Your home’s plumbing system is one of life’s most essential modern-day conveniences, but when it’s used incorrectly, it can cause major malfunctions that are expensive to fix. If you want to keep your home free from costly plumbing mishaps, here are some things you should avoid flushing down your toilet.
1. Wet Wipes, Baby Wipes, or Any “Flushable” Wipe
Where toilet paper is made to dissolve quickly in liquids, wet wipes, baby wipes, and other wipes aren’t designed to go in your toilet, even if their packaging says they’re “flushable.” Not only have wet wipes caused major clogs in some U.S. sewage systems, they’re also notorious for clogging toilets and sewer lines in many homes and offices.
2. Paper Towels and Tissues
If you run out of toilet paper, you might think that paper towels and tissues seem like a good replacement. However, unlike toilet paper, paper towels and tissues are built to absorb as much liquid as possible, and not break down like toilet paper does. So if you’re ever forced to use paper towels or tissues as a toilet paper alternative, toss them in a waste basket then take them to the dumpster instead flushing them down your toilet.
3. Dental Floss, String, Hair, and Thread
When it comes to your toilet, here’s a rule of thumb to follow: If it has strings, don’t flush the thing. Just like hair can build up in your shower drain and dental floss can clog your sink, things with strings are bad for your toilet because they tend to build up and don’t break down easily. By simply tossing these items in your waste basket instead of your toilet, you could be saving yourself from a big plumbing headache.
4. Q-Tips, Cotton Balls/Pads, and Feminine Hygiene Products
Cotton-based products absorb water quickly and can clump together just as fast. Plus, they take much longer to break down than regular toilet paper, so if they get stuck, they could be sticking around for a while. Whether you flush several of these products down your toilet at once or they build up over time, these cotton clumps can wreak enough havoc on your plumbing system that you might have to call in a professional.
5. Contact Lenses
Over 100 million people change their contact lenses daily, which means that billions of contacts are disposed of every year. While our plumbing is equipped to handle a lot, contact lenses alone can become a big problem at home and in our city sewer systems due to the accumulation of microplastics. When microplastics build up, they can clog toilets and sewer lines, and ultimately contribute to microplastic pollution.
Flushing expired or unused medications down the toilet might seem like an easy way to dispose of them safely, yet study after study has shown that these medications end up polluting waterways when they make it into our sewer system. If you have medications that need to be tossed, most cities have launched “drug take back sites” where you can drop off prescription drugs conveniently without impacting Mother Nature. You can learn more about this program and where to find a drop-off location on the FDA website.
7. Cooking Oil, Grease, or Fats
If it isn’t good for your kitchen sink, it’s not good for your toilet either. Most homeowners know that oil, grease, and fatty foods can hurt their kitchen plumbing, but the same holds true for the toilet, as they can cool and harden in your pipes and cause major plumbing clogs. If you want to safely get rid of anything oily or greasy, simply let it cool down and then wipe or toss it into the trash.
Even if the bandages you use are biodegradable, flushing them down your toilet is bad for your plumbing because they can stick to pipes and build clogs over time. Another reason to avoid flushing bandages is that some of them are made of plastic, which only adds to the environmental issues that pollute water systems and hurt humans and wildlife.
9. Kitty Litter and Waste
Since toilets handle human waste, you’d think they could handle what’s coming from your kitty. However, most kitty litter is designed to clump on liquid contact, so flushing it down the toilet is a recipe for plugged plumbing. What’s more, flushing cat waste can introduce parasites like Toxoplasma Gondii into your city’s water supply, which is harmful to humans.
10. Bleach Products
Bleach is considered one of the most effective cleaning products, yet it’s actually one of the worst things you can use in your toilet. In addition to being highly corrosive and potentially damaging to your septic system, bleach can interact with other chemicals and substances to create harmful toxic fumes. If you want to keep things tidy and not hurt your plumbing, vinegar does a great job of cleaning and disinfecting.
Ready for more plumbing tips? Read our article on “Need-to-Know Plumbing Tips for New Homeowners” for helpful advice on what to do during a plumbing emergency, and how to keep your pipes clean.