Sunday, July 21, 2013

About Those (Not So) Flushable Wipes

Let's talk about sewer systems!  Woooo!!!

Wait... don't run...  Please?

That really is what I want to talk about, today, but not the system itself.  Rather, I want to talk about what's placed in the sewer systems across this country... and shouldn't be.

"Flushable" wipes.

The things are great.  I'll be the first to admit it.  As a woman with a young child that very occasionally has accidents that need to be taken care of, those wipes are a godsend.  It's either that, or locating a washcloth... which is never anywhere near where it needs to be.  And let me tell you: toilet paper does not do the job in those cases.

So I like them.  But!!!

Flushing the flushable wipes is a big no-no.  It's common sense, really.  I mean, have you ever accidentally torn one of them with your fingertip?  Nope.  But I bet it has happened with toilet paper, now, hasn't it?  Admit it.

The point is, they don't come apart in the sewer system.  

Septic safe?  Those have the same problem.  They're "flushable" because they don't clog the original pipes as they get forced through.  Later, though... well, just take a look at this photo from the city of Boise, Idaho:

I don't know about you, but I can see a few of those flushable wipes in that mess, and they're still whole.

Total cloggage. 
(Is cloggage even a word?  We'll go with it.)

Don't get me wrong, there are other things that clog the city sewers, such as dental floss and kitty litter (Yep, it's true), but flushable wipes are a growing problem.  Utilities in various cities are trying to educate the community.  Some place fliers in envelopes, along with bills that ask people not to flush any wipes at all.  It's a growing concern.

Indeed, according to a USA Today article,
"A spokesman for Kimberly-Clark, which makes Cottonelle flushable cleansing cloths, says the product is designed to be flushed. They undergo extensive testing to ensure they are compatible with home and city sewer systems, Bob Brand said in an e-mail.
However, Consumer Reports tested several brands of wipes labeled flushable and found that while toilet paper disintegrated after about eight seconds, the wipes still hadn't broken down after 30 minutes." (source)
This makes one wonder just how much time was given for the wipes to break down in the lab experiments.  Think about it.  If it doesn't break down in the sewers, it won't break down once it's transported to a landfill.

Forego the flushables.  Or, at least, only use them at times of great yuckiness... and throw the things in the trash.  Not the toilet.

Or even better... use compostable ones!


  1. I just found this post: thanks for sharing this information. Wastewater utilities and associations from coast-to-coast are working with manufacturers to improve labeling of wipes that shouldn't be flushed, and making sure that wipes labeled as "flushable" actually break down like toilet paper. We're a long way from either, but making progress. Thanks for helping!

  2. I'm glad to help, Aubrey! The sooner this problem is fixed, the sooner people can rest a little easier about their decisions in this regard.