With a national shortage of toilet paper, people are purchasing “flushable” wipes instead. Are these “flushable” wipes flushable or not?
In recent years, the use of products such as “flushable” wipes have been advertised as a better cleaning experience when compared to traditional toilet paper. These products are marketed in a variety of ways, such as “septic-safe”, “break down like toilet paper,” and “safe for sewer and septic.” Many wastewater treatment professionals agree that even though the wipes are marketed flushable, you are not supposed to flush them. These wipes don’t break down properly when they go down the toilet. Hence they clog wastewater systems including pipes and pumps.
A study published on Water Environment Federation revealed how slow wipes are “dissolved” in water compared to traditional toilet paper. As you can see in Picture 1, traditional toilet paper was dissolved after 5 minutes soaking in water. Wipes barely broke down after soaking in water for 24 hours.
Picture 1: Comparison of toilet paper and regular wipes soaking in water (Source: Water Environment Federation)
One field study conducted in Forensics, Maine also revealed the issues of wipes. Researchers evaluated the materials in pump clogs and sewer obstructions. They found out around 32% of them were wipes including baby wipes and flushable wipes. According to National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the clogged wastewater treatment systems cost utilities up to $1 billion every year.
Amid the shortage of toilet paper, you may only be able to get wipes. Please do not flush wipes, diapers, or anything else besides human waste and toilet paper. Put them into the trash cans instead. Wipes may not clog your toilets or the pipes inside your house. They will clog somewhere from the lift stations to the wastewater treatment plants. Wipes that clog pipes can also lead to blockages that can cause sewage overflow into the house. If you have a septic system, everything that goes down your drains ends up in your septic system. Whether you flush it down the toilet, grind it in the garbage disposal, or pour it down the sink, shower, or bath, it will be in your tank. Keep in mind, what goes down the drains affects how well your septic system works.