UPDATE: Please read the EPA’s March 30th press release regarding flushing disinfecting wipes used to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Wet wipes and other “flushable” items are wreaking havoc on municipal sewer systems. But with the increase in personal wipes usage, people often do not completely understand what happens to these items once they go down the toilet.
The biggest problem with the wipes is that they are “non-dispersible,” which means they will not break apart as soon as the toilet is flushed and completely break up within five minutes like toilet paper does. These products are made of non-woven fabrics manufactured by entangling fibers in a sheet or web structure and bonding them mechanically, chemically or thermally. The fibers are not knitted or woven as conventional fabrics are. This makes them very durable, and that is great for many other uses, but not good for flushing down the toilet. Once in your private sewer lateral or the public sewer mains, these wipes remain intact and tangle into massive clogs that jam pumps and block pipes.
Marked flushable or not, the only things meant to be safely flushed down the toilet is human waste and toilet paper. To reduce the urge to throw anything else in the toilet, try keeping a trash can next to it in the restroom. That way you are reminded daily and have another convenient option right in front of you!
The second biggest cause of sewer clogs are fats, oils and grease (FOG). Grease cools as it travels through pipes. Over time, the accumulation of grease blocks pipes, and other fatty substances cause clogs, so dispose of all fats, oils, and grease in the trash, not down the drain.
Take a few moments to watch the videos highlighted below to get a firsthand look at the problems wipes and FOG cause in the sewer system. Also, take a look at this handout that shows what shouldn’t be put down the drain.