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Risks of “Flushable” Wipes to Plumbing Systems

Given the COVID-19 outbreak pandemic sweeping the globe, there’s been lots of conversation recently surrounding sanitary wipes. Within the plumbing realm, a certain type of such wipes has been a hot topic of conversation for many years: “Flushable” wipes that claim to be fully safe to flush down the toilet.

At My Buddy the Plumber, our plumbers and drain cleaning professionals are here to tell you that you should take these “flushable” claims with a heavy grain of salt at the very least. Many of the products that make these claims are doing so in misleading ways, and many such products will create significant clog and blockage risks in your drains if you flush them down your toilets regularly. Here’s a primer on “flushable” wipes and what your plumbers recommend in terms of using (or not using) them.

Breakdown Time

We mentioned that many of these products are marketed in misleading ways, and most of what we’re referring to here is within the timing realm. It’s technically true that most of these “flushable” products will break down to a point where they don’t risk clogs – but most of them take a very long time to do so, and this is where the problem lies.

This is an area our plumbers would refer to as breakdown time, or the time it takes a given wipe to decompose in water. Most wet wipes do not decompose quickly, meaning they will still be intact when they move down your drains and into your sewer system. So while companies marketing these products are technically telling the truth, they’re omitting valuable information that will impact your plumbing.

“Ragging” Effect

When these wipes are flushed down the toilet drain, you might be hoping they break down quickly. As we just noted, however, this isn’t usually the case, and the result is an effect called “ragging.”

This is an occasion where still-intact wipes get caught up with other items found in the sewer line, from paper towels and cotton swabs to sanitary pads, floss, toilet paper and others. When they combine with wet wipes that are still mostly solid, the blockages created are often significant and require drain cleaning professionals to remedy.

How to Proceed

The evidence is clear here: If you care about the long-term health of your drains and your sewer system, you should simply avoid flushing anything but human waste and approved toilet paper down your toilet. Toilet paper is designed to decompose quickly enough to avoid the ragging effect in drains, but wet wipes and many other similar products are not – you’ll be saving yourself time and money if you follow this rule absolutely

For more on the problems with “flushable” wipes, or to learn about any of our plumbing services, speak to the staff at My Buddy the Plumber today.

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