Are Flushable Wipes Bad For Your Plumbing? (Shocking!)

Have you ever had that strange moment where you start to question whether flushable wipes are really flushable? It’s normal as a number of thoughts may pop into your head. For starters, it may impact the environment poorly if they are not dissolvable. And what about potential plumbing issues? No one wants that. 

The truth is flushable wipes are terrible for your plumbing, no matter what the packaging says. They use extra water and are naturally more clunky. To boot, they are not good for the environment because of the extra water use, and they do not degrade by the time they reach the sewer/septic. 

So it is incredibly confusing why septic-safe and flushable wet wipes say that on their packaging. That’s because they are saying yes, they are flushable on a technicality. Let’s talk about why it doesn’t really work and what problems you may encounter if you do it anyways. Plus, read on to know what you should do instead. 

Are Flushable Wipes Really Safe to Flush?

Flushable wipes are physically capable of being flushed down the toilet. However, that doesn’t mean that they should be. The idea is that all things that go down the toilet should be able to easily disintegrate when they come into contact with water. But you will notice that a wet wipe does not do that at all. 

For some context, toilet paper is found to be completely dissolvable in about 24 hours after flushing it down the pipes. Experts who have found clogged and blocked flushable wipes in the sewer lines have noticed that it can take months in some cases for them to disintegrate. This can cause a huge blow to your sewer line and cost a lot of money. 

Furthermore, they have a terrible impact on the environment. This is for two reasons. Wet wipes take more water to push into the sewer systems. We already waste tons of water by going to the bathroom. Then since wet wipes don’t break down, they make their way into the ocean and are ingested by animals and sea creatures. 

Do Flushable Wipes Cause Problems?

Flushable wipes are a headache and cause many problems, such as blockages or fatbergs, thanks to their inability to disintegrate. They can easily damage and cause problems to septic systems as well. Minimally, a plumber could charge between $350 to $650 for a small blockage. When it becomes a bigger problem, we are looking at thousands of dollars. 

Flushable wipes are a headache and cause many problems,

This can get even trickier when you have a septic system and are not connected to the city’s sewage line. The worst-case scenario? If you start backing up your septic, the sewage will flow back into your house through the different lines. A flooded bathroom full of sewage is an expensive and messy fix. 

Flushable Wipes When You Connected To City Sewer 

1. They Don’t Disintegrate

The materials that flushable wipes are made up of are incredibly strong, making them difficult to disintegrate. Well, if you think about them in comparison to toilet paper and paper towels, they are the strongest of the three. 

Technically speaking, a flushable wipe’s core is made of pulp. This disintegrates with ease, and why it is able to be advertised as flushable wipes. However, it is then treated to strengthen the product with other materials.

These are specific polymers and plastics that don’t break down. One of the most commonly used additives is polyester. This is a synthetic plastic that is strong and holds the fibers together. 

Interestingly enough, even if synthetic polyester breaks down, they break into tiny little plastic pieces that pollute the environment. But since most manufacturers do not disclose all the materials in the packaging, you may not know that this is what they are made of. 

2. They Can Create a Backup in the Sewage System 

Not only can flushing your wet wipes down the toilet cause backup for your house, but it can also cause major issues for the city’s sewage system (and even septic tanks).

What happens is that individual households may not think it’s a big deal to flush materials that are hazardous or don’t break down. They don’t realize that they are creating blockages requiring professionals to go in and break up. 

Because of this, cities have to spend millions annually to fix these blockages and pipe problems that their city’s residents cause.

When the pipes don’t get unclogged, this can lead to in-home floods regardless of whether you caused it or not. Being good to your neighbor has never been more of a fitting statement. 

Your home is not the only place subject to sewage spills either. If the lines get clogged, sewage can end up pouring out of drains all over the city, creating hazards. This is thanks to fatbergs. 

3. They Can Even Cause “Fatbergs”

A fatberg is when fat from cooking mixes with non-disposable items such as tampons, flushable wipes, cotton swabs, and so on. This creates a solid master that clogs and backs up the sewage lines. They can turn massive, with one of the more historical ones damaging the Thames River Utility in London. It weighed equivalent to an 11-double-decker bus. 

Fatbergs, which you can guess stem from icebergs, can take days to weeks to unclog. The project is incredibly expensive and super hazardous to the crew that has to do the unclogging and break it down. 

The saddest part is that 90% of fatbergs are made up of flushable wipes. So this is why they are not flushable at all. In other words, just because you can flush something down the toilet doesn’t mean it should be flushed. 

Flushable Wipes When You Have A Septic 

Flushing wipes down a septic system is potentially much worse than flushing it down a sewer hooked up to the city.

While both are strongly discouraged, a septic system can cause some serious damage to your home. You will start to notice that water will drain slower and have trouble getting down the pipes. 

This is an indication that a partial clog is happening. You can try a few at-home tricks, like putting baking soda down the drain to get the clog to disintegrate.

You will have to call a professional. When a clog is fully blocked, you will notice that the water will back into your home. This is sewage and is incredibly hazardous and unsanitary. 

How long does it take flushable wipes to dissolve?

Experts can’t put an exact number for flushable wipes to dissolve, but generally speaking, they can take weeks to months to dissolve. When they become a part of a fatberg, it takes even longer. 

Alternatives to Flushable Wipes

There are several alternatives to wet wipes that are plastic free and biodegradable that you can still use without having to get rid of flushable wipes altogether. Not every option is a perfect match for everyone but trying different methods is one way to solve this issue. Let’s take a look. 

  1. Using a bidet is becoming more common throughout the world. It uses hoses in a toilet to spray you and help clean yourself before using toilet paper. Some fancy bidets actually have dryers as well. 
  1. Toilet paper spray is also a great alternative. This spray simply goes on to toilet paper rather than a pre-made wet one. This dampens the toilet paper but shouldn’t completely disaggregate it. 
  1. Eco-friendly baby wipes do exist. If you choose this option, be sure they are completely free of plastic since this is the reason they don’t break down. Also, ensure that they are bio=degradable for extra precaution. 
  1. Reusable wipes are something that you are probably not thinking of. But for babies, you can actually use this instead of toilet paper or paper towels which we sometimes grab for a quick clean. Simply throw them in the wash when you are done. 

Do Not Get Fooled

It is incredibly irresponsible for companies that sell these products to advertise them as flushable. Just because you can technically commit a crime doesn’t mean you should. You can get involved not only by choosing to avoid using these products but also take it a step further. 

Go ahead and call your elected officials and ask them to hold these companies responsible for the sewage damage that starts with them.

Because of the lack of industry standards for what makes a wipe flushable, anything goes. But when you call for responsibility, the government should jump right on this because it hurts them too.

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