The universe gave us toilets, and the universe gave us trash cans (and seriously, I thank Heaven for both). Both must be used responsibly or the universe will become evil (clogging and global warming, respectively). So I want to tell you 10 really horrible things that you might flush down the toilet, but should never be flushed. I’ll even tell you how to properly dispose of each item. Remember, anything that is not generated by your body’s digestive system should not be flushed, as one flush on a normal flow toilet wastes 3 gallons of water. And for all my non-American readers, one gallon equals 3.78 liters, which means one flush sucks back almost 12 gallons of water.
Dental floss is not biodegradable and while a small piece of floss may not seem like much, just think what happens when a whole bunch of it starts to get tangled. Imagine the plaque-laden strands coming together to form a giant clump of floss flowing through your sewage pipes. So after flossing (and flossing, for that matter), just throw your floss in the trash.
Grease, oil & fat
Better yet, any food at all. If it’s meant to be eaten by you, let your body process it before it ends up in the toilet. Fat, oil and grease may go in as liquid, but sooner or later they cool down and accumulate on the sides of your pipes, making the pipe opening smaller and smaller over time – just like a clogged artery! Eventually, the pipe can become so clogged that it backs up, leading to very unpleasant messes. This is why restaurants have a grease disposal service; you can’t dump oil down a sink! What I do is keep a zippered bag next to my garbage in the kitchen (it’s completely invisible) and pour any oil, grease or fat into the bag. When the bag is full, I throw it away.
I remember a friend’s mother who used to flush leftovers or scraps from cooking down the toilet. I think she thought that was a good disposal system that curbed refrigerator space and odor. But let me tell you, the bathroom always smelled weird and someday, I hate to say it, I’m sure there will be a major plumbing problem in this house.
Most bandages are plastic, which is not biodegradable and can cause clogs. Therefore, it is best to just throw your used pads in the trash (even cloth pads should not be flushed away).
Medications and drugs
Clogs aren’t really the problem when it comes to flushing pills, but contamination of our water supply is a big problem. In movies, no thought is ever given when the bad guy dumps 3 kilos of something expensive down the toilet. Yet viewers are given the message that flushing it down is an acceptable method of disposal, and that is absolutely not okay. The water in your toilet is water that ends up in our rivers, lakes and oceans, and sewage systems do not remove medications from water. So please dispose of your pills and other medications through your local pharmacy – they usually have a safe disposal program and all you need to do is drop them off.
This is a very controversial topic in my opinion. While these products are labeled “flushable” or “disposable”, it is common knowledge that they are far too thick to be flushed – even the ones that are considered safe for sewers or septic systems. Okay, enough with the griping. If you want to use these products, just throw them in the trash. If you want to learn more about why you shouldn’t flush disposable wipes, keep reading about Fatberg. Yes, sewer abuse is real.
Tampons and pads
There is a very good reason why every restaurant, mall, or pretty much every public restroom has a sign telling you NOT to flush feminine hygiene products down the toilet and providing you with a trash can for safe disposal. Do you know why? Because they don’t feel like spending the money to get your used products out of the toilet. And why don’t they flush? Well, they are naturally designed to absorb moisture and expand. The expansion makes them unsafe to pass through pipes and sewers. The same goes for cotton balls and cotton swabs. Just politely wrap them up and dispose of them in the trash.
Paper towel doesn’t break down nearly as fast as toilet paper, it’s thicker and bigger (hence all the “more absorbent than you” advertising). This stuff will clog your toilet faster than you can call a plumber, and you can bet your lunch money that flushing it will require a phone call later.
I won’t go into the gory details here, but just heed this advice – never, ever, ever flush condoms down the toilet. Wrap them discreetly (condom and wrapper) and just throw them in the trash. You might as well hide it in a few layers of toilet paper.
Just because it’s part of our body doesn’t mean you can safely flush it down the toilet. Hair clogs showers, sinks and toilet drains. Like dental floss, they form huge tangles that trap odors and cause massive blockages in pipes, drains and sewers. In fact, hair clogs more drains than probably anything else on this list. When you clean your brushes or comb wet hair, simply throw the hair in the trash or even compost it.
Kittens have their own toilets. So if you don’t teach your cats how to use the human toilet, you can dispose of their waste (litter and solids) in the trash, compost, or by recycling properly.
Basically, there are three things that can be flushed down the toilet: Ones, twos, threes? (vomit) and toilet paper. Don’t risk it, because plumbing calls are BAD TIMES. And, they usually happen at the most embarrassing and inconvenient times, to boot. Believe me, I want to save you from spending money and experiencing a life-threatening embarrassment.