What can I flush down the toilet? If you’re questioning it, don’t do it. Read this list of 10 things to never throw in a toilet.
The toilet is something we all use every day. Some people use their toilets properly, while others use it is an additional trashcan. We understand, it’s tempting – out of sight, out of mind. Although it might be nice to have a trashcan that instantly disposes of its trash and odor, your toilet and septic system are not designed to handle anything other than toilet paper.
Learn what NOT to throw down your toilet and why it's so important here.
Why You Should Maintain Your Plumbing and Septic System
- If you have a septic tank, paying attention to what goes down the toilet is especially important. Anything that can’t decompose will eventually have to be removed from the tank, which is very expensive. If you don’t remove this waste, however, it gets even more expensive. You do not want to wait until there is raw sewage on your property to empty your tank. Like most things, your septic tank requires maintenance. Give us a call to discuss how often you should desludge or pump your septic tank (about every 2-5 years).
- Even if you don’t have a septic tank on your property, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to avoid disposing of things that can cause damage and overloads to municipal sewage treatment facilities. Not only are there detrimental environmental effects, but also human and economic ones as well. Wet wipes in particular have been causing a real problem for septic systems around the world. Removing things like wet wipes is a nasty task and costs cities millions of dollars, which translates to larger water and sewage bills for everyone.
- Toilet clogs are another reason you want to be careful about what you flush since most clogs that require a plumber’s assistance can be traced back to something that never belonged there in the first place.
- Lastly, your homeowner’s insurance policy probably doesn’t cover things like clogged toilets, drains, and septic tanks. Luckily, most plumbing problems can be easily avoided with some knowledge and preventative maintenance. Make friends with your local plumber and schedule plumbing maintenance every year to check all plumbing connections, drain your water heater of sediment, and catch issues before they turn into costly problems.
Yes, lots of things are flushable, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.
10 Things to NEVER Throw in a Toilet
1. Cotton Balls/Q-Tips
You may think that cotton is flushable since a lot of toilet paper is made from cotton linen (Cottonelle/Cottonsoft), but it isn’t! Cotton balls, Q-tips, and cotton rounds will clump together in your pipes and cause a clog.
2. Paper Towels
Paper towels are tough and not made to dissolve in water. Some are even strong enough to hold a bowling ball, if you remember the commercial. Even the biodegradable kinds are not meant to be flushed, so throw all paper towels in the trash, not the toilet.
3. Dental Floss
No dental floss is meant to dissolve in water, so it will end up getting stuck and tangled in pipes and sewage systems, snagging other things like fats, oils, paper towels, wipes, and other material. Any other stringy material has the same propensity to cause clogs. Continue to floss, just put it in the trash when you’re done.
4. Facial Tissue
Like paper towels, tissues are made to be much stronger than toilet paper. Toilet paper is a specially designed product made of shortened fibers to speed up the process of disintegration. Try washing your hands with toilet paper compared with tissues or paper towels and you’ll recognize the difference.
5. Flushable Wipes
Flushable wipes cause the biggest trouble for toilets and septic systems since so many people use them and think that they are “flushable.” As a result, there have been public awareness campaigns, lawsuits, and countless stories of the problems they cause for sewage treatment centers. Brands are now being forced to remove the “flushable” and “disposable” labels and warn consumers not to flush them. We understand their appeal, but just like tissues and paper towels, remember to throw these in the trash.
Watch this video to see how Vancouver is dealing with the “flushable” wet wipes:
Band-Aids contain plastic which is not biodegradable. Throw these in the trash, where they belong.
Diapers are thick and can expand and cause pipe clogs, usually in the U-bend. Even the biodegradable kinds will tell you not to flush them. Do the responsible thing and throw the diapers and wet wipes in the trash.
Any drugs, including pills, should never be flushed down the toilet. This isn’t so much a clog concern, but rather an environmental one. Sewage systems have complicated biological processes to break down waste and medications can interfere with that. Most medications cannot be removed from the water, so they end up in our lakes, oceans, rivers, and ponds.
9. Cat Litter
You may think that it would be healthier and more environmentally friendly to dispose of cat waste and litter in your toilet, but this isn’t the case. Although some litter brands may market themselves as flushable, others can expand to 15 times their normal size and clog your pipes. Additionally, cat feces contain a parasite call toxoplasma gondii, which cannot be broken down by sewage systems and can enter the oceans and cause harm to wildlife. This goes for all pet excrement.
Although there is no perfect way of getting rid of litter, we recommend scooping it into biodegradable baggies and throwing them in the trash.
10. Feminine Products
Most public restrooms have signs and little disposal bins to encourage women to throw away, not flush, their feminine products. Like the other cotton items on our list, tampons will expand and cause clogs. Just don’t do it, ladies.
Don’t flush any of these items either:
- Oils/Grease/Food/Coffee Grounds
- Bandages/Bandage Wrapping
- Pet Excrement
- Anything Plastic
- Poisons/Hazardous Waste
- Cigarette Butts
What does that leave us with? Nothing, except toilet paper and human waste. Everything else should be thrown in the trashcan.
Regular toilet paper is the only thing you should flush down your toilet.
Can toilet paper clog pipes?
Yes, even toilet paper can cause clogs. Many toilets, especially older ones, won’t be able to handle the thick, plush varieties. If you need the soft, strong kind, choose ones marked as "eco-friendly" which tend to perform better. And even if it's one-ply, that doesn’t mean it dissolves any faster. Read
Read Good Housekeeping’s reviews of 20 toilet brands to find the perfect toilet paper for you and your septic system.
Check your toilet for leaks by placing a few drops of food dye in the tank and wait 10-15 minutes to see if any color has made its way into the bowl. If there is food dye in the toilet bowl, you have a leak, which can usually be fixed by replacing or adjusting the flapper at the bottom of the tank.
If you are careful with what you flush down the toilet, you can save on your water bill by switching to low-flow or dual-flush toilets or by creating your own low-flow toilet with this toilet hack:
Place a brick or full water bottle (with rocks) into your toilet tank to displace the water and reduce the water needed to complete a full flush. You can also adjust the ball float in the tank to a lower position, which will stop your tank from filling as high. This will make your toilet more efficient and reduce your water bill.
Learn more about sewage and wastewater treatment plants. It's actually quite fascinating and very complex. We recommend taking a tour of a sewage treatment plant if you ever get the chance.