The toilet is a part of our daily lives, and thank goodness: the winter gets very cold where I live in Colorado and I’m not too keen on the idea of heading outside to do my business in an outhouse in single-digit temps.
But it’s not only human waste that ends up in the commode. There’s also toilet paper, tampons, and the occasional expired goldfish. With a wide mouth and relatively powerful drainage, it’s tempting to use the toilet like our own personal trash transporter: just dump, flush, and it’s gone forever.
There are many things that should never EVER be flushed down the toilet, however. And to send them to their death via the toilet drain is to risk significant plumbing problems as well as environmental pollution.
1. Bathroom wipes – these “moist towelettes” or as I like to call them “adult baby wipes” are becoming an increasingly popular bathroom accessory. Despite the fact that they’re marketed to be flushed like toilet paper, these wipes are creating clogs and backups in sewer systems around the nation. “An industry trade group this month revised its guidelines on which wipes can be flushed, and has come out with a universal stick-figure, do-not-flush symbol to put on packaging,” reports SF Gate. (Same thing goes for actual baby wipes and cleaning wipes).
A city in Minnesota is suing six makers of “flushable wipes,” since the wipes cause so many problems in sewer systems. Officials say the wipes don’t degrade after they are flushed and end up costing the city “thousands, if not millions, of dollars of damages.”
2. Condoms – They probably seem small and very similar to toilet tissue, but these latex prophylactics are like kryptonite for septic tanks and sewage treatment plants. ”I’ve been down the sewers in central London and seen what appear to be fish on the surface. They’re actually condoms filled with air, bobbing around. It is pretty grim,” one sewer system technician told The Guardian.
3. Cotton Balls & Swabs – They’re just cotton, right? It might seem like these tiny bathroom tools would just get soggy and eventually break down in the watery pipeline, but they don’t. They eventually gather together in bends of the pipe, causing massive blockages.
4. Prescription Medication – Don’t need the rest of those pills? Many people feel like they’re doing the safe thing, keeping meds out of the wrong hands by flushing them, but it’s actually very dangerous. These drugs destroy bacteria, contaminate groundwater supplies, and can have terrible effects on wildlife downstream. Check www.takebackyourmeds.org to find a place that will dispose of them properly.
5. Paper towels – These are extremely wasteful and reuseable rags/napkins are much better. However, if you do use paper towels, know that they’re NOT designed to break down in water like toilet paper. Flushing them can cause BIG problems.
6. Cigarette butts – Not only do they look nasty when floating in the toilet water, they’re full of incredibly toxic chemicals that just end up in the water supply. Also, think of all the water you’re wasting to get rid of ONE tiny butt!
7. Band-aids – These are made from non-biodegradable plastic, which is terrible for the environment and can cause terrible clogs in the sewage system.
8. Dental floss – Despite feeling like string, dental floss is not biodegradable. Once flushed, it loves to wrap itself around other objects in the pipeline, making tiny clogs bigger in an instant.
9. Fats, oil, and grease – This is a tough one, and everyone has done it at one point, but cooking fats should NEVER go in the drain or garbage disposal. It seems like a liquid when it’s hot, but as soon as this grease hits the drain, it cools and congeals, becoming pipe-clogging wax. Scrape it into the trash, or, if it’s clean bacon fat, save it in a jar for reuse.
10. Cat litter – I can understand how this would seem ok — it’s just the cat’s poop and pee, right? But cat litter is made from clay and sand, two things that you should NEVER be put down a toilet. Not to mention that cat waste contains toxins and parasites that shouldn’t be in our water system.
11. Disposable diapers – just because there’s poop in it, doesn’t mean it belongs in the toilet. Diapers are made from toxic plastic that’s designed to expand when it comes in contact with water. In the slim chance you actually get it down the drain, it will instantly be caught in the u-bend, and cause a terrible back up.
Special thanks to The Good Human