Toilets are sensitive appliances with plumbing that’s created to flush just a few specific items. While they seem indestructible, as if they could flush anything down into the abyss of underground plumbing, there are many misconceptions about what they can get rid of. People assume that many of these items listed below are flushable, but you’d be surprised what you’re NOT supposed to flush down the toilet—and what flushing these items can do to your plumbing.
Baby Wipes and Diapers
Many items such as baby wipes are described as flushable on product labels—and while they’re designed to be, the creators of these products haven’t tested them on your specific plumbing. Pipes react differently across climates and elevations and are made of different materials. Older plumbing may not be able to handle these items the same way as newer plumbing, for example. When you use a baby wipe to clean up your little one and change their diaper, be sure to wrap up and dispose of both items in a trash can. Wrap them in toilet paper and throw them out instead of flushing them down the toilet. Both items can clog the toilet rather easily.
As with the baby products mentioned above, the same goes for feminine products. While many feminine products are designed to be flushable, over time they can get stuck and cause issues with plumbing. This is especially true in older buildings—which is why many older parts of town may have signs in ladies' bathrooms to not flush feminine products due to their “historic” plumbing. Cotton items that don’t break down will also never break down in a septic tank. Wrap these items in toilet paper and dispose of them in the trash cans found in just about all women’s bathroom stalls.
Disposable Cleaning Cloths
As with baby wipes, disposable cleaning cloths can't be flushed down the toilet. While the packaging may say so, all kinds of flushable wipes are causing clogs around the nation and making people pretty upset, due to unnecessary plumbing bills. Keep all cleaning items in the trash and out of the toilet bowl.
Facial Tissues and Paper Towels
While facial tissues seem like simple enough items to flush, they don’t break apart quickly like toilet paper in the sewer system. If you’ve ever noticed how toilet paper falls apart when you get it wet and try to wipe something, you’ll also notice that tissues don’t do this. When you use facial tissues, make sure to throw them away. Don’t flush them. If you run out of toilet paper and have to use one in an emergency, make sure to wrap it up neatly and put it in the trash. The same goes for paper towels.
Medicine and Food
Medicine is small enough and dissolves quickly, right? Wrong. Many tablets and medicines can cause clogs in pipes because they take quite a while to break down. They’re designed to break down with stomach acid—they don’t dissolve with ease in the giant water supply under our homes and businesses. Dispose of them in sealed plastic bags or take them to your local medication disposal facility. Food cannot be flushed, either no matter how small or safe it may seem. Throw unused food away in the trash or use a proper garbage disposal.
Hair clogs all drains, and quite easily. You probably know this and have seen it if you’ve ever had long hair, lived with someone who has long hair, or lived somewhere after someone with long hair has moved out. It can clog your toilet just the same as a sink or shower drain. When brushing or combing your hair, only throw it away in the trash can—never the toilet. Hair clogs can be hard to undo, as hair can gather in parts of the plumbing that drain cleaner can’t get to.
If you do happen to flush any of these items, make sure to keep a closer eye on your plumbing for any issues you may have, such as toilets that drain slowly or don’t want to flush. In that case, or if you have anything else wonky going on with your toilet, be sure to call a plumber. If you have a septic tank, be sure to let any servicemen know that these kinds of items could be in your septic tanks, as they will settle to the bottom and are not removable with the drained liquid.