Can You Flush Flushable Wipes?

flushable wipes causing sewer clog

Disposable wet wipes run the gamut – baby wipes, hygienic wipes, cleaning wipes, the list goes on. There is quite a debate on whether or not wipes labeled as “flushable” are truly flushable. Here at Reid & Pederson, we believe that the only things that should be flushed down your toilet are the 3 P’s (we hope we don’t have to spell them out for you!). Let’s break things down and find out exactly what most wet wipes are really made of.

What Are Wipes Made Of?

Baby wipes, hygienic wipes for personal use and cleaning wipes usually consist of non-woven fabric such as cotton or rayon. Using a method where a single sheet of material is cut from a mass of separate fibers, these wipes also contain polyester, polypropylene and/or wood pulp. These microscopic pieces of plastic and wood and their insolubility make it very difficult for wipes of these types to break down in your sewer or septic system…no matter what you’re told. That’s why you should never, ever flush them and instead, throw them in the trash. 

Although there are a number of products on the market today that are marketed as being flushable, it’s good knowing what they are made of before flushing them. Most flushable wipes claim to be made of biodegradable tree or plant-based fibers that break down faster. While this may be true, it’s important to understand two things regarding “flushable” wipes. 

What Does “Flushable” Even Mean?

First, manufacturers of these wipes are not required to prove flushability of their products. There are no restrictions or regulations put in place today on how these wipes can be marketed and labeled. There’s essentially nothing stopping them from labeling their products however they wish.

Secondly, the tests performed by manufacturers to show the solubility of their products aren’t usually performed under the same conditions as a gently flowing sewer. Manufacturers often perform these tests while putting the wipes under immense pressure and with vigorous shaking and agitation, creating a scenario that shows the wipe breaking down quickly but not under true sewer and septic conditions. These tests are not true “apples-to-apples” comparisons. 

Fatbergs & Clogged Sewers

Accumulation of baby wipes in a sewer line, coupled with grease, feminine hygiene products, paper towels and other debris can lead to fatbergs, huge masses of solid waste made up of these items. And while the name may sound funny, they’re anything but. Not only are fatbergs unhygienic, but they’re expensive to fix and extremely gross. If you’re so inclined, learn about the giant fatberg found in London in 2017, weighing as much as ELEVEN double-decker London buses!

Professional Sewer Rodding Help

The bottom line? We see a LOT of wipes when rodding sewers! Although annual preventive sewer maintenance is always your best bet, flushing wipes down your toilet will certainly mean we will be seeing you more than once a year! And remember – for any clogs or backups you’re experiencing, Reid & Pederson is here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – no matter the cause!

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