When the world runs out of toilet paper, what do you do? Some are turning to alternatives such as wipes and paper towels that will cause much more harm than good. Your sewer system isn’t designed to handle things other than the “three Ps” (pee, poo, paper).
The dirty truth is that wipes and paper towels can easily clog up your sewer line and cause problems in your septic system. They don’t disintegrate and break down in water the way toilet paper does. Therefore, Heil Plumbing recommends throwing wipes in the trash rather than flushing them down the toilet.
You’ve probably seen those wipes in stores that say “flushable,” “sewer safe,” or “septic safe.” These companies claim that their products are convenient and you can simply toss them in the toilet. But any plumber can tell you that it’s a flat-out lie.
Cities around the world can attest to the millions of dollars spent due to major stoppages caused by wipes and other non-dissolvable materials people are putting down the drain.
Fun fact: Nearly 50% of what is considered “non-dispersible material” in wastewater is paper towels. 25% is baby wipes. The remaining percentage is a mix of tampon applicators, makeup wipes, condoms, and other things that should also be thrown in the trash.
Signs You Are Experiencing a Sewer Clog
Repeatedly Clogged Drain or Toilet
If you have a toilet or other plumbing drain that repeatedly gets clogged, it may not be the fixture itself that’s the problem. There could be a stoppage further down the line. When our professional plumbers snake a drain to relieve a blockage, they can determine where the issue is.
Water Backup in the Lowest Drain
When there is a clog is the main sewer drain, the lowest drain will begin to back up first. This could be a floor drain in your laundry room, the basement shower drain, or the lowest toilet in the house. This happens because the drains of all your plumbing fixtures are connected to the main sewer drain. If there’s a clog there, it will affect all of the drains attached.
10 Items You Should NOT Be Flushing Down Your Toilet
1. Paper Towels
Even though they may appear to be very similar, paper towels do not have the same characteristics as toilet paper. Toilet paper dissolves very easily when it sits in water, but paper towels don’t do the same. These paper towels can build up and cause major clogs and backups either in your own sewer system or in the city’s sewer system as shown in the picture below.
2. Cosmetic/Baby/Flushable Wipes
Even though they may be marketed as flushable, these wipes (and their cosmetic counterparts) are not to be flushed down the toilet. They are one of the biggest offenders, and can lead to buildups of debris in the sewage lines, collecting other materials like fat in city sewer mains. These buildups are known as fatbergs. These fatbergs can cause sewage to build up and eventually spill into the environment without treatment.
Condoms are non-biodegradable and will not dissolve in water. Throwing these in the toilet will just lead them to public waterways. Latex also causes a lot of problems in the sewage networks, so just stick to throwing them in the trash.
4. Tampons and Pads
These can very quickly cause obstructions in your sewage pipes, which can lead to costly backups. The solution is to wrap them in toilet paper and put them into the trash.
5. Dental Floss
Dental floss is usually made of Teflon or nylon. When these enter the sewer ways, they have the potential of mixing with other things that shouldn’t be there, such as condoms, hair, or wipes, and create large balls that can clog the pipe.
6. Contact Lenses
Around 125 million people use contact lenses on a daily basis worldwide. As a result, billions of daily contacts go down the toilet every year. But what few people know is that discarding used lenses down the drain contributes to the creation of trillions of microplastics, one of the major environmental concerns in today’s world.
7. Cotton Swabs
Even though they are small, they will not break down and could lead to a clog. Cotton swabs are responsible for many clogged toilets.
Believe it or not, diapers are flushed down the toilet often. Without a doubt, these will lead to a clog. To add to the problem, modern-day diapers contain things that make them expand when they get wet – making the potential for clogs even worse!
They may resemble toilet paper, and they may even be softer, but that does not mean they will dissolve in your toilet. Just like everything else, these can get stuck with other materials to cause issues.
10. CHEMICAL DRAIN CLEANER!
While you may have good intentions using drain cleaner in your toilet (possibly to resolve problems caused by putting other bad things in the toilet), you should avoid using liquid drain cleaning products. These products rely on caustic or oxidizing chemicals to clear blockages. The use of these chemicals can also lead to corrosion of your pipes.
The list of things that you should not put down your toilet is potentially infinite because there is only one thing you should be flushing (other than human waste): toilet paper! You can even hold your own experiment to see the difference in the way things deteriorate in water.
Fill two bowls with water. Put toilet paper in one bowl, and a flushable wipe (or anything else you’d like to test) in the other bowl. Stir it up and wait for a few minutes to see the difference!
Call Heil Plumbing for Plumbing Emergencies
If you have been flushing the wrong things, you may end up with a clog. If this ever happens, call a professional technician to clear the backup. Heil Plumbing has been serving Howard County and the surrounding areas for over 40 years, and we would be happy to help you with your clog. We can also conduct a sewer video inspection to investigate if you have any pre-existing issues with your sewer line.
The Heil Difference
We’re dedicated to offering the highest quality residential and commercial plumbing services for every customer. Our plumbers are available to respond to your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our residential and commercial plumbers in Columbia and Ellicott City cover every need, from simple fixture repairs to complex drain and sewer problems.
While we are based in Jessup, Maryland, our plumbing contractors also service Catonsville, Columbia, Ellicott City, Odenton, Clarksville, Elkridge, Fulton, Laurel, and Severn.