Did you know that one flush of a toilet wastes 3 gallons of water? And did you also know that sewerage systems aren't designed to carry anything other than the 3 Ps – pee, poo, and toilet paper?
Clogged pipes lead to blocked sewers and cracked pipes, which can even lead to horrible scenarios like rats climbing up your drains and entering your bathroom via your toilet! No-one would want this.
So, here is a list of things you might want to think twice about before flushing down your toilet.
- Sanitary Towels and Tampons
- Paper Towels
- Cotton Buds
- Cat Litter
- Contact Lenses
- Cigarette Butts
- Chewing Gum
- Fat, Oil, or Cooking Grease
- Household Disinfectant Bleach
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Baby wipes, wet wipes, make-up wipes, and bleach wipes may look flushable. But they don't actually break up in the sewerage system and flushing baby wipes could cost you a fortune in plumbing repairs. Often, these products carry labels saying that they are biodegradable. But it is always safer to bin them rather than risk having to call out a contractor when you find your toilet blocked.
This has less to do with your drainage and more to do with polluting the water supply – sewage treatment plants are not designed to deal with all the various types of substances found in prescribed medications. Flushing unused medications could cause various negative effects. These chemicals will inevitably end up in rivers and oceans where they can potentially harm fish and marine life. Your local pharmacy will have a policy regarding the safe disposal of any unused medication you return to them.
3. Sanitary Towels and Tampons
The main function of pads and tampons is to absorb body fluids. So, flushing them away causes them to expand massively. And they can easily block a pipe. Not only is this inconvenient, but it can also cause needless embarrassment once the plumber finds the cause of the issue.
4. Paper Towels
A paper towel looks a lot like toilet paper. But it isn’t toilet paper. Toilet paper breaks up and dissolves automatically once it hits the water. Paper towels are different. They are more absorbent than your typical toilet roll. And they are not designed to be flushed. So, it’s best to throw them in the bin.
It seems obvious, but prophylactics make their way into our sewerage systems all the time. They will not biologically degrade or dissolve. Condoms can easily stick in the plumbing line, resulting in a clog. This can also cause needless embarrassment when you call a plumber to resolve the problem. So be sensible and discreetly dispose of condoms in the bin.
Dental floss isn't biodegradable. It can turn into a net and wrap itself around other objects in your drain, forming one giant drain-blocking monster! So throw it in the bin.
Believe it or not, flushing dead pets down the toilet can cause a sewer blockage. Some sewerage workers have even reported finding hamsters and guinea pigs clogging drains. So have some consideration for your dead pets and arrange a proper burial. Or just bag and bin the corpse if you're not a particularly affectionate pet owner.
Much like sanitary products, nappies are designed to absorb liquid. You might manage to get one of these past the U-bend. But the chances are it won't get much further. It will continue to expand in your pipe, causing a terrible blockage.
9. Cotton Buds
Cotton is absorbent. So, flushing cotton buds, wool or swab down your toilet is a bad idea because it will expand and won't dissolve. Your bathroom trash bin is the right place to dispose of cotton buds, pads and swabs.
Syringes are nasty and unhygienic. They are a medical waste of bio-hazardous nature. So, it’s safe to drop off used syringes at your local pharmacy, as they have access to a medical waste disposal unit. A pharmacy generally has a take-back program in place, which encourages shoppers to use for the safe disposal of used syringes.
Septic tanks aren't designed to dissolve food. The most common argument is food will eventually break down. While this is true, food that is flushed down your toilet can cause a major stoppage until it breaks down. As well as wasting water, you're also potentially creating a very smelly toilet blockage by using the toilet when you should be using a bin.
When you remove hairballs from your tub or sink, don’t ever dump them in your toilet. You have probably seen how big a hairball can get if you haven't cleaned your hairbrush in a while. Imagine how big a hairball can get in your drain. And think of the headache you can avoid if you dispose of it the right way.
What do you think happens to a plaster once it gets flushed down the toilet? Nothing. It doesn't magically disappear. It will get trapped in your pipes and eventually form a clog. But for some reason, loads of these end up in our sewerage systems!
14. Cat Litter
Cat feces can contain a toxic parasite called toxoplasma gondii, which is very dangerous to humans and animals. Sewerage treatment plants are not designed to deal with this, and, therefore, it can work its way back into the water supply. Also, cat litter is often made from bentonite clay, which can build up over time and block your toilet.
15. Contact Lenses
Even though contact lenses are tiny, they are as hazardous as most single-use plastics if you fail to dispose of them safely. They degrade into tinier particles that adversely affect marine organisms. It does seem harmless enough to flush contact lenses down your toilet once you are done with them. But a safer way to dispose of them is to throw them in the trash.
16. Cigarette Butts
Cigarette butts are the topmost toxic plastic polluters. (Close to 4.5 billion cigarette butts are discarded each year, worldwide.) They are harmful, as they can introduce potentially hazardous chemicals into the water system. These hazardous chemicals can impact aquatic life adversely.
The other thing is cigarette butts tend to float, and they don’t always get flushed. This can result in an unpleasant experience for the next person visiting the toilet. So, make certain you dispose of cigarette butts in the trash after safely extinguishing them.
17. Chewing Gum
Flushing chewing gum down your toilet is a big blunder. It’s not only sticky but also insoluble. Since it’s sticky, it increases the risk of clogging your pipes. And since gum is also insoluble, it will never disintegrate.
So, when you flush chewing gum down your toilet, it will remain a major risk for blocking the flow of wastewater. You can be sure of potential problems to your plumbing system down the line.
18. Fat, Oil, or Cooking Grease
All these mix very easily with other waste and play a big role in creating drain blockages. They are especially problematic for drains when they are flushed down the toilet. Don’t be fooled by the liquid form of these ingredients. They solidify fast and attach to the inner lining of your plumbing system. Soon, the passage of other items is prevented, causing a blockage.
So, after you finish cooking, allow fats, oils, and cooking grease to cool down completely and solidify. You can then throw the remains in the trash.
19. Household Disinfectant Bleach
Pouring bleach into your toilet bowl is a disastrous idea. And flushing bleach down your toilet is asking for trouble. Bleach is extremely corrosive and can cause extensive damage to your pipes. It also reacts with other substances in the drainage system, releasing toxic fumes.
Paint is a mixture of pigments, solvents, extenders, binders, and additives. Leftover house paint is a hazardous waste that shouldn’t be flushed down your toilet. Dispose of leftover paint by finding a safe paint drop-off site.
Cosmetics such as your old moisturiser or other beauty care products that are past their use-by date are potentially toxic. Don’t flush them down your toilet, as they are disruptive to septic systems and wastewater treatment plants.
If you're interested in how our sewer systems actually work, check out this blog here for a useful flow chart. And maybe think about investing in a bathroom bin.
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