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Illustration of mask being discarded in toilet, highlighting flushing etiquette.

9 Things You Should Never Flush Down Your Toilet

Your toilet is a marvel of modern sanitation, whisking away waste with a simple flush. But just because it disappears down the drain doesn’t mean anything can go there. Flushing the wrong items, including things you should never flush, can cause a multitude of problems, ranging from minor clogs to expensive sewer backups.

How a Toilet Works

Despite their necessity and ubiquity, toilets are not well understood by many homeowners. Having a basic understanding of how this crucial bathroom fixture actually works can help you see why what you flush is important.

When you press down on the toilet handle, the flapper valve inside the tank opens up, allowing the water from the tank to flow into the bowl. The water then creates a siphoning effect that pulls the waste material down through the toilet’s trapway and into the sewer system. This is why it’s essential to maintain the proper functioning of your toilet to ensure that it disposes of waste efficiently and without any mishaps.

Beyond Toilet Paper: Understanding What Your Toilet Can Handle

things you should never flush

Toilets are specifically designed to handle human waste and toilet paper. Toilet paper is engineered to dissolve quickly and efficiently in water, ensuring it breaks down and moves smoothly through the plumbing system. However, many other items, even if they seem harmless, can wreak havoc on your home’s wastewater removal system.

The Culprits: Common Items That Clog Toilets and Sewers

Here’s a breakdown of the most common offenders and why they should never be flushed:

  1. Flushable wipes: Despite their label, “flushable wipes” are not designed to break down as quickly as toilet paper. They can clump together, forming blockages in your pipes or the main sewer line.
  2. Paper towels and tissues: These are much thicker and sturdier than toilet paper and don’t disintegrate easily. Flushing them can lead to clogs and even overflows.
  3. Feminine hygiene products: Tampons, pads, and liners are designed to absorb liquids and won’t break down in water. They can easily cause blockages in your plumbing system.
  4. Dental floss: Floss doesn’t dissolve and can snag on other materials, creating clogs.
  5. Cotton products: Cotton swabs, balls, and pads don’t break down readily and can contribute to clogs.
  6. Hair: Hair can form tangled masses in your pipes, eventually leading to blockages.
  7. Grease and oil: These solidify in your pipes, causing build-up that can restrict water flow and lead to blockages.
  8. Medications: Flushing medication is not only bad for your plumbing but also poses environmental risks. Medications can contaminate waterways and disrupt ecosystems. Dispose of them according to manufacturer instructions or through designated medication take-back programs.
  9. Cat litter: Cat litter, especially clumping varieties, can expand significantly when wet, causing major clogs.

A Special Note for Homeowners With Septic Systems

If you live in a home with a septic system, it’s even more crucial to be mindful of what you flush. The same items that can cause clogs in sewer lines can also disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria and enzymes necessary for your septic system to function properly.

Additionally, harsh chemicals, paint, and antibacterial products can kill off the helpful bacteria in your septic tank, leading to potential system failure. To keep your septic system functioning effectively and avoid costly repairs or replacements, make sure to only flush human waste and toilet paper and properly dispose of all other items.

The Downstream Impact: Why Clogged Toilets Matter

Why Clogged Toilets Matter

Flushing the wrong items down your toilet can have serious consequences that extend far beyond a simple clog. Here’s a deeper dive into why it’s important to be mindful of what you flush:

Plumbing Problems

  • Pipe damage: Repeated clogs caused by bulky or non-biodegradable materials can put strain on your pipes. Over time, this strain can lead to cracks, leaks, and even complete pipe failure. Repairing damaged pipes can be a disruptive and expensive process, involving wall or floor demolition depending on the location of the damage.
  • Increased risk of overflows: Clogs can restrict the flow of water in your pipes, leading to overflows not just from your toilet but also from sinks or tubs. Overflowing drains can cause significant water damage to your home’s floors, walls, and belongings.
  • Foul odors: Organic materials like food scraps or feminine hygiene products trapped in your pipes can decompose and release unpleasant odors. These odors can be difficult to eliminate and can permeate your entire home.

Sewer Backups

  • Public health hazard: Clogged sewer lines can cause sewage backups not just in your home but also in neighboring properties. Sewage backups pose a serious health hazard, as they contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause illness.
  • Municipal infrastructure strain: Repeated clogs in the main sewer line can put a strain on the entire municipal wastewater treatment system. This can lead to overflows in public areas and increased costs for maintenance and upgrades.

Environmental Impact:

  • Water contamination: Medications, personal care products, and household chemicals flushed down the toilet can bypass treatment plants and end up in rivers, lakes, and streams. These chemicals can disrupt aquatic ecosystems, harm fish and wildlife, and potentially contaminate drinking water sources.
  • Marine debris: Items like cotton swabs and wipes that don’t break down properly can make their way into waterways and contribute to marine debris pollution. This plastic pollution can entangle and kill wildlife and disrupt the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.

Additional Considerations:

  • Microplastics: Some personal care products, such as facial scrubs and toothpaste, contain microplastics. These tiny plastic particles are not effectively removed by wastewater treatment plants and can end up in waterways. Microplastics pose a threat to marine life and can potentially enter the food chain.
  • Antibiotic resistance: Flushing unused antibiotics down the toilet can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These “superbugs” are becoming increasingly common and pose a serious threat to human health.

By understanding the downstream impact of flushing the wrong items, you can make informed choices about what goes down your toilet and help protect your plumbing, your community’s health, and the environment.

Keeping Your Pipes Healthy: Proactive Strategies for Safe Flushing

Keeping Your Pipes Healthy: Proactive Strategies for Safe Flushing

Here are some practical tips to ensure your toilet and plumbing system function smoothly:

  • Keep a small wastebasket in your bathroom specifically for disposing of items that shouldn’t be flushed.
  • Talk to everyone in your household about what can and can’t be flushed.
  • While a plunger can be helpful for occasional clogs caused by toilet paper, excessive use can damage your toilet’s seal. If you find yourself needing to plunge frequently, it’s a sign of a deeper problem and may require a plumber’s attention.
  • Consider having regular plumbing inspections by a professional plumbing company.

By following these tips and being mindful of what you flush, you can help keep your plumbing system healthy and avoid costly repairs down the road.

Conclusion: Your Toilet is a Powerful Tool, Use it Wisely

Your toilet is a vital part of your home’s plumbing system. By understanding what it can and cannot handle, you can ensure its smooth operation and avoid preventable problems. Remember, a little caution goes a long way in keeping your pipes clear and your wallet happy.

Your Lakeland Plumber

When you need plumbing services, contact the professional team at Stronghold Plumbing & Septic.  Our licensed and experienced plumbers can handle all your plumbing needs, from clogs to installations and everything in between. Our satisfied plumbing customers can attest to our commitment to providing quality service and helping you maintain a healthy and efficient plumbing system.

Contact us today and ask about our free plumbing estimates.

FAQ’s – Things You Should Never Flush

Are wet wipes safe to flush?

No, despite being labeled as “flushable”, wet wipes can still cause clogs in your pipes and sewer system. It’s best to dispose of them in the trash.

Can I flush tampons and pads down the toilet?

No, feminine hygiene products should never be flushed. They can cause major clogs and damage to your plumbing system.

Can I flush cat litter down the toilet?

No, even if it’s labeled as “flushable”, cat litter can still cause blockages and potentially harm your septic system. It’s best to dispose of it in the trash.

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