Just when you thought there was nothing new under the sun, flushable wipes burst onto the scene.
Though wet wipes were invented by Arthur Julius in 1957 – who coined his new invention “Wet-Nap” – somewhere along the line, someone took the idea for a soap-infused, wet paper towel and made them flushable, much to the delight of parents everywhere. Now, instead of wiping and wiping and wiping, just a few flushable wipes can make toddler booties as clean as new.
But are they really flushable? Many have contended that flushable wipes are terrible for the environment; that may be, but ask any parent who stockpiles them, and it’s almost a necessary evil.
It’s not just parents who buy them though. In 2015, adult wet wipes actually went well over $2 billion in sales. By 2023, some experts estimate the flushable wipe market will be worth $3.5 billion, so expect everyone and their dog to jump on board the wipe train.
But we’re a plumbing company, so let’s ask the plumbing question: Will flushable wipes clog a toilet?
The answer? A definite…maybe.
What are Flushable Wipes?
Here’s the skinny: You should really only flush stuff down the toilet that disintegrates, and flushable wipes, unfortunately, don’t really disintegrate. Toilet paper does though, which is one reason why you can shove a lot of it down the tubes (even though you probably still shouldn’t overindulge).
Wipes are made from something called “air-laid” paper that is loaded with chemicals. Once they get in your pipes, they can mix with other things and create a nightmare blockage that will keep you up at night sweating.
Don’t believe me? Check out this picture of a “fatberg” in London – a “congealed mass of fat, wet wipes and nappies” that weighed as much as “11 double decker busses” and was nearly 200 yards in length. It took three weeks to clean, and most of it had to be done by hand.
There’s no getting around the fact that flushable wipes definitely don’t help your system. In Sydney, Australia, officials estimate that nearly 75% of sewer blockages involve wet wipes.
But are they the only cause of blockages? Not really. Everything from feminine hygiene products to goldfish get flushed, and the amalgamation of those items is what ultimately destroys your pipes.
Still, it’s better overall to either (a) limit your usage of flushable wipes, (b) throw them in the trash instead, or (c) both.
What Should Be Flushed?
The Australia Water Association has a fun little way to remember what can and can’t be flushed. They call it the “three p’s”: pee, poo, and (toilet) paper.
Items such as cigarette butts and leftover pot roast should go somewhere else.