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Flushable Wipes Clog Sewer

flushable wipes clog sewer

Flushable wipes | These are standard flushable wipes you'll find at any grocery store. Do NOT flush them down your toilet! Copyright 2019 Tim Carter

Flushable Wipes Clog Drain Lines and Sewers

DEAR TIM: I’m really upset. I’m retired and have limited resources. I just had to spend $3,300 on a new sewage pump that was ruined by flushable wipes. What can you tell me about these flushable wipes? The label says they’re “sewer and septic safe” whatever that means. Would you use them at your home? Other neighbors are complaining of more frequent clogs at their homes. What’s the best way to protect a home’s sewer pipes so there’s no damage or expensive surprises like I had happen to me? Ed P., Hendersonville, SC

DEAR ED: You have every right to be upset. Based on the emails I receive from the subscribers to my newsletter and other incoming requests at my website for help, you’re not alone. In fact, if you do a simple Internet search on the topic, you’ll discover that thousands of homeowners like you and sewage treatment plant managers are up in arms about these products.

Are Flushable Wipes Labeled Correctly?

The labeling on the product is accurate if you want to split hairs. You can flush these wretched wipes down a toilet. They make it through the curved colon in your toilet and enter the 3-inch drain pipe in your home. You can also flush plastic army men, plastic dinosaurs, golf balls, keys, sand, gravel, cell phones, underwear, cosmetic bottles, pill bottles, etc. down toilets too.

The question is:  Are the wipes truly sewer and septic safe and is it a good idea to flush all those things above down a toilet? In my opinion, absolutely positively NO!

flushable wipes label

This label is very contradictory. If they're SAFE to flush, why do they only want you to flush one, or possibly two of them at a time? Copyright 2019 Tim Carter

I’ve been a master plumber since age 29 and I can tell you the only thing that should go down a toilet is liquid and solid waste from your body and toilet paper. It’s important to realize the less toilet paper you use each trip to the bathroom, the happier your plumbing system will be.

Why is Toilet Paper Safe to Flush?

The flushable wipes controversy is really a common sense exercise. If you moisten a single sheet of toilet paper and rub it on your skin or a hard surface you’ll discover it rapidly falls apart. This is by design. You want toilet paper to disintegrate as fast as possible into the tiny cellulose fibers used to create it.

Try the same experiment with a decent quality paper towel. You’ll notice that the paper towel tends to hold up and not fall apart. Once again, this is by design. The paper towel manufacturer wants you to be able to use them to clean up spills and do light-duty cleaning. Never flush paper towels down a toilet.

Finally, do the same test with a flushable wipe. You’ll quickly discover they often hold together better than paper towels. Can you imagine what happens if there’s not enough water to transport these through your in-house building drain and outside buried sewer line out to your city sewer? At some point, you’ll get a clog. In your case, they didn’t disintegrate and they burned up your sewage pump!

Do Flushable Wipes End Up in Sewer Plants?

These wipes survive the long and tortuous journey from homes through miles of sewer pipes ending up at municipal sewage treatment plants. They clog up giant pumps at the plants. The Internet is littered with stories about massive clogs in sewers and treatment plants caused by these wipes. Flushable wipes are the scourge of sewers and septic systems.

I’d never use them at my house. If you must use them in your home, I suggest you dispose of them in a sanitary way in a special garbage can much like you’d store a soiled baby’s diaper until trash day.

Do 1.6-Gallon Toilets Cause Clogs?

Clogs in residential plumbing systems can also be traced to the low-flow requirements forced upon us by government officials. Years ago the standard toilet used 3.5 gallons of water per flush. Toilets now use 1.6 gallons of water per flush.

water consumption plumbing fixtures

This shows you the intrusive reach of the government in your life. Do you realize that for every gallon of water that comes out of your faucet a gallon of water flows back into the ground or the closest river near you? The only people that have a water issue are those that live in the desert. I don't see why I have to suffer because they choose to live in a dry climate. How do you feel about it? Comment below. Table and data courtesy of the Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition.

