If you have used a public restroom recently, you may have saw signs asking you not to flush “flushable” wipes. This probably made you scratch your head in wonder. They are called “flushable” after all, so why would a place not want them to go down their toilets? The fact is, there are certain things you should just not flush, including down your own toilet. Do these wipes make the list? Are “flushable” wipes truly flushable?
Being as it is the holiday season and all, and your home may have more visitors and your plumbing may be seeing more use, it becomes crucial to address the issue of what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet.
What are Flushable Wipes?
In recent years, the introduction of flushable wipes has allowed people to have a much softer and gentler product to use when they use the restroom versus standard toilet paper. These wipes are similar to wet wipes and diaper wipes and claim that they are “flushable”, making them a great option for many people to keep around their homes. This simple claim makes people feel comfortable about dropping these wipes into the toilet when they would typically avoid disposing of standard cleaning wipes in the same way.
Are “Flushable” Wipes Truly Flushable?
This brings us to the question, “Are flushable wipes truly flushable”? The simple answer is, “No”, and more and more places are starting to realize just how much damage they can cause to plumbing. Toilet paper is designed to disintegrate in our pipes and sewage systems, but these wipes are not. These items are typically made with synthetic materials, plastics or polyester, that won’t break down. So even if they flush down your toilet, they end up clogging plumbing and sewers in the long run.
To explain even further, the spruce says, “Toilet paper is designed to lose strength when it comes into contact with water, causing it to break down into small pieces and rapidly disintegrate within minutes. On the other hand, flushable wipes consistently remain in one piece as they pass through the residential plumbing system and out into the rest of the sewer system”. This inability to efficiently break down can cause clogs in your home plumbing and ultimately lead to greater issues down the line, where flushable wipes bind with other debris, forming massive clogs, causing overflow, and reducing the flow and filtration capabilities of the sewerage system.
A study conducted in Ireland found that 50% of flushable wipes contained PET, which is a synthetic polymer that actually slows the breakdown process. Hence why you may be noticing the “Do not flush flushable wipes” signs in more places.
So, Why are They Called “Flushable”?
While “flushable” wipes aren’t truly flushable, they say they are, why? Companies can currently label wipes as “flushable” simply because they aren’t restricted from doing so. These wipes are, in fact, made from biodegradable materials, and they will decompose over time, so technically there's nothing in them that will harm your pipes.
Companies aren't required to prove if an item is flushable or not before asserting this claim, and it seems most would fail any such test. A study out of Canada tested 101 wipes on the market for flushability and not a single one passed. There is currently no regulatory standard as to what constitutes “flushable,” so there is no official way to prove or disprove the claim that these wipes are “flushable” or not. We will note, some states are adopting and looking into adding regulations around these wipes.
To Sum it up
We will keep this simple, are “flushable” wipes truly flushable? “No”. While you may be able to watch them disappear down the toilet, that doesn’t mean that they are safe and not creating bigger issues in your plumbing, so you should not flush them. If you chose to use them, dispose of them in the garbage.