We previously wrote about what items can be poured down a sink, but people seem to think a toilet is fine to pour anything down – this is not the case.
While this might seem like common sense, a surprising number of homeowners are unclear about what can and cannot be flushed down a toilet. Flushing inappropriate items can lead to blockages, environmental damage, and costly repairs.
Below is a comprehensive list of items that should never find their way down your toilet.
1. Paper Products (Other Than Toilet Paper)
- Paper Towels and Tissues: These are designed to absorb water and stay intact, not break down in it, leading to potential blockages.
- Wet Wipes/Baby Wipes: Even those labelled “flushable” can cause blockages in your home’s plumbing or municipal sewer systems.
- Cotton Products: Cotton balls, cotton pads, and Q-tips expand when wet and can cause blockages.
2. Hygiene Products
- Sanitary Napkins and Tampons: These products are highly absorbent and can expand to many times their size.
- Condoms: Made from latex or polyurethane, they do not degrade in water and can cause clogs.
- Dental Floss: It’s non-biodegradable and can wrap around small clogs and other objects, turning minor blockages into major ones.
3. Medical Items
- Medications: Flushing pills can contaminate water supplies and harm wildlife as water treatment plants are not designed to remove all pharmaceuticals.
- Bandages: They’re typically made with plastic or other non-biodegradable materials.
4. Cosmetic Wipes and Pads
- Facial Wipes: Like baby wipes, these do not break down easily.
- Makeup Remover Pads: Their fibrous material can mesh with other items to create blockages.
- Cloth or Disposable Nappies: Their high absorbency material swells with water and can easily cause blockages.
6. Fats, Oils, and Grease
- Cooking Oil/Food Grease: It may go in liquid but can solidify inside plumbing, catching other waste and creating significant blockages.
7. Food Waste
- Food Scraps: They do not break down in water and can attract pests in sewer systems.
- Coffee Grounds and Eggshells: Their granular nature allows them to collect in bends of pipes, leading to clogs easily.
8. Miscellaneous Non-Degradable Items
- Plastic Items: Items such as wrappers and packaging materials can easily lead to plumbing blockages.
- Gum: It’s sticky and can easily adhere to the inside of pipes, trapping other waste.
- Cigarette Butts: They contain chemicals that can leach into waterways, and they do not break down in water.
The environmental impact of flushing inappropriate items is far-reaching. Many of these items contribute to the formation of fatbergs – large masses of solid waste composed of fat, sanitary items, wet wipes, and other materials found in sewers. These cause blockages and pose significant challenges and costs to municipalities working to remove them and maintain the sewer infrastructure.
Plumbing Health and Maintenance
For the health of your plumbing and the environment, it’s critical to be mindful of what goes down your toilet. Regular plumbing maintenance and a clear understanding of disposal methods can prevent most issues.
Opt for the bin for anything that’s not human waste or toilet paper. It’s a simple rule that can save you from the inconvenience of a blocked toilet and the expense of emergency plumbing repairs.
Protecting your home’s plumbing system and the environment requires knowing what not to flush. By keeping non-degradable, non-dissolvable, and toxic items out of your toilet, you’re preserving the integrity of water systems and contributing to a healthier planet. When in doubt, remember the golden rule: When it’s not the 3 P’s – pee, poop, or (toilet) paper – it’s better off in the bin, not the bowl.