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How Bad for Plumbing Are Disposable Wipes?

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How Bad for Plumbing Are Disposable Wipes?

By Philip Schmidt, Hometalk

Are disposable wipes bad for plumbing? Is the sky blue? While the subject of flushable toilet wipes may not join America’s canon of rhetorical questions anytime soon, to plumbers and sewer treatment personnel, the answers here are equally obvious. Disposable wipes are designed to get past your toilet, but that’s where the bigger problems can start—in your home’s main sewer drain and at the city’s treatment facility. And don’t even think about flushing down regular baby wipes or household cleaning wipes.

The Proof is in the Plug

If you browse plumbing industry chat rooms online (which makes for a great night in, by the way), you’ll see that the word “softball” comes up a lot in describing clogs created by dozens of disposable wipes. Due to the extra time involved, extracting these plugs from home drain pipes can be very costly. And it’s not just house drains that are getting clogged. Many cities report significant increases in sewage system clogs and maintenance costs related to flushable wipes and recommend that residents keep them out of the toilet. The city of Raleigh, NC has made it illegal to flush the wipes, placing them high on their list of “debris” that makes up the largest category of backups for their sewage systems.

What Does Flushable Mean?

This, it turns out, is a very good question. Flushable wipes are indeed flushable, just as a box of donuts and a case of Slim Jims are “edible.” But just because you can get them down doesn’t mean they’re good for your system. While manufacturers of disposable wipes have tested their products in labs, the true test of how they affect plumbing takes place in the real world, where you have real people flushing way more than the recommended “one or two wipes per flush” and you have sewage pipes and equipment that don’t always work like a laboratory simulation.

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6:10AM PST on Dec 24, 2013

Who flush wipes down the drain?

10:08AM PST on Dec 10, 2013


3:46AM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

I never thought that" flushable " may not be "dissolvable". It that case, the term "flushable" should not be allowed,

8:38PM PDT on Apr 25, 2013

thanks so much for making the differance in flushable and dissolvable clear

8:30PM PDT on Apr 25, 2013

Why would anyone think these things wouldn't clog the plumbing?

5:29AM PDT on Mar 20, 2013

Interesting thanks.

9:33AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

I'm a plumbers "wife" and trust me I know all about what not to flush down the toilet.
Depending on the type of sewer you have (septic or "city") and how many you flush makes a big difference. I say don't flush either way and just put it in the trash.

Ladies NEVER flush tampons!

4:22AM PST on Nov 6, 2011

Thanks for this. One question though: why cannot tissues (e.g. Kleenex) be made to be flushable?

11:17AM PDT on Nov 4, 2011

Thanks for sharing this important information...

3:01AM PDT on Jul 3, 2011

thanks, good to know

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