Have you ever wondered what you shouldn’t flush down the toilet? Flushing something down the toilet may seem like a quick and easy way to get rid of it. But, if you flush something that shouldn’t go in the toilet, you could end up with a plumbing disaster.
There are several items that shouldn’t go down the toilet, some things you may not have realized. This includes hair, cat litter, and dental floss, among many other items. Certain foods shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet either, especially grease. You should also avoid flushing products used for personal hygiene, like cotton balls, baby wipes, and feminine products.
Before you put something in the toilet to be flushed, you should know if it’s okay. There are several items that are a risk because they can block the pipes. This can cause a clog and a hefty plumber’s bill.
Today, we’re going to discuss which items you shouldn’t flush down the toilet. Keep reading to find out what they are.
What You Shouldn’t Flush Down The Toliet
You may be thinking “if something is small enough, it can easily flush down the toilet.” That’s not the case at all. There are many items we thought were okay to flush down the toilet until we spoke with an expert. Let’s take a look at what you should never flush.
Paper Towels & Tissues
One item that we all hate to run out of is toilet paper. If you find yourself in this situation, you might be wondering what you can use instead. Paper towels and facial tissues may seem like a great alternative, but they can do damage to your pipes.
Toilet paper is designed to dissolve in water. Paper towels and facial tissues are made to absorb water. These products can expand when they’re wet, which can lead to a blockage.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re using one of these as a toilet paper alternative, place the used tissue in the garbage afterward.
Do you trim your own hair or your family members’ hair? If you’re trimming hair in the bathroom, the toilet may seem like an easy way to dispose of the hair. Flushing hair down the toilet can cause problems in the future.
This is because hair can stick to the pipes. Over time, as more things get flushed down the toilet, the buildup will get worse, leading to a blockage.
Don’t be fooled by how thin a strand of dental floss is. Similar to hair, dental floss is an item that can lead to a blockage later on. This is because dental floss doesn’t break down.
The biggest issue with flushing dental floss is that it can catch items that you flush in the future. Floss sticks to the inside of the pipes. When you flush clumps down the toilet, the strand will wrap around them. Eventually, this leads to a blockage.
Diapers & Baby Wipes
A lot of new parents are under the impression that they can flush baby wipes. However, baby wipes don’t break down in the water. Flushing baby wipes almost always results in a plumber’s visit.
Diapers are too big to be flushed. The diaper will clog your toilet right away. If it somehow manages to make it through your pipes, it could clog the outgoing sewer line within seconds. Diapers don’t break down and they should only be placed in the garbage bin.
Most condoms are made from a very thin layer of latex. Latex is not designed to break down. While you may not experience an issue if you flush a condom down the toilet once or twice, you can cause plumbing problems by frequently flushing them.
Condoms can easily get caught on other items once they’re flushed, resulting in a blockage. The only way to dispose of a condom is in the garbage (wrapped in toilet paper).
One of the biggest misconceptions is that tampons should be flushed down the toilet. This is something that you should never do. Tampons expand as they absorb water and can become large enough to block the pipe.
If you place a tampon in a dish of water, you will be able to watch it expand. It takes very little time for the tampon to increase in size. Now, imagine what that would do inside a pipe.
Similar to condoms, tampons and other feminine products should only be disposed of in the garbage. They should always be wrapped in toilet paper before being discarded.
Cotton Products: Q-Tips, Cotton Balls, Cotton Pads, etc.
Cotton can wreak havoc on pipes and sewer systems. A lot of people think that since products like cotton balls and q-tips are so small, they can flush without any issues. This is a myth that needs to be debunked.
Products made from cotton don’t break down. On top of that, they can catch to the buildup on the pipes very easily. This almost always results in a blockage, and in some extreme cases, it has led to bent and damaged pipes.
Medication & Drugs
If you have expired prescription drugs, you likely don’t want to risk throwing them in the garbage. This is because if a child or pet got ahold of them, it could be very dangerous. Flushing them may seem like a safer option, but it should be avoided.
