What Can and Can’t Be Flushed Down the Toilet?

by | Sep 20, 2023 | Blogs

You’ve just used a disposable wipe, and it’s now in your hand. The trash bin is on the other side of the room. The toilet is right there. Should you just flush it down? Or what about that piece of dental floss or your old goldfish? 

The consequences of using the toilet as a waste chute can be far-reaching, impacting not just your plumbing but our towns, cities and the environment as a whole.

So, if you’re ready to make informed decisions and question those seemingly harmless habits, this go-to guide will have you rethinking your flushing habits and give you a new perspective on the plumbing installations in your home!

What Happens When You Flush the Toilet?

When you flush, water from the toilet tank rushes into the bowl, taking natural waste and toilet paper with it. The swirling motion of the toilet water and the gravity pull send this mix into the pipes that lead to your home’s sewer system or septic system.

People believe that items such as paper towels, wet wipes, cotton balls, and cotton swabs can be flushed down the toilet. However, that’s an unhealthy practice since these items don’t break down as easily as paper.

When you flush non-biodegradable items such as baby wipes, even those labeled as ‘flushable wipes,’ they may lead to costly repairs as they clog pipes and lead to a plumbing emergency. A 2017 study found that ‘flushable wipes’ are responsible for 93% of blockages in sewers.

Other debris, such as food waste, cooking grease, cotton pads, cigarette butts, feminine products like tampons and their applicators, Q-tips, and dental floss, can clog pipes as well. Flushing hazardous waste such as non-biodegradable plastic burdens wastewater treatment processes and may also harm wildlife.

Plumbing system

What Can I Flush Down the Toilet?

The short answer is relatively straightforward: only human waste and toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet. It’s easy to think of your toilet as a magic portal for disappearing waste, but it’s not. It’s a direct route to your septic or sewer system, and incorrect use can lead to significant problems.

What Makes Toilet Paper Safe to Flush?

The answer lies in its unique design. Toilet paper is specifically engineered to dissolve rapidly in water, making it safe to flush. This rapid disintegration prevents it from clogging up your pipes. Manufacturers use shorter fibers for toilet paper than other paper products, allowing it to fall apart quickly when saturated.

Some toilet papers are more biodegradable than others, depending on factors such as the type of pulp they’re made from and how much bleach and other chemicals are used in their production.

Can Excessive Use of Toilet Paper Clog Pipes?

While toilet paper is designed to dissolve and pass safely through your plumbing, an excessive amount of it might cause a plumbing emergency. Using too much toilet paper leads to a build-up in your pipes before it has a chance to break down, causing blockages, especially if your plumbing system is old or partially blocked.

Moderation is key in numerous things, toilet paper included!

Can You Flush Paper Towels Down the Toilet?

Unlike toilet paper, paper towels are made with longer fibers, making them sturdy and absorbent. These properties mean that paper towels do not dissolve quickly or fully when flushed, increasing the likelihood of creating a blockage in your pipes.

So, while reaching for a paper towel might be tempting when the toilet paper roll runs out, it might not be the wisest of ideas. When in doubt, throw it out!

Flush paper towels down the toilet

Preventing Clogs: Items to Avoid Flushing

Understanding what not to flush is as crucial as knowing what you can flush. Seemingly harmless items can create significant clogs even if you are fitted with high-quality plumbing materials.

Can I Flush Cat Poop Down the Toilet?

While it might seem like a convenient solution, flushing cat litter or cat poop down the toilet is not recommended.

Most litters’ clay and silica particles are designed to clump together and absorb water, not dissolve in it. As a result, they can quickly clog your pipes.

Additionally, cat waste may carry the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which is harmful to humans and difficult to remove in wastewater treatment plants. It’s best to dispose of litter box contents in the trash or consider environmentally friendly disposal methods.

Cat litter box

Can I Flush Hair Down the Toilet?

Hair is another common item that should not be flushed down the toilet.

Unlike other substances, hair does not break down easily. Instead, it clumps together and forms substantial blockages in your pipes, leading to hefty repairs. Clumps of hair may start to catch other debris as well, creating a larger clog over time.

Cleaning hair out of a hairbrush

Can I Flush Condoms Down the Toilet?

In one word, no.

Condoms made of latex or other non-biodegradable materials do disintegrate. When flushed, they can inflate, fill with other debris and cause blockages in your pipes. Furthermore, when they reach the sewer system, they can contribute to ‘fatbergs’ – large, solid masses of waste that block sewers, which are costly and difficult to remove.

It’s best to wrap used condoms in tissue paper and dispose of them in the waste bin.

Condom

The Long-Term Effects of Incorrect Flushing Habits

Incorrect flushing habits may seem harmless initially, but their long-term effects are far-reaching. Every non-biodegradable item flushed down the toilet doesn’t just disappear. Instead, it travels through to the main sewer system.

Frequently flushing incorrect items may lead to recurring clogs, requiring the attention of a professional plumber. Many flushed items also end up polluting oceans and waterways. Chemicals found in some products also have detrimental effects on the water quality and may cause environmental damage.

By making a few simple changes to our habits, we can help mitigate these issues!

Worried About Toilet Clogs? Contact Our Plumbing Experts!

If you’ve encountered a stubborn clog or are unsure about your flushing habits, our team at PlumbingWurx is here to help. With our experience in both residential and commercial plumbing, we’re equipped to handle all types of plumbing concerns.

Don’t let a minor issue become a big problem. Reach out to us today at (301) 264-7577 or visit us at 1101 Opal Ct, Hagerstown, MD 21740. We’re a family-owned business and pride ourselves on our quality workmanship and top-notch customer service.

References

  1. Waving Goodbye to Wet Wipe Island – Access date: 6 August 2023.

Contact us for a consultation today

Lean on the trusted expertise of your PlumbingWurx family at 1101 Opal Ct, Suite 101, Hagerstown, MD 21740.

Contact us at (301) 264-7577 today!

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