Cleanliness, your plumbing system, and the environment as a whole is a delicate three-pronged conundrum. While convenience, good personal hygiene, and general “no fuss”-ness are appealing propositions on a personal level, they can come with a high cost; and in the case of flushable — ahem, “flushable” — wipes, the cons quickly outweigh the pros.
Pre-moistened towelettes, or wet wipes, have become extremely popular with adults as a “clean” alternative to boring-old toilet paper. However, wet wipes — even wipes marketed as flushable — do not break down in water like toilet paper does, negatively impacting household plumbing, sewer systems, and the planet.
Wipes Labeled “Flushable”: Can They Be Trusted?
You may very well know this first-hand; yes, flushable wipes can technically be physically flushed. However, while they may be able to make it through the curved part of your toilet bowl, they are more than likely to get stuck in the drainpipe or build up over time. The biggest problem with flushable wipes is that, while they do flush, they do not disintegrate. When toilet paper is wet, it falls apart quickly — which it’s supposed to do. Flushable wipes, when wet, on the other hand, hold together better than paper towels.
Let’s take a look at why “flushable” wipes are not “sewer and septic safe” wipes — and what you should be looking for before flushing anything down your toilet.
Wipes can get caught inside small pipes, on minor plumbing imperfections, and on tree roots that find their way inside home septic systems and sewer pipes. Once they are caught, they can accumulate along with grease and other substances to form what plumbers lovingly refer to as “super-knots” — and these can be hard and expensive to remove. To make matters worse, if these clogs are not treated promptly enough, they can result in raw sewage backing up inside homes.
A septic system counts on bacteria to break down everything inside the tank. Toilet paper is designed to mostly break down on its own, and healthy bacteria in the tank will feed off some of the organic material it’s made with. However, many wet wipes contain a cocktail of fibers — cotton, rayon, as well as plastic resins. Bacteria cannot break down most un-organic materials. In other words, wipes that are flushed down your toilet remain in your septic tank.
When flushable wipes are flushed into your septic tank, they will gather together and ball up into a mass of waste, which will add to the solid sludge layer at the bottom of the tank. Unfortunately, this is not an out-of-sight, out-of-mind scenario; that tank will need to be pumped out more often than normal to avoid major issues.
Even if wet wipes make it down the toilet, through your home’s plumbing, and into the municipal sewer system, they can still cause trouble. In addition to municipalities allocating resources with the sole purpose of removing wet wipes, water treatment centers are poised to play catch up by spending millions replacing pumps and other equipment that was never designed to handle items that do not break down as easily as toilet paper does. At a certain point, everyone pays for the “convenience” of these wipes in the form of backed-up sewers and higher taxes. Many
cities have even outlawed flushing wet wipes, requiring users to throw them in the trash…Yuck!
Additional Drawbacks of Using Flushable Wipes
- Off to the landfills: After wipes are removed from sewers and septic systems or treatment facilities, they are sanitized and hauled away to landfills.
- Upped water usage: Leading wet wipe manufacturers will instruct users to flush only one “flushable” wipe at a time. This means the typical user — if they’re following the fine print — will be flushing the toilet multiple times during each visit.
- Think of the stink: As any parent knows, emptying a dirty diaper pail is anything but pleasant. For this reason and others, many are reluctant to throw soiled baby wipes into receptacles inside the house. Another option? A public outdoor trash can.
Keep Your Body Clean — and Wastewater Systems Clear — With Refresh Liquid Wipe®
Look, we understand the initial appeal of wet wipes after doing your business — but at the cost of your plumbing, municipality, and wallet? No way. That’s why we’ve formulated a solution that lets you reap the benefits of a “fresh” bathroom trip without all the disadvantages.