Don’t Believe the Hype: Flushable Wipes Can Damage Plumbing

Putting wipes in a white toilet bowl.

Are you someone who isn’t a fan of regular toilet paper? You wouldn’t be the first! Many people want their bathroom experience to be more than basic. We like to think that most people are environmentally conscious and want to do what’s best for the ecosystem, and that doesn’t include wet wipes.

While flushable wipes can create the more luxurious experience you’re looking for, they can seriously damage your plumbing and sewer lines. How? Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Memphis is here to drop some knowledge and protect your pipes from serious issues you might—literally—pay for later.

Why Are Flushable Wipes Labeled “Flushable” If They’re Harmful to Plumbing?

That’s a great question! A 2016 study by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection found that about 1-4% of flushable wipes are actually flushable. And those that fall outside of the “flushable” category will pass through toilet drains safely. However, the problem comes when they reach sewers.

When you have a good quality flushable wipe, it will dissolve similarly to conventional tissue paper and pose little threat to your plumbing. If you purchase wipes that are a bit more durable, they won’t break down easily and could clog sewer lines or find their way into wastewater treatment plants.

Various U.S. cities have sued manufacturers over false advertising of their flushable wipes. In December 2018, Procter & Gamble settled a lawsuit against its brand Charmin Freshmates flushable wipes for falsely marketing that their wipes are safe to flush. As some manufacturers have advertised, these wipes might be safe to flush, but they certainly aren’t safe on pipes or sewer lines.

How Flushable Wipes Damage Your Plumbing

They Don’t Dissolve like Traditional Toilet Paper

In 2019, researchers at Ryerson’s Urban Water Center at Ryerson University in Ontario, Canada, tested 23 flushable wipes. The products were tested for dissolvability, and the results were slightly, yet not slightly, shocking. Only two out of the 23 tested actually dissolved, but only partially. None of the samples completely disintegrated, which tells us that almost any flushable wipe you flush could stay intact all the way to your local water treatment plant. Why? Because they’re usually made out of synthetic materials like plastic and polyester, so they’re more resilient than toilet paper.

They Clog Sewer Pipes & Drains

Because most wipes don’t fully disintegrate, they’ve been causing problems for mid-south plumbing for years. In 2014, officials reported that flushable wipes were burning through the city’s $13 million environment maintenance budget.

Additionally, if the clog happens in the private sewer line in your home (before it reaches the connection to city underground pipes), you’re responsible for the removal and repair costs. This service could be extremely expensive, depending on the extent of the clog and if repairs require invasive measures like digging up a slab or mining drywall.

They Can Cause Waste Backups

If you’ve had the misfortune of dealing with clogged toilets and wastewater backups, you’re likely a frequent flushable wipe user. Some wet wipes may easily pass or dissolve inside toilet drains, but they could be an issue for sewer lines. Most sewer lines rely heavily on gravity to pass water, so any obstructions or disruptions to that natural process could force bacteria-ridden water to back up and reenter your home.

Safer Alternatives to Flushable Wipes

We suggest finding an alternative to flushable wipes that don’t interrupt water processing plants or cause significant and expensive pipe damage. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered!

Here are a few flushable wipe replacements you should try:

  • Bamboo Dry Cleansing Cloths – These wipes aren’t manufactured with chemicals or synthetic materials. However, the packaging tells you not to flush, even though they’re biodegradable. We concur!
  • Bidet Dual Cleaning Nozzle – If you’re looking for an option that doesn’t require you to throw away or discard wipes, try a bidet nozzle. You can get yourself clean without potentially clogging your plumbing.
  • Reusable Natural Wipes – Another eco-friendly alternative to flushable wipes is reusable wipes that you can wash and reuse repeatedly.
  • Pristine Toilet Paper Spray – When you still like the idea of a wet wipe without purchasing a traditional wipe, try this toilet paper spray. Simply spray your toilet paper with the solution and use it as you would a flushable wipe without worrying that your plumbing could suffer.

Believe the Hype About Our Memphis Plumbers!

Flushable wipes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, but our Memphis plumbers sure are! We can help you navigate difficult situations like severe clogs and plumbing installation with detailed assessments and noninvasive video inspections.

Here at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Memphis, we're locally owned and operated by Andy Jonson. Andy has 20+ years of experience in the trade, is a licensed master plumber, and was born and raised in Memphis. We're backed by a great reputation and love serving each of our customers.

Get in touch with our team by calling us or request a job estimate online.