Experts Warn That Flushing Disinfectant Wipes Down the Toilet Could Cause Sewage Issues

homank76 via Deposit Photos

First, there were the headlines about people flocking to stores like Costco and buying overflowing carts full of toilet paper. Many of us scratched our heads wondering why the novel coronavirus pandemic would lead to hoarding toilet paper. 

Then we checked our own storage closet and realized we were running low on toilet paper – time to stock up before there wasn’t any left on store shelves! For many people, toilet paper disappeared from local stores before they had a chance to buy any.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and many people probably found creative alternatives to toilet paper, like napkins, tissues and flushable wipes. More on that later.

You know what else quickly disappeared from store shelves? Popular cleaning products like disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer. As stores restock, these products are still flying off the shelves since we’re all suddenly more conscious of germs.

We’ve all become germaphobic and for good reason – COVID-19.

We’re definitely not telling you not to clean your home and disinfect everything you touch. We’re with you. The problem is what many people are doing with items like disinfecting wipes, paper towels and even flushable wipes after they use them.

They’re flushing them down the toilet.

Toilet seat and paper in nice clean bathroom

Toilet paper is designed to break down quickly when you flush it down the toilet. That prevents it from clogging your pipes and your city’s sewer system. Paper towels and wipes are NOT designed to break down quickly, and they CAN clog the pipes in your home and cause damage to your city’s sewer system. Even flushable wipes won’t break down as quickly as toilet paper and may cause damage.

California’s Water Resources News Board issued an advisory telling the public not to flush wipes or paper towels down the toilet. What should you do instead? Throw them in the trash can.

“Flushing wipes, paper towels and similar products down toilets will clog sewers and cause backups and overflows at wastewater treatment facilities, creating an additional public health risk in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Even wipes labeled ‘flushable’ will clog pipes and interfere with sewage collection and treatment throughout the state…Please do not flush disinfectant wipes or paper towels down the toilet.”

The advisory goes on to say that treatment plants are already experiencing issues due to wipes and paper towels in the sewer system. When the sewer system backs up, often “spills go to our lakes, rivers, and oceans where they have broad ranging impacts on public-health and the environment. Preventing sewer spills is important, especially during this COVID-19 emergency, for the protection of public health and the environment.”

California isn’t the only state pleading with the public to use their trash cans. Ohio, South Carolina, Massachusetts and New York have all released warnings to the public about the damage done by flushing wipes.

Please put your trash can to good use. If you are out of toilet paper and using flushable wipes instead, just put a trash can next to the toilet. The same goes for disinfecting wipes. Just put them in the trash can.

Did you know that it can cause sewer damage when wipes are flushed down the toilet?