There are tens of millions of people like me that have private water wells that don’t have water shortage issues and shouldn’t be forced to use these fixtures. There are tens of millions of people that are connected to municipal water systems that pull water from large rivers that have no chance of running dry. They shouldn’t have to suffer either.

This small amount of water, in some plumbing systems, often doesn’t have the energy to transport the flushable wipes or ordinary wastes out to the city sewer. Remember your high school physics class when the simple formula Force = Mass x Acceleration was discussed? Three and one-half gallons of water has much more mass than 1.6 gallons of water.

How Do You Flush Out a Drain Line?

I routinely protect my home’s plumbing system by filling up two five-gallon buckets of water. This water is poured into a toilet on the second story of my home. My wife assists me as we flush the toilet. As soon as the water from the tank enters the bowl we both pour in our buckets of water at the same time. 

We pour as fast as possible making sure the water doesn’t overflow in the bowl. This massive slug of water entering the pipes from up high acts like a giant internal pressure washer to keep my main building drain clear.

Does Grease Clog Drain Lines?

We also only allow body waste into our toilets. The other best practice is to keep as much grease as possible out of your plumbing. I save paper towels used to dry hands and these are used to sop up liquid grease from pans and pots. I throw these grease-soaked towels in the garbage. Solidified grease is a major cause of clogs in residential plumbing systems.

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Flushable Wipes Clog Sewers
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Flushable Wipes Clog Sewers
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Flushable wipes clog sewers and septic systems. Do not flush these down a toilet. Dispose of them as you would a soiled baby diaper.
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8 Responses to Flushable Wipes Clog Sewer

    • Well Jim, I've got some evidence for you. I installed a new low-flush Kohler toilet in my basement bathroom three years ago. Prior to this toilet change out, there had never ever been a clog in my main drain. I've now had to rod out the building drain three times.

      What's more my email inbox over the years has had countless complaints from homeowners that have had the exact same blockages as I have.

      It's really simple physics as the slope and gradiants in pipes was calculated at a time when the flow volume in the pipes was greater.

      You don't have to be a genius to realize that at some point you need a minimum of X.x gallons of water to transport solid body waste down drain lines and out 70 feet, or more, to a city sewer. The question is, what is that minimum?

      With respect to the links you provided, the question is do either of them have a dog in the fight and how are they funded? Are they really doing complete independent and trustworthy research or are their results baked?

  1. Tim I for one agree with you on the amount of water does effect water flow down the toilet.

    Thank You for all your information you give out on weekly basis

  2. Good Morning Tim Has any one tested tissue paper. I have had one in a jar of water for over a week and it does seem to dissolve so i'm thinking these shouldn't be flushed down the toilet either could be just like wet wipes i'm thinking, but i'm not in anyway an engineer of any type just a home owner.

  3. I really wanted to use these "guaranteed flushable wipes" so I did a little experiment - with a brand (which shall go unnamed) that is a very well-known and trusted brand. The packaging said "guaranteed to dissolve when flushing. So I took one, actually wiped a wet sink, then put the wipe into a bowl of water. I waited 24 hours - the wipe was still intact. That tells me they cannot be flushed. I agree, if you want to use them, get a covered pail to dispose of them just like you would a soiled diaper.

  4. Is there any way to defeat (as in re-engineer at home) these low flow systems. I want a shower with a decent flow, not a trickle. And I want a toilet that flushes thoroughly without having to schlep 5 gallon buckets on a routine basis.

  5. Hi Tim! I fell victim to those wipes about 15 years ago. My daughter asked me why water was coming out of a pipe outside the house. It was the septic relief cap that had popped off and the waste water was running over the driveway.

    I ran into our basement bathroom, and sure enough, the waste water was coming up through the shower drain (lowest point).

    Long story short, it was July 4th, and I had to open up the septic tank cap and clear the 50 foot pipe that ran from the house to the septic tank. When the clog was cleared, the force of the backed up waste water was tremendous, and it hit me!

    Flushable!? Yeah right! The rule of the house from that day onward, do not flush those things!!

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