Because You Asked: Can I Really Flush “Flushable” Wipes Down the Toilet?

Avoid a sewage-system horror story and pause before you flush those disposable wipes.
Jul 21, 2014 1:45 PM ET
Campaign: Live Green Blog
Because You Asked: Can I Really Flush “Flushable” Wipes Down the Toilet?

Posted on Recyclebank's Live Green Blog

Dear Recyclebank,

Is it safe to flushable disposable wipes down the toilet?

-Maria M., Schaumburg, IL


Dear Maria,

Repeated headlines about horrifying septic system disasters seem to indicate that “flushable” disposable wipes are in fact not flushable. For example, the 15-ton “fatberg” dislodged from a London sewer last fall was “caked in grease and fortified with wet wipes.”

These stories about costly sewage system clogs have multiplied as more disposable wipe products have hit the market in the past few years. Companies advertise their disposable wipes as “flushable” or “safe for sewer and septic systems,” but independent tests have found otherwise. A 2012 staff report by California’s Orange County Sanitation District noted that “field observations have found [flushable wipes] to be a cause of back-ups within the sewer system leading to sanitary sewer overflows, clogs at lift stations, and disruption within the treatment plant.” The report also summarized the results of the district’s flushability test: “After 24 hours the wipe remained intact and recognizable.”

Because the wipes do not disintegrate easily or quickly, they clog sewage treatment equipment and sometimes home septic systems as well. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies has reported the high costs associated with flushed wipes along with photographic evidence of wipe clogs.

Keep reading to find out why flushable wipes are wreaking havoc on home septic systems and municipal sewer treatment facilities.