In the future when people look back at 2020, there is a good chance that many people will remember it as the great toilet paper crisis. While it is understandable that you need something to wipe with if you are having a problem finding toilet paper, flushable wipes should not be it. Despite their packaging and appearance, flushable wipes are not safe for your toilet unless you want to be calling a plumbing service in Minneapolis, MN. Using these wipes will having you calling sooner than later. As desirable as they sound, flushable wipes are always a bad idea if you actually flush them down your toilet.
But They Say Flushable Right on the Packaging
Whenever a plumbing service is called out to deal with a toilet clog that was caused by flushable wipes the first thing we hear from customers is “but they say flushable right on the packaging.” It is true that they are packaged this way, but there is no governing body that determines who can call a product a product flushable. Many manufacturers can make the same claim of other paper products if they wanted too.
The truth is that while wet wipes are often marketed as “septic-safe” and “flushable” the amount of time it takes for them to break down is what causes the clog. Wipes will eventually deteriorate and break down, but they take a lot longer to do so compared to toilet paper. Toilet paper is made of a special fiber that dissolves in the water almost instantly. You can see for yourself by dropping a piece of toilet paper in the water next to a wipe. It will be very clear which one dissolves in the water.
Wipes take a lot longer to break down and since the process is not instant, this gives wet wipes plenty of time to cause blockages and pipes. Once the blockage is formed the water stops flowing and that means that the process is halted. What you end up with is a wad of flushable wipes in your toilet drain that will require a plumbing service to remove. If you are even more unlucky, the wad might end up in your sewer drain and cause a backup in your basement that will result in a plumbing service and water remediation professional coming to your home.
As a final note, this scenario is worse yet if you have a septic tank installed on your property. Flushable wipes can actually destroy a septic system resulting in very costly repairs and possibly replacement down the road depending on what your Minneapolis, MN plumbing service finds when they open it up to take a look. In short, the clean wipe that you get from a flushable wipe is never going to be worth the final costs of using them.
The Ragging Syndrome
One of the main issues with flushable wipes is that they cause what a plumbing service will call “ragging.” Once the flushable wipes start their voyage down the drain, they get caught up in other items that are also stuck in your sewer system. Depending on what you flush (or your kids flush) this can vary, but common items that also end up floating in a sewer line include cotton swabs, paper towels, dental floss, sanitary pads, contact lenses, and thicker toilet paper. When all of these items combine you end up with a “ragging” blockage that will require prompt plumbing service.
Sometimes a quick drain cleaning service will clean up the blockage, other times a more thorough inspection and drain cleaning solution will need to be applied. It depends on the size of the blockage and how long it has been building when it is found. This is one reason why regular drain cleaning is also a good idea, so if there are any partial blockages forming, they can be removed before you end up with a full blockage. If you don’t already have an annual drain cleaning service on the books and live in a house older than ten years old, it may be a good idea to proactively call your local plumbing service and get one scheduled. During the current times of social distancing, everyone’s plumbing system is getting more use and that means the propensity for a blockage is also higher.
What Should You Do?
The simplest answer is don’t use flushable wipes. The only way to avoid a clog from flushable wipes is by simply not using them. Even if you are hooked on the nice clean sensation they leave behind, it is not worth the extra costs associated with cleaning up the blockage they cause.
Despite any claims or test results that a manufacturer uses to back up its claim that a flushable wipe is safe, they are not safe. If you are only using flushable wipes because of the toilet paper shortage, then you might want to consider having a separate wastebasket that is lined with a plastic bag to dispose of your wipes in. This way you can still clean properly without worrying about clogging your toilet, septic tank, or sewer lines.
Keep in mind that this goes for any other type of tissue from paper towels to Kleenex to baby wipes. Nothing should go down your toilet but toilet paper and if you have to use one of these materials it needs to be disposed of separately in order to keep your system in top shape.
If you are experiencing frequent blockages or suspect that your system may be at high risk of clogging because of previous heavy use of flushable wipes, then you may want to consider calling a plumber to proactively clear out the remains. Paul Bunyan Plumbing & Drains of Minneapolis, MN is a highly rated local plumbing service and we would be happy to come out and inspect and/or clean your drains so you can rest easy that a blockage is not in your future.