Just because you can flush it, doesn't mean you should

  • Published
  • By Randy Stillwell
  • Robins Water Quality program manager
They're wreaking havoc on our sewage systems.

While some wipes are labeled as flushable, there's little evidence that wipes break down in the sewer system like toilet paper.

When wipes are flushed, they can easily get clogged in pipes and pumps where other items that shouldn't be sent down the drain ... like cooking grease. 

The majority of clogs in city water systems are reportedly the result of wipes and grease. These clogs can result in spills into our waterways.

But pipe clogs aren't the only damage wipes can cause. Wipes also clog screens and break equipment at wastewater treatment plants. 

The use of wet wipes in the home - particularly for babies - has been common for decades. However, consumption of wet wipes has nearly tripled in the last decade with the addition of adult wipes. Studies show that toilet paper almost instantly begins breaking down within seconds of flushing. Wipes, on the other hand, can take an average of ten flushes (in some cases up to 100) to begin breaking down. 

An effort to enforce proper labeling of wipes as flushable or non-flushable is now being spearheaded by lawsuits against manufacturers over costly home and municipal repairs.

The International Nonwovens and Disposables Association created a no-flush logo to aid manufacturers with proper labeling. However, the location of this logo is not specified and is often hidden in the fine print.

If it's present at all. 

Collaboration between the Water Environment Federation and the American Public Works Association is underway to properly define flushable and design more biodegradable wipes.

Many local and state governments are attempting to establish legislation for proper labeling of wipes.

Remember, just because an item can go down the toilet, doesn't mean it should.
If you're not sure about the degradability of your flushable wipe, opt for the trash can to alleviate pressures on the sewer system at your home and within the community.