The use of wet wipes, from baby wipes to makeup-removing wipes and more, has been increasing in recent years, thanks to both their level of convenience and aggressive industry marketing. If you're experiencing an issue with your plumbing and don't know why, wet wipes may be to blame.
Many of these products are labeled as "flushable," a description that's disputed by municipal wastewater officials who are bringing class-action lawsuits against the makers of wet wipes for the damage the wipes are doing to their plumbing systems.
While it's possible to flush the moist towelettes as their packaging claims, they don't disintegrate like toilet paper does. Also, the wet wipes often get mixed up with other flushing no-no's, like congealed grease, to form a formidable clog.
Not only have wet wipes become a plumber's nightmare, but they also impact homeowners with hefty plumber bills and major inconvenience to remove clogs caused by the wipes. One homeowner in Ansonia, Connecticut had to have their basement pumped out and disinfected when it overflowed with raw sewage. The culprit: cooking grease and wet wipes gumming up the sewer system's pump station.
Campaigns are underway to change the labeling on wipes. Some wet wipes are even labeled as septic safe when they are not. They just don't decompose, according to the president of a large septic-system and drain-cleaning company in Connecticut.
What Not to Flush
To do your part to keep your pipes unclogged, throw wipes in the trash rather than flushing them, even if the wipes are labeled as flushable. As far as what else you should or shouldn't flush, one drain-cleaning company sums it up nicely; they say you should stick to the three P's: Don't flush anything other than poop, pee and toilet paper.
To get a little more specific, here are some things you should never flush:
- Grease. Don't pour it down the drain, either.
- Baby and kitchen wipes, especially the non-flushable types. Even if it says flushable on the package, throw it in the trash instead to play it safe.
- Paper towels and napkins.
- Coffee grounds and eggshells.
There are some voices of dissent, however. The president of the Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry says that flushable wipes should be made from cellulose, not plastic. If that's the case, he sees no reason they shouldn't pull apart and decompose. All the same, he recommends that you don't flush any more than two flushable wipes at once to decrease the chances of a clog.