Why Flushing Regular Wipes Will Clog Your Drains
Disposable wipes - which are now just as popular for adult use as infant use - are becoming a major source of toilet and drain obstructions worldwide, in both municipal and residential sewage systems. In residential sewer systems, there's a strong likelihood that the wipes will become trapped within any bends, especially the toilet's main U-bend.
But the clogging issues extend past your own pipes. Just as wipes do not easily break down in your sewage system, they have trouble dissolving in municipal septic systems and may clog up the piping there as well, since these systems are also not intended to deal with solid waste.
In addition to pipes, wipes have been getting jammed up inside municipal sewer equipment, resulting in huge and costly clogs in metropolitan areas like New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Sydney, Toronto, and London just to name a few.
Why Wipes Clog Pipes
The most troublesome kinds of wipes for sewage systems are the sanitary tissues that adults frequently use near the toilet. Wipes used to clean up infants after diaper changes are more likely to be disposed of properly as solid waste in a trash can or other container rather than being flushed.
In fact, according to research from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, most people are hesitant to throw wipes used on themselves in the bathroom garbage can, and that is the reason for the current public demand for "flushable" wipes.
But the fact is that most wipes available today cannot biodegrade fast enough to prevent clogging the water lines, especially wipes that claim to be very tough and durable. This is the same reason that flushing paper towels is more likely to cause a pipe blockage than toilet paper, and when it comes to flushing wipes - even those labeled "flushable" - the likelihood of a clog occurring increases.
When a toilet pipe is blocked by paper towels or wipes, other debris tends to pile up at the blockage site and add to the severity of the problem, until it becomes necessary to bring in a plumber -- and the more severe the blockage is, the higher the plumbing fee for drain cleaning will be. And if a few flushed wipes can cause a problem for a home, then this only becomes additive for municipal systems, which are meant for handling items that break down relatively easily.
Confusion Over Labels
It's not at all unlikely that a lot of people are unsure of which wipes can be flushed and which cannot. Considering the advertising advantages of labeling a wipe product as "flushable," some manufacturers may be reluctant to openly disclose to consumers that their wipes should not be flushed.
As a result, the INDA (International Nonwovens and Disposables Association) and the EDNA (European Disposables and Nonwovens Association) have implemented a code of practice which demands that non-flushable wipes are plainly designated with a “do not flush” warning.
But since the code does not identify the specific location for this warning on the box, some companies may try to conceal it by placing it in a tiny font, on the back of the box or within a block of text where the common buyer will not see it.
This has led to a call for "do not flush" markings to be more visible than many manufacturers are presently using. Some wipes on the market may even be labeled as flushable even though they haven't been proven to be and may cause a plumbing blockage, which adds to the difficulty consumers face when discerning flushable wipes from non-flushable wipes.
Although some manufacturers of flushable wipes can back their claim that their wipes have been proven to be flushable, the key issue to consider is how long it takes for a flushable wipe to biodegrade in water.
Legitimate studies have been done on the major toilet paper and flushable wipe brands, but the findings haven't actually proven that the wipes can properly dissolve in the sewage system after being flushed. Most experts agree, however, that it takes considerably longer for flushable wipes and paper towels to break down than regular toilet paper, and that are still not broken down by the time they arrive at the water treatment facility.
Be Safe, Not Sorry
The best thing you can do as a consumer to prevent wipe-related clogs is to stay on the safe side and avoid flushing used wipes of any kind down the toilet. Opt instead for the trash can, and you'll prevent yourself from having to bear the expense of professional toilet repair.
If you nevertheless find yourself the victim of a flushable wipe-related clog and live in the Tacoma, WA area, call All Purpose Plumbing at (253) 473-5100 for the absolute cheapest prices on fast, safe and effective drain cleaning and toilet repair.