5 Things You and Your Family Should Never Flush Down the Toilet

We have all had the unpleasant experience of flushing the toilet and watching, in horror, as our unmentionables circle, rise and don’t disappear.  Alternatively, as you are sitting in your kitchen having a much deserved cup of tea, you hear those words “Mom!  Something’s wrong with the toilet!”

So, your toilet is blocked… again.  We all know that there are obvious things that can block a toilet; toy soldiers, Lego™ blocks, sheets of unfinished artwork, etc. but many of us are not aware of other items that will continue to block your lavatory until you stop flushing them down.

1. Feminine Hygiene and Baby Products

Tampons and panty liners are one of the major causes of toilet blockages.  No matter what the packaging may say, I would strongly recommend that you do not flush them.  Instead, invest in a good quality bin with a lid and small garbage bags to put your sanitary products in.  Tie them up, drop them in the bin and empty often.

(Many feminine hygiene manufacturers state that their products are flushable, and they may well be, but any other problem with your toilet will be exacerbated by adding these into the mix.)

It’s obvious that you wouldn’t throw your little one’s diaper down the toilet, no?  You would be surprised that some people do.  This will result pretty immediately in a major blockage.

More insidious are the baby wipes.  The majority of today’s baby wipes are made from a polyester mix which means they are made of plastic.  Just as you wouldn’t flush a plastic bag down your toilet, you should not flush your baby wipes down either.  (Some wipes are made from a paper/fiber mix but the result is the same.) 

2. Food or Grease

You may think that a toilet is the perfect place to get rid of unwanted food or grease.  After all, it does it after you have used the toilet, so why not cut out the middle man, your digestive system?  But that is the very point when it comes to food.  When you use and flush the toilet normally, you are flushing digested food.  Undigested food takes a lot longer to break down during which time it can block your drains.

Grease is a problem for plumbers and municipal sewage alike.  Many cities have huge issues with grease build up on the inside of their main sewerage pipes costing millions to clear and causing waste to build up and flow back into people’s homes.  (In London, municipal sewer workers call them “Fatbergs”.)  Restaurants and commercial food preparation premises are required by law to have grease traps to capture the grease before it goes down the drain.

By flushing grease, fat or oil down your toilet (or sink), you could block not only your pipes but the entire street or town.  

If you don’t know what to do with unwanted oil after cooking, there are many places that will accept it for recycling or for green energy purposes so do some research.  Otherwise, wait till it is completely cold and dispose of in your garbage.

3. Beauty Products

Cotton wool, Q-Tips, make up remover pads etc. are all made of fiber or polyester which will not dissolve in water.  You may believe t is more hygienic to throw them down the toilet rather than putting them in the bathroom bin but how hygienic is it for your toilet, and all the waste contained therein, to overflow?

Dental floss is also another problem item.  Although tiny and thin, it can get caught around other items being flushed and catch in the u-bends, blocking them.

4. Paper

I don’t mean toilet paper, although that can cause problems when copious amounts are flushed, especially if you use the ultra-thick quilted paper.  Toilet paper is designed to disintegrate after a while when in contact with water.  Normal amounts of toilet paper, in an efficiently working toilet, should not block your pipes.

What we are talking about is facial tissues or paper rolls.  These will take much longer to break down in water and can start to build up inside your pipes before they disintegrate.

5. Cat Litter and Poop

Those of us who have cats are often tempted to “poop scoop” straight into the toilet.  This is a very bad idea for two main reasons.

Firstly, most cat litter does not degrade and will build up in all the bends in your pipes.  Secondly, cat litter dries up the poop which, in turn, is like trying to flush a small brick down the toilet.

Invest in a good quality bin and small garbage bags instead of flushing kitty’s waste.

There are other things we should not flush down the toilet for other reasons.  This might sound strange but flushing items like medication down the toilet will result in them eventually entering the water supply. Sewage processing cannot remove them from the resulting water so avoid flushing your pills, insecticides, pesticides or any chemicals not designed to be used for the toilet and do your bit to keep our water supply clean for our children’s future.

However, if you have failed to prevent any or all of the above being flushed, there are things you can do before calling the plumber at a high cost and big inconvenience and get your pipes working again.

Now, this may sound counter-intuitive, but here are some things you can actually pour down a toilet to unclog it.

Firstly, put on your trusty rubber gloves and use your plunger.  Plunge several times and then flush. You can also try a home-made solution of 1 part baking soda in the toilet bowl to 2 parts vinegar. Wait 45 minutes and then pour a kettle’s worth of boiling water down before flushing.

Now that your toilet is unblocked, have a chat with your kids (and probably your partner too) that the only things that are supposed to be flushed down the toilet are reasonable amounts of toilet paper and what comes out of their bodies naturally.

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