Be honest: do you use your toilet as a backup garbage disposal? Perhaps you’ve flushed away old, leftover chili or held a few fish funerals in your bathroom. If your toilet doesn’t clog after those actions, you assume it can handle the waste.
But despite what your previous experience taught you, some things should never take a trip down the toilet. The list below details the top 10 items not to flush.
1. Feminine Hygiene Products
Many women assume that if the tampon box says “flushable,” you can dispose of these products in your plumbing. That’s a common misconception. By design, feminine hygiene products absorb liquid and expand. This property makes them prone to getting stuck in your pipes-especially pipes with grime already built up on the edges.
Rather than flush them, wrap feminine hygiene products in toilet paper and throw them in the garbage.
2. Medicines or Vitamins
Anything pharmaceutical should stay out of your toilet. If you flush expired pills, old vitamins, or other medications, they contaminate whatever water supply they end up in. There, they harm fish and other marine life. They may even reenter drinking water supplies in trace amounts.
3. Baby Wipes and Similar Cloths
Baby wipes seem similar to toilet paper, so what’s the harm in flushing them? But since these cloths are thicker than toilet paper and more resistant to disintegration, they can easily ball up and get stuck in your plumbing.
You shouldn’t flush the following disposable cloths either:
Facial cleansing cloths
4. Napkins or Paper Towels
People flush napkins and paper towels for the same reason they flush baby wipes: they seem so similar to toilet paper. However, these paper products are also too bulky to pass through pipes without problems.
5. Fats, Oils, and Grease
You’ve heard that cooking oils and excess fat should stay out of your kitchen drain. Apply the same rule in your toilets. Leftover cooking grease might be warm liquids when you pour them down the toilet, but they quickly cool and stick to the pipe walls. Pipes lined with grease and oil act like sticky bug traps. Items try to pass through, but they can’t escape. A clogged toilet is the unfortunate result.
You take care not to let your hair flow down your shower drain. You know all that hair builds up over time, creates huge clogs and leads to standing water. The same problem can occur in the pipes beneath your toilet when you flush unwanted hair. Hair tangles, gets caught on debris, and creates a clog.
Next time you pull extra hair off your brush, throw it into your trash can, not your toilet.
7. Dental Floss
Dental floss causes problems similar to those created by flushed hair. This fiber forms knots and can easily get stuck in the plumbing. Although it frays effortlessly when you pull it between your teeth, floss is quite strong. Even a thin string of floss could block larger waste from passing through pipes freely. Plus, dental floss is not biodegradable, so it won’t disintegrate over time.
8. Plastic, Rubber, or Latex
Many common consumer products contain these materials, including many goods that add simplicity and convenience to your life. But those products are anything but convenient when they end up in the sewers. For example, condoms can inflate and obstruct waste disposal pathways.
Other consumer products to keep out of your toilet include the following:
Rubber or latex gloves
9. Kitty Litter
These tiny particles seem harmless. After all, pet waste would be similar to human waste, and these small bits of sand or stone shouldn’t accumulate too much on pipe walls. Some litter manufacturers even advertise that their product is flushable.
However, “flushable” remains a myth with kitty litter, too. Cat waste contains a parasite that may be dangerous to other animals. Some scientists have discovered that parasite in ocean-dwelling animals, including Hawaiian monk seals, California sea otters, and humpback whales.
Food might seem okay to flush because it’s biodegradable and doesn’t contain the dangerous components found in cat litter or medicine. But as rule you shouldn’t dispose of food in your toilet. Larger chunks could become caught and cause clogs. Even some smaller pieces, such as egg shell bits or coffee grounds, can be problematic.
Smells are another reason to keep food out of your toilet. Food that gets stuck in the pipes under your toilet could create unpleasant odors as the food decomposes.
Now that you know what not to flush, promise you’ll never to put these items in your toilet again. Teach your family members and houseguests to do the same, and you’ll avoid clogged toilets and costly plumbing repairs.
And if you already have a problem toilet that clogs or overflows often, bring in a licensed plumber to evaluate it.