Things You Should Not Flush in Your Toilet

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Plumbing repairs are expensive. If your system is always clogging, it’s time to learn what things you should never flush.

Are you tired of racing for the plunger? If you can’t figure out why your toilet keeps backing up, perhaps you’re using it to flush the wrong things.

Surprisingly, some things labeled as safe to flush aren’t. Other things we’re used to flushing (but shouldn’t) can build up over time. Then you’ll wind up with a toilet that clogs and overflows no matter how many repairs you make to it. (Related: How To Unclog Drains Naturally.)

Generally, it’s safe to flush most things that come from your body. But there are some exceptions. You should never flush nail clippings, for example, because they don’t dissolve. Read on for more things you should not flush down your toilet, and give that plunger a rest.

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Don’t Flush These Things Down Your Toilet

Hand holding a cleaning wipe over a toilet bowl demonstrating things you should not flush

1. Any Kind of Wipes

After changing a messy diaper, it’s tempting to flush baby wipes to get that smell out of your home. Wipes don’t dissolve fast, though, so don’t put them in your toilet. Not even wipes that claim to be flushable are safe to flush. That’s because there’s no industry standard for making such claims.

So, toss those cleaning or personal care wipes in the trash. If it’s a messy one, tuck it into a plastic bag or food container that you’re already throwing away. (Related: How to Clean a Stained and Smelly Toilet.)

2. Paper Towels

Who doesn’t love a nice, thick paper towel stays together while you use it to scrub? Unfortunately, that’s exactly why you should never flush paper towels down your toilet. They won’t dissolve fast enough.

Sure, you might get away with it one or two times. But if your pipes have any form of buildup (and most do), undissolved towels will add to it. Then, your lines get so narrow that everything causes a clog — even stuff you’re supposed to flush.

Child sitting on toilet with bandages on both knees

3. Adhesive Bandages

We’ve all pulled off a bandage and tossed it into the bowl without a thought. But they are a common cause of toilet clogs. Most adhesive bandages plastic, which means they won’t dissolve in your plumbing. They’re also likely to get stuck in pipe bends or caught on debris in your system. Toss them in the trash instead.

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4. Cotton Pads, Balls, or Swabs

Although cotton is a natural, organic fiber, it doesn’t dissolve fast. That’s great if you’re wearing cotton clothing and it suddenly rains, right? It’s not so great for your home’s plumbing, though. So, don’t flush cotton pads or balls, or even the swabs you use to clean your ears. Toss them in the trash instead.

Modern bathroom with wall mounted toilet and sink

5. Feminine Hygiene Products

Don’t flush sanitary napkins down the toilet, no matter how small or discrete they are. Pads consist of wood pulp, petroleum gels, and plastic — none of which dissolve fast enough to avoid clogs.

Even flushing tampons isn’t a good idea. After all, they’re designed to not dissolve in liquid. That makes them extremely likely to catch on a pipe bend or snag on buildup, leading to costly repair bills. That’s why you won’t find a single tampon maker claiming their product is flushable.

The problem with flushing them isn’t limited to your home’s plumbing, either. Tampax notes that “tampons cannot be processed by wastewater-treatment facilities and they can harm septic systems.” So, do everyone’s plumbing a favor and wrap it up in toilet paper then throw it in the trash.

6. Condoms

Condoms are also designed not to dissolve. That includes in your home’s plumbing, too. There’s also the risk they’ll get trapped in a pipe bend, which makes them yet another thing you should never flush. Instead, wrap them in toilet paper and toss them in the trash.

Man's hand holding plate of vegetable scraps showing something you should not flush down the toilet

7. Cooking Grease and Food

Flushing leftovers or scraps might seem like an easy way to get rid of them. But toilet systems aren’t designed to handle large, undigested chunks of food. When you flush them, the force of water is likely to cram them together at your pipe’s narrowest spot.

Don’t flush cooking grease or oils, either. Even though it goes into your plumbing like any other liquid, the cold water in your system makes it congeal. Over time, layers of congealed grease narrow your pipes. Then anything you flush will get caught on it and cause clogs.

8. Cigarette Butts

Many secret smokers hide in the bathroom, hoping the fan will get rid of their cigarette’s smell. Then, they toss the butt into the toilet. But you should never flush cigarette butts because they don’t dissolve in water. Also, their fibers swell in water, so they’re likely to clog your plumbing. Throw the butts in the trash, or kick the habit altogether.

Ball of human and pet hair

9. Hair (Human or Pet)

The problem with flushing hair isn’t that it will clog your system on its own. Whether it’s yours or your pet’s, you should never flush hair because it will catch on other things in your pipes. So, next time you clean your hairbrush, toss those strands in the trash. Or, better yet, add them to your garden where they’ll help keep away pests and enrich the soil.

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  1. Add hairbrush hair to my garden! To keep away pests and enrich the soil! Who’da thunk? Little gems like that – combined with an amusing read – are why your blog is one of the few I read pretty consistently that always survives my periodic “why am I subscribed to this?” purge. Almost time for another go at that lemon blueberry cake….

    1. Katie Berry says:

      What a sweet thing to say, Judi! I’ve been waiting to hear about your latest twists on my Lemon Blueberry Bread recipe. There’s another one coming soon that I think you’ll enjoy playing with, too. 🙂