We see a lot of mishaps from people flushing the wrong things down the toilet. We also get a lot of questions about what exactly can and cannot be flushed. The answer to what you can flush down the toilet depends on your home and city’s plumbing. Generally, in the United States we have very modern plumbing. In many parts of Latin American, Africa, former Soviet countries, and parts of Asia, the sewage system cannot handle toilet paper at all and toilet paper is disposed of in a bin next to the toilet. Septic systems are notoriously delicate. New plumbing is much more efficient then old plumbing, but there are some general guidelines to what you can and cannot flush down the toilet.
Let’s review our Top Four Questions:
- Flushable wipes are okay to flush, right? No, no no no no. No. “Flushable” wipes are misnamed. They are ruining plumbing everywhere. From Hawaii to New York to London, cities are spending millions of dollars flitering wipes out of their plumbing systems.
- Can you flush baby wipes down the toilet? No. Just like supposedly “flushable” wipes, baby wipes should NEVER be flushed down the toilet and are causing huge problems for sewage treatment centers.
- Can you flush paper towels down the toilet? No. Paper towels are simply too thick and too big to flush down the toilet. If you start flushing paper towels you will be calling the plumber, guaranteed.
- Can you flush condoms down the toilet? No. Condoms should be disposed of in the trash. Condoms are very likely to clog a toilet. And just imagine how embarrassing it could be to have a condom float back up at the wrong moment.
Other Items You Cannot Flush Down the Toilet:
- Dental Floss – Tossing a thin string of dental floss in the toilet seems like no big deal, but floss is a.) not biodegradable and b.) floss bunches up and causes big time clogs
- Hair – Hair forms into balls that are remarkably efficient at causing clogs and trapping odors. Always clean brushes over the trashcan. This goes for pet hair and fur as well; not pet fur in the toilet.
- Q-Tips and Cotton Balls – They seem so small and innocuous, but they gather together in pipes and cause massive clogs.
- Medication – City waste treatment plants are not designed to filter pharmaceuticals and hormones out of the water. This means that drugs end up in the animal population and in our city water supply
- Band-Aids – Sticky plastic doe not belong in the toilet. Plastic is bad for water systems. Band-Aids stick to other items and cause clogs.
- Food – Why? Why is anyone throwing food in the toilet? Why is it in the bathroom in the first place? We do not know, but we unfortunately see food clogging toilets much more often then we should. You should not be putting food down the kitchen sink either, even with a garbage disposal.
- Tampons – Tampons and tampon applicators should not be flushed down the toilet. This is surprising to many people, especially since tampon companies have no incentive to tell people that you cannot flush them down the toilet. Except for older homes, tampons are not likely to cause a clog when you flush the toilet. The problem comes when they go to the city’s waste treatment plant. Tampons are made to absorb liquid and do not breakdown instantaneously like toilet paper. Tampons must be filtered out and hauled away to a landfill. For the dignity of your guests and to protect your plumbing, please provide a trashcan with a bag and lid in every bathroom.
- Pads – Again, please put a trashcan with a lid in every restroom in your home. Even if you do not menstruate, a guest might.
- Kitty Litter – Kitty litter is made to clump in contact with moisture. This means it will be exceptional at clumping up your toilet. Never flush pet waste that has had contact with kitty litter.
- Cigarette Butts – Cigarette butts are so small, they seem like they would be easily flushable. Cigarette buts do not break down and they are filled with chemicals that can get into the water supply. Always dispose of cigarette butts in the trash. Sad fact: Cigarette butts are one of the most common forms of litter in the ocean. If you smoke, please discard your cigarette butt in a trashcan. Anything you thrown on the ground eventually ends up in the ocean.
- Diapers – Shockingly, some people try to flush diapers down toilets. They are obviously not flushable.
There is a big difference between biodegradable, flushable, and what you should flush down the toilet. In something is going in the toilet, it needs to be able to break down right away. Something that is biodegradable like tampons will break down EVENTUALLY, but we are guessing that you do not want to live with a backed up waste line for several weeks while a wipe or tampon breaks down. Manufactures put “flushable” on their products if the toilet will physically flush it, this does not mean that it is ok to flush.
So What Can You Flush Down the Toilet?
Ok, we are going to be really blunt. The only things you can flush down the toilet are the three P’s: pee, poop, and paper. And vomit, of course. We can call it puke to continue the P theme. But that’s it. Anything else will risk clogging up your plumbing system or will need to be removed from during the city’s water treatment process. Toilets are not trashcans.
If we had to pick three things to get people to stop flushing down the toilet, they would be (supposedly) flushable wipes, medication, and tampons. “Flushable” wipes because they are becoming so prevalent and really messing up entire cities’ plumbing, medication because it does goes into all of our water supply, and tampons because they are so commonly flushed.
Modern plumbing is truly a marvel. Please take a moment to consider the all of the expense and hard work that has gone into building our highly efficient plumbing systems and the hard, messy work that goes into maintaining those systems. Don’t mess it up.