To Flush or Not to Flush, That’s Not Even a Question for Wipes

“Oh no” is what one person will say if they flush wipes down the toilet and it causes the bowl to over flow.

While the idea of “flushable wipes” can seem all too convenient, there are studies that show once flushed, these products don’t dissolve. They simply do not disintegrate as they enter the sewer system.

So, what happens to it?

Manhole got blocked mostly by the sanitary napkins that the girls disposed in the toilets instead of the collection bins. Photo courtesy: SuSanA Secretariat. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

It could either clog the drain, someone else’s drain, ends up in the SFPUC’s Wastewater Treatment Plant where it may need to be manually removed or end up in a landfill. Flushable wipes aren’t just someone else’s problem, they make environmental impacts that effect everyone, and close to home when sewer pipes or equipment at the treatment plants get clogged or damaged.

“If you use wipes, even if they say flushable on the package, they aren’t ‘flushable friendly.’ Only the 3 Ps: Poop, pee and toilet paper should go in the toilet,” said Autumn Cleave, Pollution Prevention Specialist at the SFPUC, who strives to educate San Franciscans on how simple actions can help prevent pollution and protect the City’s sewer system and the environment.

So, the next time one says, “oh no” and goes running for the plunger, remember, most wipes are not flushable. If the idea of used wipes sticking around planet earth is considered “eww, that’s gross,” then know what needs to be done before that happens. Not only will it keep wastewater treatment costs down and the City’s sewer lines clear, environmentally the birds and the bees and the flowers and trees would be so much happier too.

Active tipping area of an operating landfill in Perth, Western Australia. Photo courtesy: Ashley Felton. Wikimedia Commons.
SFPUC visual on what not to flush.