Pretty much every person with modern plumbing knows what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet. Right? Well, while some things seem to be an obvious no (like small plastic toys), there is quite a range of items that many people seem to think are okay. This is not always the case, here is a quick list of the top 15 things not to flush down your toilet: (in no particular order)
Many people will associate these with cleaning up a baby’s bottom. So it must be like toilet paper. Wrong. And even if the packaging says flushable, these are not.
Paper towels & tissues
Another product that is very similar to toilet paper so it must be flushable. Wrong again. Toilet paper production is specifically designed to create something that will disintegrate quickly in water. Paper towels and tissues are designed to absorb water and not disintegrate, allowing you to clean up that spill without worrying about it becoming slush in your hands.
Feminine hygiene products
These are some of the biggest causes for a blocked toilet. The way that tampons and sanitary towels are designed, is to absorb liquid and expand. This means that once inside your pipes, they will continue to absorb all the water around them and expand, creating obstructions.
Cotton wool (balls, pads or buds)
Now you might think that these will just break down and separate once inside the wastewater system but they are more likely to absorb water and bunch together and create one massive cotton ball ‘spider web’ grabbing onto every small item that floats past.
Honestly, this should be too big to actually flush. But on the off chance that it does happen, they are super absorbent and will expand to become even bigger and completely block your toilet pipes. This is a massive don’t!
This stringy item with its plastic like coating is not going to dissolve. It’s going to tangle up into a massive knot, creating a catch all net and snagging onto any obtrusions.
Most gloves or latex-based products do not dissolve in water. Latex is also very stretchy so within your wastewater system if it catches on something it is like to stretch and keep stretching as it collects any debris also floating through your pipes.
Many of us worry about throwing old medicine into our rubbish as this allows for someone else to go digging for it. Prescription medicine especially. However flushing it down the toilet means that all the active ingredients will contaminate the waste water. Rather take any old or unused medicine to your local pharmacy. They will know how to dispose of it correctly and safely.
While these seem small enough to flush, they also don’t dissolve. A cigarette butt consists of a filter made from cellulose acetate, two layers of wrapping made of paper and rayon, nicotine, carcinogens and hundreds of other toxins. By flushing it down the loo, you expose your wastewater to those toxic ingredients which will contaminate it.
This is unlikely to be a single hair thrown into the toilet. It’s more likely to be a handful from a brush or comb. Hair doesn’t dissolve in water, it actually floats. And tangles. It’s going to wrap around any other objects it comes across in your pipes and keep building into something much larger and problematic.
This one might surprise you, because human waste is basically just broken-down food anyway, but flushing food that hasn’t been digested can cause problems for your plumbing, too. Sure, it’s biodegradable and will break down eventually, but it can cause clogs until that happens.
Chewing gum is essentially an adhesive. You’re not supposed to swallow chewing gum for the same reason you don’t want to flush it down the toilet.
Fats, oils & grease
As soon as these seemingly liquid products come into contact with water they coagulate. This means that the extra oil from your Sunday morning fry-up becomes solid and can attach to the interior lining of your pipes.
Now these guys live in water so why not, when they’ve passed, return them to water? But the water that our pipes lead to, is not the kind of water that fish actually come from so you’re more likely to cause problems.
Kitty litter is made up of clay and sand and designed to clump up with any contact with moisture. This will build up quickly in the toilet pipes creating blockages. Also, this is adding more chemicals to the water that then needs to be purified.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that if it isn’t human waste or toilet paper, don’t flush it down the toilet. If you’re not sure, rather dispose of the items in your garbage bin.