Are Flushable Wipes Really Safe to Flush?

Spoiler alert: The answer is no.

What are Flushable Wipes?

Flushable wipes are flat cores of wood pulp that have been treated with a variety of chemicals and plastics to make them more durable and absorbent. They are then moistened and packaged in a water-proof container designed with a convenient opening to pull out one wipe at a time, very similar to the well-known baby wipe. Flushable wipes are marketed as biodegradable and septic-safe, and as a result, millions of people use flushable wipes and toss them down the toilet when finished.

History of Flushable Wipes

Flushable wipes hit the scene in the early 2000s, and consumers seeking an extra bit of freshness during bathroom breaks have been stocking up ever since. At first, it seemed that these miracle wipes had solved a huge hygiene issue plaguing toilet paper while still being eco-friendly and septic-safe. But it wasn’t long before plumbers, sewer workers, and civil planners began to ring the alarm. 

Major clogs composed of mainly flushable wipes were compromising water and sewer systems in cities across the country, like this 1,200 foot long clog earlier this year in Green Bay. Charleston, SC’s water system even sued Kimberly-Clark, the manufacturer of Cottonelle flushable wipes, last year for massive clogs that caused major expenses to clear. While Kimberly-Clark did not admit any wrongdoing, they did agree to pay for damages, improve the flushability of Cottonelle wipes, and improve their flushable wipe packaging. Charleston’s water system claims that they spend around $250,000 each year just clearing out these “flushable” wipes.

Why Does the Package Still Say Flushable?

Now, we know what you’re thinking. If a company puts flushable on the packaging, then the wipes must be safe to flush, right? Wouldn’t consumer protection groups step in and force these companies to stop saying something that isn’t true? Unfortunately, these companies are “splitting hairs” with terminology, allowing them to claim their wipes are flushable just because they dissolve better than a traditional wipe. However, they do not dissolve near as well as regular toilet paper, have a tendency to snag on anything already blocking the pipes, and collect fat and debris once they are stuck.

It won’t be the first case of a company stretching the truth in claims it makes about its products, and we’re pretty sure it won’t be the last. What is surprising about the flushable wipe misconceptions is that they’ve gone on for so long, and there are so many people who still don’t know that flushing these wipes can lead to a big clog and a big bill.

Flushable Wipes = Plumbing Problems

If we had a nickel for every time we were called out to a home or business with a clog of flushable wipes, we’d have a lot of nickels! But one of those nickels doesn’t have to be yours. Take it from the pros – DO NOT FLUSH flushable wipes, EVER! Throw them in the trash instead. While they aren’t biodegradable enough to be flushed safely, they do break down faster in a landfill than traditional wipes, so maybe that’s the silver lining.

If the fact that flushable wipes aren’t really flushable is news to you, you may already have a nasty clog building up in your pipes. If your water flow has slowed, you’re getting air bubbles in your toilets and sinks, call Friend’s Plumbing at 727-934-0323. We can check your pipes and remove any growing wipes clogs before it becomes a bigger, costlier issue. We even offer 24/7 emergency services!