Are Flushable Wipes Really “Flushable”?

plumber not happy with wipes flushed down the toilet

We all know toilet paper has been a hot commodity in the last few years, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Many people got desperate and resorted to paper towels, baby wipes and old books when truly necessary. Others were lucky and at least had a stockpile of flushable wipes. But when you ask a plumber about flushable wipes, you’re likely to see a little cringe.

Why cringe over “flushable” wipes you ask?

The main reason plumbers cringe is that they know if they were to look into nearly any “clogged” system they are likely going to find “flushable” wipes and/or something else that wasn’t supposed to be flushed. The problem with all the products labeled as “flushable” or “septic safe” isn’t particularly the wipe itself, it’s the end users. People have become so accustomed to hearing flushable wipes commercials and seeing “flushable” or “septic safe” on the packaging that they pretty much assume that ALL wipes are flushable and that is not the case.

Not all wipes are created equally and most are not truly flushable. When septics and pipes are cleaned out, various studies have shown only extremely small percentages of the wipes gathered were supposed to be flushed in the first place.

While there are various guidelines for manufacturing companies to follow, there is no certification process at this point to assure the public that any particular type or brand of wipes is indeed flushable. This leads everyone to resort to common sense and we all know how that tends to end up!

All this “common sense” is costing cities and municipalities millions of dollars in cleaning up what has been called “fatbergs.” The non-biodegradable items end up clogging our sewer pipes and causing nasty backups! These “fatbergs” are typically about 90% flushable wipes with the remainder being tampons, cooking fat or other things. If you want to see photos and videos of how this ends up, you can look here. (Fair warning, it isn’t pretty!)

How do we protect our pipes then?

The best way to protect your pipes and the wastewater systems they are attached to is to stick to only truly flushable items. Wastewater experts and plumbers alike ask that you typically stick to the 3 P’s: Pee, poo, [toilet] paper. It’s easy to remember and easy to teach the little ones. Otherwise, here are a few things to be sure not to flush.

Wipes NOT to flush:

Baby wipes
Makeup wipes
Clorox (or other cleaning wipes

In a plumber’s perfect world, only the 3 P’s would ever go down a toilet. But, if you feel the need to “freshen up” with a flushable wipe, please be sure to read that the package clearly states the product is flushable and safe for the septic systems.

Questions? Need your pipes checked or unclogged? Give us a call at {F:P{Sub:Phone}, and we’ll be out quick as a hare!