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Knowing which things you should not flush can protect your plumbing and save you from costly repair bills.
Surprisingly, some of these things are labeled as being “safe” to flush, but they aren’t! Maybe that’s because product manufacturers aren’t the ones paying the plumber to show up on a weekend evening to do emergency repairs.
But you are, so check out this list of things you shouldn’t flush down the toilet to keep your pipes flowing.
Things You Should Not Flush
Wipes for Baby or Cleaning
Even wipes labeled as “flushable” shouldn’t be flushed. That’s because the industry standards for such labels aren’t regulated. Though they might eventually degrade, they’re more likely to catch in your system and clog your plumbing. The problem is so pervasive that it’s led to a federal lawsuit.
Those absorbent, thick paper towels that are so great at cleaning your counters? They can wreak havoc on your toilet’s plumbing since they’re specifically designed not to degrade in water. Keep that in mind next time you’re cleaning a pet stain and toss the used paper towel in the trash, instead.
Adhesive Bandages (aka Plasters)
Although they seem pliable, adhesive bandages like Band-Aids (plasters in the UK) are made of non-biodegradable plastics. That means they’re hard on the environment, and also your toilet’s plumbing. In fact, if you’ve got any form of buildup in your home’s system, the bandages are likely to get caught in the muck and become a huge problem.
Cotton Pads and Swabs
Those round cotton pads used to remove makeup or nail polish aren’t designed to degrade quickly in water. The same thing goes for ear swabs (like Q-Tips), so don’t flush them.
You’d think this would be obvious, but then again the CDC has had to remind people that condoms shouldn’t be washed and reused, either. By all means, use one but (discreetly) dispose of it after use.
Floss and Dental Picks
Dental picks are made of plastic that won’t dissolve, and they’re lousy for the environment. Also not biodegradable, dental floss can wrap around other substances in your sewer system and lead to nasty, expensive repairs.
Sanitary Napkins (aka Period Pads)
Even the “light days” version of these feminine hygiene products are too thick for plumbing systems to handle. Technically, you shouldn’t flush tampons, either. Sorry, ladies.
Yes, they’re labeled “disposable.” No, that doesn’t mean you should flush them. If their sheer size doesn’t make that plain, the fact that they get bigger and heavier when they absorb liquids should be enough to explain why flushing them isn’t a good idea.
We get mixed messages on this one. While the FDA recommends flushing expired prescriptions down the toilet or sink, more environmentally-conscious EPA studies show that the country’s water supply contains numerous medications including opioids and antibiotics that are contributing to super-bugs. Your best bet is to take them, in their original container, to your local pharmacist for safe disposal.
Cooking Grease and Food
Toilet systems are designed to handle the kind of waste that comes out of our bodies, not the stuff that goes into them. Though it seems convenient enough, flushing leftover food or cooking grease can cause problems not just at your own home but throughout the city’s system, too. That’s what happened in London, where cooking grease flushed down toilet systems led to an enormous fatberg the size of two city buses!
If you occasionally sneak a smoke in the bathroom hoping the fan will hide the smell, you might be tempted to toss the butt into the toilet and flush. The thing is, those butts swell and they don’t degrade in water. So, as they float along in your system, they’re likely to catch on anything else that’s hanging around in your pipes. The result? You’ll wind up with plumbing problems and everyone will know you’ve been smoking.
Hair (Human or Pet)
Hair alone, no matter how thick and luxurious it is, will not clog your toilet system. It will, however, combine with anything else that’s in your pipes. Then it’ll trap other things that get flushed, including human waste, and eventually, you’ll be calling the plumber. So skip the flushing next time you clean your hairbrush and toss your hair in the trash or, better yet, put it in the garden where it will help discourage pests.