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Repair & Maintenance

What Not to Flush Down the Toilet

If your toilet gets clogged it can mean an unpleasant experience for your household. Learn what cannot be flushed down the toilet to avoid plumbing nightmares.

Toilet paper hanging on the wall

What Not to Flush Down the Toilet

There’s perhaps no fixture in your home as important as your toilet. But when your toilet is not flushing well or when it gets clogged, you and your family are in for a rough time — and, if it’s bad enough, a big plumbing bill.

Fortunately, most clogs are preventable. It’s as easy as knowing what not to flush down the toilet. And, thankfully, the list of things you can flush down the toilet is short, and consists of just two things: human waste and toilet paper. Anything else is a no-go. Here’s a list of things you should never flush down the toilet, unless you want to find yourself frantically googling how to unclog a toilet”.

Wet Wipes, Baby Wipes or Disposable Cleaning Pads

Can you flush baby wipes? No, you cannot. They might seem a lot like toilet paper, and the packaging might even claim that they’re flushable, but they can clog up your toilet or even your whole sewer line. Wet wipes — the adult kind — and hemorrhoid wipes or pads are a no-go, too.

Baby wipes, wet wipes and the like are not biodegradable, and they are not designed to break down on contact with water, the way toilet paper is. Even if they manage to make it past your home plumbing, wet wipes, baby wipes and even the disposable cleaning pads from your toilet-cleaning wand can build up in your city’s sewer system and cause serious problems. Don’t flush them.

Diapers

Diapers are designed to absorb moisture, so throwing them in a toilet bowl full of water is a really bad idea. What happens to a diaper when you toss it in the toilet? It immediately starts absorbing all the water in the bowl and swelling up. So, even if you can get it to flush, it’ll probably get stuck in the pipe right away.

Rubber Gloves, Masks or Other Disposables

It should go without saying that gloves and other household protective items made of latex, polyurethane, nitrile, or other plastic or rubber compounds are not biodegradable, and they’ll definitely clog your toilet if you flush them. Same goes for medical masks. Throw them away in the trash, and if you’re worried about sanitation, empty that trash every day.

Paper Towels

A paper towel might make a reasonable stand-in for toilet paper in a pinch, but that doesn’t mean you should flush it down the toilet. Paper towels are designed to clean up messes and sop up spills without tearing or breaking down — the opposite of toilet paper, which is designed to disintegrate as it gets wet. If you have to use a paper towel, throw it away instead of flushing it, and save yourself the headache of a toilet not flushing properly.

Food Scraps or Cooking Grease

The grease, fat, and oil from cooking might be liquid when you pour it into the bowl, but it can quickly congeal in the pipes, causing a nasty and expensive clog. Pour it into a tin can or glass jar and throw it away after it cools instead. Food scraps should go in the trash, and some can go in the garbage disposal, if they’re suitable and you have one. Many food items can stick together in your pipes and cause a clog.

Feminine Hygiene Products

Tampons and other feminine hygiene products may, like baby wipes, claim to be flushable, but they are not. Many a plumber has sent his or her kids to college by yanking wads of tangled tampons out of someone’s pipes. Don’t let those pipes be yours.

Cotton Balls or Swabs

Some premium brands of toilet paper may claim to be cottony soft, but that doesn’t mean you can flush actual cotton down the loo. Cotton balls and swabs are another example of a fibrous material that does not break down in water. Throw used swabs and cotton balls in the trash.

Medications

Unused or expired medications might not clog your toilet — in fact, most pills and capsules will dissolve in the water. But that’s not the reason why you shouldn’t flush them. 

Flushed medications can pollute the water supply and have serious consequences for the wildlife and humans that rely on it. Instead of flushing your expired and unused medications, take them to a medication take-back event sponsored by your local police department or medical center, or ask your pharmacist to dispose of them for you.

Cigarette Butts

Cigarette butts will also pollute the water supply, and they’re full of cancer-causing chemicals. The fibrous materials used to make the filter can clog your plumbing, too. Throw your cigarette butts in the trash or, better yet, quit smoking.

What’s better than knowing how to unclog a toilet? Knowing how to keep it from getting clogged in the first place. But no matter how careful you are about keeping non-flushables out of your toilet, life happens. When you need an experienced plumber to help you unclog your toilet or sewer line, American Home Shield® can help. Sign up for a home warranty plan today and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing professional help is a phone call away when you need it.

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