Flushable Wipes? Not So Fast!

A recent story in USA Today brings to light a growing problem: “flushable” wipes are creating clogged sewers. Some manufacturers have brought to market a disposable wipe that they claim is flushable. The problem is that the wipes don’t break down in the sewer system like toilet paper does, and cities are working to cope with an increase in material accumulations in their sewer systems.

Manufacturers of the wipes say that their products do indeed break down, but Consumer Reports disagrees. According to CR, ordinary toilet paper doesn’t last more than a few seconds in water before it begins to disintegrate. Flushable wipes, on the other hand, don’t show any serious breakdowns even after 30 minutes in the sewer system.

Flushable wipe manufacturers are quick to point the finger at other products, like baby wipes, tampons, condoms and diapers, which some consumers will dispose of in the toilet. Unfortunately, these products are a lot less like toilet paper and much more like fabric, so they end up clogging up the works at the pumping stations and in the waste treatment facilities largely in the same condition they were in when they were flushed. These items can hang around indefinitely in septic systems, too.

While some consumers may find the idea of flushing wipes to be convenient, cities and municipal water authorities are spending big bucks to skim out the materials from their pipes and pumping stations. And that translates into higher bills for consumers.

Generally speaking, if it isn’t something you made yourself, and it isn’t toilet paper, you shouldn’t flush it down the toilet. Flushable wipes aren’t likely to clog your fixtures and pipes unless there are other things (like tree roots) that these no-no’s can get hung up on. But industry groups like the National Association of Clean Water Agencies are recommending that consumers treat items other than toilet paper as non-flushable and dispose of them in the trash rather than sending them into the municipal sewer.

If you are having trouble with your home’s sewer connection, or are experiencing sewage backups, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help! Call us at (617) 288-2911 to clear blocked sewer lines anytime of the day or night. We offer 24-hour emergency service and we’re always around to lend a hand!

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