In addition to human waste, toilets receive a staggering amount of other types of waste. If you want to avoid an emergency plumber call in the middle of the night, you need to know what causes most plumbing problems.
Here are seven things you should never flush down the toilet.
1. Cosmetic or baby wipes
The increasing use of wipes (baby wipes, cosmetic wipes, cleansing wipes) is a big problem for septic systems. Unlike toilet paper, wipes contain an explosive, high-strength synthetic-viscose-fiber mixture that does not dissolve.
When flushed down the toilet, wipes tend to get tangled up with other waste in the pipes, forming long (sometimes 2-meter long) stinking masses of waste that block the pipes. Even “disposable” wipes in toilets end up clogging the system and causing millions of dollars in damage.
2. Female hygiene products
Most public toilets for women have signs saying not to flush sanitary napkins or tampons down the toilet. Why not? Because they don’t dissolve easily, they end up clogging the pipes. Other intimate products that have a disastrous effect on the pipes are diapers and condoms.
3. Cotton swabs
Although cotton swabs are too small to be a real threat, they can still be the cause of some disasters because they get stuck so easily. They end up getting in the way of the wastewater being transported to the treatment plant, and since the cotton swabs cannot stay in the plant, they are released into the environment (lakes, rivers, etc.). Something to think about the next time you finish cleaning your ears!
Some pharmaceutical ingredients are sometimes excreted in an unchanged form after being consumed, so they are inevitably found in wastewater. Medications that are also flushed down a sink or toilet increase their concentration in the wastewater, which is a danger to the environment.
Modern sewage treatment plants can only partially or not at all get rid of the drugs. On average, 40% of the substances are removed. As a result, the cleaned water still contains residues of medicines that we end up consuming via our tap water.
Scientific studies show that even low concentrations of particular drugs could have negative impacts on the environment. About 150 active substances have been detected in lakes and rivers, all in small quantities, such as painkillers, antibiotics and hormones. In tap water, about 40 active ingredients were detected, such as painkillers and contrast agents used in imaging.
5. Paints, varnishes and chemicals
These products do not belong in the pipes. They can develop toxic or explosive gases in sewers, endangering the lives of sewer workers and threatening the longevity of some infrastructure.
As with drugs, sewage treatment plants only partially, if at all, purify the chemicals that end up in nature or in the tap water we drink.
6. Cat litter
While it may seem like flushing cat feces down the toilet makes no sense, it’s actually extremely bad for the environment and the pipes. When in contact with water, cat feces tend to swell, preventing it from navigating the pipes properly and potentially blocking them. In addition, the feces themselves are known to release harmful bacteria into the oceans and rivers.
7. Leftovers, oils and fats
Food scraps and oil and grease that go down the drain (when washing dishes) or are flushed down the toilet attract rats. As if this were not enough, grease that runs down the pipes solidifies and sticks to the inside of the pipes.
Over time, the layers of grease build up until the pipes become completely clogged. Even the most effective cleaning methods have difficulty getting rid of the layers of grease.
What we flush down the sink and toilet always ends up back in our water systems. Imagine throwing all of the above-mentioned things directly into a water source – unthinkable, isn’t it?
This kind of carelessness damages the purification systems, machines and infrastructures and has negative consequences on the environment. As a result, the quality of the water decreases and the costs for increased maintenance work skyrocket.
The above list is not exhaustive. So what should be flushed down the toilet? Only what they were created for: organic waste and toilet paper, that’s all.