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October 6, 2022

Can You Really Flush "Flushable" Wipes Down the Toilet?

Dude, Can I Flush “Flushable” Wipes?

woman hand throw paper towels in the toilet bowl 2022 08 01 01 18 28 utc scaled

There’s controversy swirling around the world of wet wipes that are branded as “flushable” wipes. They gained popularity in the last decade. Even though the packaging says it’s “safe” to flush, professional plumbers say they are causing costly damage to your home’s plumbing system.

“Flushable wipes” are often known to cause major plumbing problems. Experts say some brands are bad for the environment because it takes them so long to biodegrade and some manufacturers say their brands are safe to flush. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages people to only flush toilet paper

So what could this mean for your system? “Flushable” wipes can cause costly problems, like sewage backup, septic system problems, flooding, clogged pipes and even burst pipes. 

What are flushable wipes?

People have been using wet wipes on baby bums for years. In the early 2000s flushable wet wipes for adults became popular. These wipes are designed to give people relief from certain medical conditions like hemorrhoids. 

There isn’t a third-party regulatory system to say what is considered “flushable” and “unflushable.” While there is legislation in the works, right now it’s left up to the manufacturers to determine if something is safe to flush or not.

There is a standard testing procedure issued jointly by EDANA and INDA nonwoven product associations. 

Under their guidelines, to be considered “flushable,” there must be evidence indicating: 

  • clears toilets and properly maintained drainage pipe systems when the suppliers recommended usage instructions are correctly followed; 
  • passes through properly maintained wastewater conveyance systems and is compatible with wastewater treatment, reuse and disposal systems without causing system blockage, clogging or other operational problems; and 
  • is unrecognizable in effluent leaving on-site and municipal wastewater treatment systems and in digested sludge from wastewater treatment plants that are applied to soil.

Even though products pass the standard testing procedures, they can still catch on pipes, causing a buildup and eventually clog your plumbing. Toilet paper takes minutes or even seconds to start breaking down. It can take days for certain “flushable” wipes to start the process.

cropped view of plumber using plunger in toilet bo 2021 08 30 01 25 03 utc scaled

Why shouldn’t I flush them? 

Traditional toilet paper is designed to lose strength and break down into small pieces when it gets in contact with water. 

“Flushable” wipes are designed to be durable and absorbent. They do not immediately break down like TP does. As they make their way from your toilet through the pipes, there’s a good chance they’ll snag on something along the way. This may cause a bottleneck and eventually a clog. 

So, can I flush them or not? 

Flushable wipes are not recommended by professional plumbers and many wastewater treatment authorities, but the decision is ultimately yours to determine if your plumbing is powerful enough to push them through. You will be prone to problems if you have water pressure issues, septic systems or older plumbing infrastructure. 

However, not all “flushable” wipes are created equal. Some have short, natural fibers that will allow them to break up sooner in the disposal process than those with longer synthetic fibers. 

BUT the package says the wipes are flushable, is this true? 

In order to classify as “flushable” manufacturers have to prove wipes meet a certain criteria. They also go through a rigorous testing process that mimics the movement of a wipe from the beginning (the toilet), through the pipes, through the sewer system and ending at a wastewater facility. That process determines how easily the “flushable” wipe disintegrates. 

If I can’t flush “flushable” wipes, how do I dispose of them?

Flushing “flushable” wipes down the toilet is among the worst things you can do for your plumbing system. The damage is great and costly to repair. 

The recommended way to dispose of “flushable” wipes is to throw them in the trash bin. That goes for any kind of wipe–baby wipes, cleaning wipes etc.

What shouldn’t I flush? 

  • Paper towels
  • Baby wipes
  • “Flushable” wipes
  • Tampons
  • Diapers
  • Medications
  • Grease, fats or oils
  • Leftover food

Wipey Wipe info graphic

Signs “flushable wipes are clogging your system

If your household uses flushable wipes and you haven’t had a clog yet consider yourself lucky. Plumbers say it’s just a matter of time before consistent usage may cause a clog in your pipes.

Pay attention to these signs a clog is forming:

  • Bubbling when flushing the toilet
  • Funky “rotten egg” smell inside or outside of your house
  • Drains around the house are draining slow

How to attempt a fix

  • Use a plunger to try to break up the clog
  • Use a toilet auger, a.k.a toilet snake, down the bowl.

When to call a professional plumber

Sometimes the clog is just too much to tackle on your own. Call a professional plumber if you’re having to plunge frequently.

Even if it seems embarrassing don’t hesitate to get a service call booked right away. The plumbing pros at Paschal Air, Plumbing & Electric have just about seen it all. We are happy to help. Call Paschal today at 479-202-8961 or schedule an appointment online at www.gopaschal.com.