best solution to fix a sluggish drain field, but a few septic professionals and their expertise will be.

And if it turns out you need costly septic repairs and don’t know how to pay for them, here is an article I wrote about how to get some grants or very low interest rate loans to fix your septic system.

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Kelly Albertson

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