April 14, 2020

All You Can Flush—Pee, Poop, and Toilet Paper!

That’s right—flush NOTHING else down the toilet. Not paper towels, not disinfecting wipes, not diapers, not wet wipes, not dental floss, not baby wipes, not disposable sanitary products, not Kleenex, not napkins, not even so-called flushable wipes. Put them in the trash instead. Why? Because wipes clog pipes!

And clogged pipes can cause sewage backups into homes or sewage overflows into streams and streets. Clogged pipes endanger public health and cost lots of money—YOUR money—to clear.


clogged pipe.jpeg

Last summer, a sewage overflow caused by clogged pipes discharged more than 150,000 gallons of wastewater containing raw sewage into Puget Sound and last month, Washington State became the first in the nation to adopt legislation requiring “do not flush” labeling for wipes.

Just a month ago, in Redding, California, the wastewater utility had to deal with a sewer backup involving pumps clogged with what appeared to be shredded tee shirts after they were used as toilet paper. Plumbers and utility workers must work overtime to clear blockages, risking worker health and adding costs.

In another example, servicemen at Beale Air Force Base in California have had to clean the sanitary sewer system once a month, rather than once a year, due to pipes clogged with wipes. "Flushable wipes are a nightmare for the sewer infrastructure, especially housing on base," according to Staff Sgt. Robert Maughan, 9CES Water & Fuel Systems supervisor in an article in Business Insider.

Ninety-three percent of the wipes found clogging sewer systems are not flushable wipes. Even flushable wipes are best disposed of in the trash, rather than in toilets. Moreover, the majority of non-flushable wipes are made of plastic so when they are flushed down the toilet, microplastic fibers end up in local waterways and groundwater.

You’ll be pleased to know there’s even an International Water Services Flushability Group working to solve the problems caused by people flushing things down toilets that don’t belong there.

Did you hear about the monstrously large "fatberg" consisting of fat, oil, grease and, yes, wet wipes 210 feet in diameter found clogging a sewer in England in 2019? Fat and oil poured down the drain congeal in sewers and block the flow. Wipes (and other materials that should never be flushed) accumulate and make the "berg" grow ever larger. London’s water utility revealed in 2017 it had finally broken up a "fatberg" measuring 800 feet long and weighing 130 tons. This is no joke, people.

In sum, let’s be careful out there and, remember: toilets are not trashcans. Only flush the three P’s: pee, poop and toilet paper. Dispose of everything else in the trashcan, even if you’re temporarily without toilet paper.