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Flushing Anything Besides Toilet Paper Can Damage Wastewater Infrastructure

"Should I flush that?" If you're asking this question about anything other than toilet paper, the answer is absolutely not. To reduce the risk of critical sewer blockages and ensure your pipes operate efficiently, here's an illustrated look at seemingly safe products that need to be thrown in the trash.

Safe to Flush

1. Toilet paper

Toilet paper is the only safe product to flush down your toilet. Many toilet paper brands dissolve in minutes, and even the thickest varieties dissolve within 24 hours of being flushed.

Not Safe to Flush

1. Wet wipes

Always dispose of wipes in a waste basket. Baby wipes, facial wipes and even products labeled "flushable" do not disintegrate the same way as toilet paper. Over time, these products can cause serious plumbing issues. The clogs and backups can result in expensive plumbing bills for your home and increased wastewater fees from your community.

Wipes can accumulate into "fatbergs" – a rock-like, large mass of solid waste within a sewerage system that consists of things like congealed fat, oils and sanitary products that have been flushed down the toilet. The sewer system is designed for water, human waste and toilet paper. It cannot cope with more and more items that shouldn't be flushed.

The age of your home often indicates how fragile your plumbing system is. Older homes may already have corroded or brittle pipes. Flushing wet wipes down these drains can tangle them with other flushed materials, resulting in a clogged sewer system. Most homeowners are required to cover plumbing repairs occurring between their home and the service line, usually along the street. Fixing backed-up or damaged pipes can result in high costs for homeowners and local businesses.

Further, if wet wipes do make it through the sewer system without causing a problem, they can still create problems once they reach sewage treatment plants. These fibrous wipes can damage and overheat the industrial-grade pumps at treatment plants, ultimately costing taxpayers as repairs are far from cheap.

2. Paper towel and tissues

Paper towels and tissues are not all that different from toilet paper in terms of their makeup; however, they do not break down the same way toilet paper does. If you need to use paper towels or tissues in place of toilet paper for any reason, consider disposing of them in a wastebasket.

3. Other products

The first line of this article says it all – do not to flush any items other than toilet paper down your toilet. You may think that clump of hair, napkin, bandage, bowl of cereal or soup, or even products like degradable floss will flush without issue. The truth is that anything other than toilet paper can lead to serious issues like those explored above. 

Sewage infrastructure and the water that takes waste from your toilet to where it needs to go are precious. Let's all respect and appreciate the services we have, and prove these values by flushing only toilet paper in the days, weeks and years ahead.

Looking for a shareable illustration to help spread the educational word? Access our free What should I flush? infographic!