Most of us don’t think twice about what we flush down the toilet. After all, if it fits down that swirling vortex, it’s out of sight, right?

Unfortunately, that out-of-sight mentality can cause real headaches for our plumbing and local sewer systems. While it’s easy to assume that anything labelled “flushable” is safe to dispose of in this way, the truth is more complex.

In this post, we’re diving into the world of what should never make its journey through your plumbing. You might be surprised to find that some everyday items are culprits in creating clogs, environmental pollution and costly repairs.

From wipes that aren’t as flushable as they claim to be, to common household items like paper towels and even leftover cooking grease, we’ll explore why these should never go down your toilet.

Understanding these can save you a call to a professional plumbing service, such as 23 Hour Plumbing, and it also protects our waterways. So, let’s get right to it and ensure we’re all part of the solution, not the problem.

1. Flushable Wipes

Let’s start with one of the biggest offenders: flushable wipes. Despite their ironic name, these wipes are a plumber’s nightmare. You see, even though they’re marketed as flushable, most don’t disintegrate like toilet paper does. They tend to stay intact long after they’ve been flushed, leading to clogs and backups in both household plumbing and municipal sewer systems.

What’s the big deal? Well, when these wipes make their way into the sewer system, they often combine with other materials like fats and oils, creating massive blockages known as “fatbergs”. These monstrous clogs can be costly for cities to remove and can lead to significant environmental damage if sewage overflows into natural waterways.

The simple solution is to toss them in the trash instead of the toilet. It might not be as convenient, but it’s a small step you can take to prevent a big problem. By keeping wipes out of the toilet, we can help maintain the health of our plumbing and protect our environment. So, next time, just remember: when in doubt, throw it out.

2. Medications

It might seem like a good idea to flush old or unused medications down the toilet − after all, it keeps them out of the wrong hands, right? However, this common practice is actually quite harmful to the environment.

When medications are disposed of this way, they enter the water system, where water treatment plants often aren’t equipped to filter out all the chemical compounds. This means these drugs can end up in our rivers, lakes, and even drinking water, posing risks to wildlife and human health.

The impact on aquatic life is particularly concerning. Fish and other wildlife can be exposed to these chemicals, which can alter their reproductive systems, growth patterns, and behaviour. It’s a ripple effect that disturbs the natural balance of our ecosystems.

So, what’s the better option? Take your unused or expired medications to a pharmacy that offers a take-back program or check for local disposal days organised by community health departments. These methods ensure that drugs are disposed of safely and responsibly, keeping them out of our waterways and protecting the environment.

3. Paper Towels and Tissues

While it’s tempting to flush paper towels and tissues down the toilet, especially when the trash can feels just a step too far, these products are designed differently than toilet paper and shouldn’t be treated the same. Here’s why:

  • Different composition: Paper towels and tissues are made to be more durable and absorbent. Unlike toilet paper, which breaks down quickly in water, these items maintain their structure, leading to potential blockages in your pipes.
  • Sewage backups: When paper towels and tissues accumulate in the plumbing system, they can cause significant clogs. These aren’t just inconvenient; they can be expensive to clear and may even lead to damaging sewage backups in your home.
  • Environmental strain: Large clumps of non-disintegrated paper products can also burden municipal sewer systems, increasing the risk of overflows during heavy rains which can pollute local waterways.

The takeaway? Always toss paper towels and tissues in the trash, not the toilet. This small change in your habits can prevent major plumbing headaches and contribute to a healthier environment.

4. Cooking Grease and Oils

After frying up some bacon or cooking a greasy meal, it might seem easy to just rinse that leftover grease down the sink or flush it down the toilet.

However, disposing of cooking grease and oils this way is a recipe for a plumbing disaster, which includes:

  • Solidification: Once grease and oils cool down, they harden. This transformation can occur inside your plumbing, leading to solid, sticky blockages that are tough to clear.
  • Sewer fatbergs: In the sewer, these fats combine with other waste to form fatbergs (as previously explained). Removing these can be as difficult and costly for municipal systems as it is disgusting.
  • Environmental impact: Overflows caused by blockages can lead to sewage spills, contaminating local waterways and harming wildlife.

Instead of flushing them, let grease and oils cool in a container, then throw it in the trash. Some communities also offer recycling programs for cooking oil, turning a waste product into biofuel. So, save your pipes and the planet by keeping that grease out of the toilet.

5. Feminine Hygiene Products

Feminine hygiene products, such as tampons, pads, and certain types of liners, are essentials for many, but flushing them down the toilet can cause major plumbing woes.

Here’s a closer look at why these items should always be disposed of properly:

  • Non-degradable materials: Unlike toilet paper, feminine hygiene products are designed to absorb and retain moisture without breaking down. This makes them incredibly problematic for plumbing systems as they can easily cause blockages.
  • Costly clogs: These products can swell and get tangled in your home’s plumbing lines or municipal sewer systems, leading to expensive and messy repairs. In fact, they are among the leading causes of household plumbing issues.
  • Environmental concerns: When flushed, these products contribute to environmental pollution. They can end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans, where they pose a threat to wildlife and ecosystems.

The best disposal method? Always wrap them and toss them in the trash. Many public restrooms provide special sanitary bins for this purpose, underscoring the importance of proper disposal to keep our plumbing and environment safe.

Spread the Word

To wrap up, being mindful of what we flush down our toilets is more than just a measure to prevent plumbing issues − it’s an essential step towards environmental stewardship.

The items we discussed − flushable wipes, medications, paper towels and tissues, cooking grease and oils, and feminine hygiene products − are common culprits in residential and municipal plumbing mishaps. They not only strain our sewage systems but also pose significant risks to our environment.

Here are a few takeaways to ensure we’re part of the solution:

  • Be informed: Knowing what should and shouldn’t be flushed is the first step to preventing problems.
  • Proper disposal: Always opt for the trash can or appropriate recycling methods when disposing of the items we covered.
  • Spread the word: Share this knowledge with friends and family. Awareness can lead to better practices and less strain on our water treatment facilities.

By taking these simple steps, we can all contribute to healthier plumbing systems and a cleaner environment. Remember, every small action counts when it comes to protecting our planet.


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