Flushing drugs won’t lead to a clog. However, it does lead to water pollution. The Food and Drug Administration strongly advises against flushing any type of medication. Instead, see if there is a drug take-back or collection program in your area.
There are two very specific reasons why you shouldn’t flush cigarette butts down the toilet. Similar to drugs, cigarettes can lead to water pollution. There are toxic chemicals in cigarettes that can be harmful to the water system.
Cigarette butts don’t dissolve. It’s common for the butts not to go down the drain when someone tries to flush them. However, if they do make it down the drain, they can easily get caught in buildup on the pipes.
The first time I took care of a cat, I thought that the waste should go in the toilet. Eventually, the toilet wouldn’t flush. After a visit from the plumber, I quickly learned why this was a mistake.
Cat litter is an absorbent. When it gets flushed down the toilet, the litter sits in the pipes absorbing more water. This will quickly lead to a clog.
Another thing you need to consider about cat waste is that it’s different from human waste. There is a risk that a parasite from the pet’s waste could be introduced to the water system.
So, how should you properly dispose of cat litter? What you might not have known is that cat litter is compostable. When you scoop your cat’s litter box, you can put the waste directly in the green cart. If this isn’t an option where you live, place the kitty litter in the garbage.
Fish (& Other Deceased Animals)
For many decades, people have been under the impression that when a pet fish dies, it can be flushed down the toilet. This is something you shouldn’t do. Although fish are small, the septic system isn’t designed to handle them.
Another thing to consider is why your fish died. There is a possibility that it had an undetected illness or disease. This is something you don’t want to risk putting into the water system. Instead, you should bury the fish outdoors.
Food & Grease
Always avoid flushing any food down the toilet. It’s true that some foods are a bigger risk than others. While you may not have any issues flushing leftover soup, you will have issues if you were to flush a sandwich.
That being said, the biggest hazards when it comes to food products that are oils, fats, and grease. The problem is that when grease is flushed, it’s often put into the toilet in a liquid state. Once it cools down, it hardens. This can lead to a blockage.
Bleach & Household Cleaners
Bleach is a very strong and toxic cleaner. If you use bleach for cleaning, it must be diluted with water. Now, bleach in very small doses can be okay to use for cleaning your toilet as long as it has been diluted.
This can become a problem when a homeowner uses too much bleach. Some people are under the impression that bleach can unclog a blocked pipe, and will pour a heavy amount into their toilet. This is untrue, as bleach can’t eat through a clog.
When too much bleach is poured into a toilet, it can cause damage to the pipes. This rule doesn’t just apply to bleach. Drain cleaners (like Drano) and heavy household cleaners can also cause damage if they are used excessively.
You may have seen the trend on TikTok where people are pouring copious amounts of different cleaning products into their toilets. They create a rainbow of cleaning products that looks satisfying but is causing more harm than good to the water system.
When you’re cleaning your toilet, only use a minimal amount of cleaning product. Try to use a gentle cleaner like vinegar or dish soap. It doesn’t take a lot of product to get the job done.
Paint & Other Construction Waste
Did you know that paint is considered hazardous waste? Anything that is considered hazardous shouldn’t be flushed down your toilet. Paint has a lot of chemicals in it that can pollute the water system.
There’s also a risk that pain can lead to a clog. So, what should you do with paint and other construction waste? Unfortunately, you won’t be able to put leftover paint in the garbage. Find out where you can drop off hazardous materials in your community.
One mistake that far too many people make is treating their toilet like a garbage bin. Remember, toilets are only designed to handle human waste and toilet paper. Most items we think are okay to flush can actually cause problems because they don’t dissolve.
We suggest keeping a waste bin beside the toilet. That way, any hygiene products or other items that aren’t safe to flush can be disposed of safely. After all, even small items that get flushed can stick to the pipes and lead to a clog.
Using the correct products can keep problems away and your toilet clean.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.