For some consumers, flushable wipes are a household essential. When compared to standard toilet paper, these products provide a deeper cleaning and a higher level of personal care. They’re handy, relatively low cost, and perfect for maintaining a fresh feeling after a visit to the commode. Best of all, when you’re done using them, you can simply flush them away with everything else. However, if you’ve been putting flushable wipes down the toilets in your Glendale, Arizona home, serious plumbing problems could be looming just around the corner. Despite being easy-to-use, convenient, and effective for self-cleaning, these products are bad for both plumbing systems and the natural environment.
Flushable Wipes Don’t Degrade Like Toilet Paper
Unlike toilet paper, flushable wipes don’t break down when submerged in water. Flushing two or three wipes at a time is akin to flushing a half-sheet of a paper towel. Although you certainly wouldn’t flush paper towels down your toilet, sending flushable wipes or wet wipes down the commode may seem safe. After all, they’re labeled as “flushable” and many wet wipe packages assert that these products are also “biodegradable.” Contrary to common belief, being biodegradable doesn’t mean that these products decompose. Instead, they gradually break down into smaller parts over long periods of time by shedding tiny, micro-fibers. The wipes that you flush today will still be floating around somewhere for many years to come.
Flushable Wipes Increase the Likelihood of Clogs and Whole-House Backups
The biggest reason to avoid using flushable wipes in your home is the fact that they can wind up costing thousands of dollars in plumbing damage. Given that they don’t break down, they can create obstructions within pipes. Liquid waste might continue to filter through them, but solid waste won’t pass through them at all.
This is especially problematic for older homes that still have clay pipes. These pipes can be encroached by tree roots and weeds. These invasive growths create solid barriers at pipe interiors that limit the amount of room for passing solid waste. Having multiple wipes get caught on these barriers can cause waste to back up into the home.
When flushing down large amounts of human waste, flushable wipes are the only thing that won’t immediately get smaller when exposed to moving water. Unlike toilet paper and human waste, clogs that are caused by flushable wipes are also less responsive to common troubleshooting measures such as plunging and drain snaking.
You Should Never Use Flushable Wipes if You Have a Septic Tank
You’re guaranteed to come across flushable wipes that are labeled as “safe for septic tanks,” but why risk it? Flushable wipes have a longstanding reputation for causing serious septic tank damage. If flushable wipes don’t clog your toilet or get trapped in your plumbing system on their way out, they’ll clump together inside of your septic tank to form a solid mass.
Fatbergs and Softballs
Clumping is such a common problem with flushable wipes that there are well-known names for the resulting masses. The largest of these are referred to as “fatbergs” and the smaller ones are known as “softballs.” Fatbergs form when flushable wipes absorb and retain the fats in waste. Fat adheres to the micro-fibers in these sheets quite well. As other non-organic materials and fats join these rock-like accumulations, the fatbergs expand in size. Worse still, as fatbergs interact with the chemicals found in typically alkaline sewer water, they calcify.
Fatbergs can be found in municipal sewer systems, residential septic tanks, and residential plumbing systems. Even if you’re careful to avoid pouring greases and oils down your drains, you must account for the fats that enter the plumbing system via human waste and washing and rinsing oily, grease-covered dishes. With the addition of fatbergs, not only do flushable wipes have the potential to cause clogs and whole-house backups, but they can also be responsible for burst pipes.
Many Flushable Wipes Are Plastics Coated in Micro-Plastics
Many people mistakenly assume that flushable wipes are durable paper products. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Flushable wipes are effective in their intended application because they don’t break down. The qualities that make them good for personal care are the very same qualities that make them bad for both your plumbing system and the natural environment. Like toilet paper, these products are comprised of wood pulp. However, they are heavily reinforced with synthetic binders like polyester, polyethylene, and other petroleum-based materials. As such, they are typically made with large amounts of plastics.
When flushable wet wipes come with cleaning agents for removing makeup, cleaning bottoms, or disinfecting bathroom mirrors and sinks, these solutions are essentially micro-plastics. Although micro-plastics are ultimately harmless to plumbing, sewer, and septic systems in small amounts, continuous use does have an impact. It also introduces a variety of non-biodegradable substances into public waterways.
Wet, Flushable Wipes Aren’t Just Used for Bottoms
Understanding the plumbing and environmental dangers of using wet wipes might have you avoiding using them in your home. However, it’s important to note that wet, flushable wipes aren’t just used for cleaning bottoms. These products have been so successful that companies have manufactured multiple types for different applications. There may be people in your home using wet wipes to remove their makeup, clean off the mirrors in your bathroom, wipe down the sink, or take care of other self-care and general cleaning tasks. Even though you no longer keep flushable wipes at the back of your toilet, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t still being sent down into your plumbing. When you get rid of flushable wipes in your home, getting everyone on board is important. Although you can still use wet wipes for various purposes and at your own discretion, they should always be discarded in the trash rather than flushed.
There Are Better Ways to Get Clean After Visiting the Loo
If you’ve fallen in love with flushable wipes, you’re not alone. Countless consumers rely on them to supplement their toilet paper use and in lieu of washcloths and cotton balls for makeup removal. The good news is that there are far better ways to clean up after using the commode without clogging your toilet, stressing out your septic system, or taking a toll on the natural environment.
Toilet paper sprays are a popular alternative to wet wipes. These are handy spray bottles of cleaning solutions that you can keep right next to your commode. When you’re ready, simply mist a bit of the solution directly onto your toilet paper and then use it just like you would a wet wipe. Toilet paper can be flushed without a problem and most toilet paper sprays contain natural, non-harmful ingredients like coconut oil and aloe.
You also have the option of upgrading to a toilet that has a built-in bidet. This is a great way to treat yourself. There are luxury toilets with built-in seat warmers, lights, and several surprisingly convenient functions. If you have less to spend on this upgrade, you can also install a low-cost bidet sprayer on your existing commode. These home improvements take minutes to complete and for families that are heavily reliant on flushable wipes, they can easily pay for themselves.
Christian Brothers Plumbing has been fixing problems caused by flushable wipes for years. We’ve dealt with clogs, whole-house backups, softballs, fatbergs, burst pipes, and other issues due to flushable wipes. We’ve been providing air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical services to residents of the greater Glendale, Arizona area since 1976. If you’ve got plumbing troubles or if you want help upgrading your toilet or adding a bidet, we’ve got you covered. Call us now to get started.