Okay, so it’s not a subject that everyone wants to tackle, but it’s one that absolutely needs to be addressed: Should those “flushable” wipes really be flushed?
Although the manufacturers of these wipes swear up and down that they are perfectly suited for use in any drainage system, from public to private, we have to say that we disagree. In fact, we’ve discovered that many of the so-called “flushable” wipes can lead to headaches, damage and costs for homeowners who bought into the hype.
Now, we should add that you CAN flush these wipes, so the word “flushable” isn’t part of a hoax. Of course, as any toddler knows, you can also flush LEGOs, socks and mom’s diamond ring. In other words, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it. Flushable wipes will absolutely make it past your toilet, but once they are in your pipes, all bets are off.
The issue with the flushable wipes is that they do not break down like ordinary toilet paper does. Instead, they form clumps or “soft balls” (a name given to some clogs by professional plumbers.) Over time, those clumps band together and get stuck in pipes. As some municipalities’ managers have reported, plenty of pipe issues have been caused because debris caused by flushable wipes, among other items, just doesn’t want to budge. (In one midwestern town, city officials started a rather memorable “No Wipes in the Pipes” public service campaign because it had become such a growing problem.)
This all makes sense if you think about it: Flushable wipes cannot be made of material that is as thin, pliable and “flimsy” as ordinary toilet paper.
Instead, they have to be manufactured from products that won’t easily disintegrate when they are moist. As noted by Consumer Reports, a study of several types of flushable wipes wouldn’t break down even after half an hour. Again, this means that even though they won’t hurt your commode itself, they could stay in your home’s pipes for quite a while.
To be fair, the makers of flushable wipes swear that they’ve done plenty of testing and are certain their particular brands of wipes will be easy on household sewer pipes. Yet we know what we’ve seen and heard. Plumbers around the United States, Canada and even Great Britain have issued warnings to homeowners. Here in central Pennsylvania, we’ve seen our fair share of disgusting messes all caused by residents flushing things that were supposedly “flushable” but which didn’t live up to their marketing.
So what do you do with those wonderful wipes that you’ve decided you can’t live without? (And believe us, we’re not telling you to stop using a product that makes you feel cleaner!)
Well, short of just throwing wipes into the trash directly after using them (and that’s not a very attractive thought), you may want to go to the local dollar store and purchase small plastic baggies that are meant for diaper disposal. After using a wipe, put it in a baggie, tie the baggie at the top and then throw the whole shebang away. Though this won’t keep the flushable wipe from ending up in the landfill, it will keep it from clogging your pipes or, if you have one, your septic system.