Ask any plumber and they’ll probably tell you that one of the worst calls they get is in regard to so-called “flushable” wipes. The wipes that are most often marketed as safe for “septic and sewer” and “breaks down like toilet paper” are frequently the cause of some of the worst clogs we see. Trust me when I say cleaning up after one of these clogs is a lot of work and not very pretty either!
Flushable wipes, unlike traditional toilet paper, don’t break down as quickly. Check out this video from Consumer Reports1 to see visually how flushable wipes compared to traditional toilet paper when tested against each other. This failure to quickly breakdown is the reason they cause problems in your plumbing system. A study done at Michigan State University determined the slower break down of flushable wipes can result in “major blockages in sewer systems.” In addition, this can lead to a larger problem as “aging infrastructures have also compounded the problem. Wipes that clog pipes can lead to blockages that can cause sewage overflow into basements or streams.”2
Let me break it down for you...pun intended! When wipes fail to break down quickly they can get stuck in your pipes and start to create a blockage. This occurs because the fabric of the wipes holds together longer and allows other debris to quickly build up, creating a clog. This clog can lead to blockages and potentially serious damage to your system, especially if the result is a backup in your home. The next thing you know you’ll be calling someone like myself, aka a professional plumber to fix this disastrous situation.
Wipes can also get into your main sewer line causing an even bigger issue by damaging your entire sanitation system. This occurs when the wipes begin combining and compacting together, quickly building in size. There have been reports worldwide in which wipes have caused sewer systems to overflow, clogs in lift stations and even disruption to treatment plants.3
A secondary problem caused by flushable wipes is their similarity in appearance to other products, like baby wipes, wet wipes, and facial wipes. Consumers often dispose of these items down the toilet and being a non-flushable product they can only compound the problem.
So simply answered, flushable wipes are not okay to flush. Your whole plumbing system is put at risk of serious blockages which can mean sizeable plumbing bills for you. So in the future to avoid a major disaster, stick with good old toilet paper or make sure you dispose of wipes in the trash.
If you live in the Orlando area and do end up with a major plumbing problem, give Michael’s Plumbing a call at (407) 289-1844. As your local Orlando plumbing expert, we can help out with even your biggest plumbing issues.
1Product Reviews and Ratings - Consumer Reports, https://www.consumerreports.org/video/view/money/shopping/22783507001/are-flushable-wipes-flushable/.
2“Are Flushable Bathroom Products Safe for Sewer and Septic Systems?” MSU Extension, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/are_flushable_bathroom_products_safe_for_sewer_and_septic_systems.
3 Kart, Jeff. “Study Results: Dispose of Your 'Flushable' Wipes in The Garbage.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 10 Apr. 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/04/10/study-results-dispose-of-your-flushable-wipes-in-the-garbage/#47c3f26f1583.