If you have been on this planet long enough, you know that not everything written on a product's label should be taken at face value. One of the things considered to be high on that list is flushable wipes.
Marketed as a more hygienic way to clean up without causing blocked drains, flushable toilet wipes have taken the market by storm and become a minor competitor to traditional dry toilet paper and even a standard wet wipe. But what exactly is happening inside your drains? Our guide will detail what flushable wipes are as well as whether they’re truly flushable.
What Are Flushable Wipes?
Flushable wipes, also known as moist toilet paper, are pre-moistened wipes with a cleansing solution. They are specially designed to clean after using the toilet gently and effectively. Some are also pH balanced to avoid irritation.
Flushable moist wipes are frequently used as a complement to or replacement for toilet paper since they clean significantly better and are regarded as more hygienic. Many people have even gone so far as to say that they are the "new toilet tissue."
All these qualities are great - but the real issue comes in when we consider what exactly flushable should mean.
What Are Flushable Wipes Made Of?
Flushable wipes are typically made of non-woven plastic-free materials. These are typically fibrous organic materials such as cellulose. These biodegradable substances are expected to degrade quickly in the sewer.
Non-flushable wipes may contain man-made fibres such as plastics for added durability.
The fibres are spun into a tangled mat before being compressed into a thin, soft, and pliable sheet. This can then be infused with cleaning products, perfumes, and other chemicals to improve their cleaning performance.
Where Did Flushable Wipes Come From?
Flushable wipes emerged because wipes would get stuck in the toilet drainage system. These wipes emerged as a solution to that problem, allowing people to enjoy the benefits of wipes without clogging their toilets.
The wipes would clog toilet drainage mostly because of the material they are made of. These included plastics, polyester and other synthetic materials. So, most flushable wipes will go down the drain, but they will not disintegrate the way toilet tissue is designed to.
Some manufacturers claim that their wipes are made from plant-based materials. Others say that the wipes will break down when soaked in water. For the most part, these claims cannot be verified, but plumbers are certain of the damage these flushable wipes have repeatedly caused to drainage systems.
Flushable Wipes Can Contribute to Fatbergs
A fatberg is a massive accumulation of solid waste largely consisting of various fats, disposable wipes, and other sanitary items that get flushed down the toilet and get stuck in a sewerage system. These waste products are disruptive, expensive to fix, and the perfect place for bacteria and parasites to thrive.
What happens with flushable wipes is that they collect these fats faster than they can get a chance to disintegrate - if they disintegrate at all - and aid in the accelerated formation of fatbergs.
Therefore, fatbergs make jobs that are already hazardous and very difficult even more so because they are so hard to dislodge from the pipes and wastewater systems that they clog.
Why Flushable Wipes Are Not As Flushable
For wipes to be considered flushable, they need to be capable of going down the drain and then disintegrating in the sewer. That's what 'flushable' should mean. But for most companies, it's apparent that going down the drain is enough.
When you flush flushable wipes, you expect them to go down the drain without getting stuck in the toilet. But the most important part is how they disintegrate in the drainage pipes and septic tank. This is why although they are technically flushable, most wipes marketed as such are still harmful. They are not flushable in the way that matters most, especially when many wipes are sent down in quick succession.
How Can Flushable Wipes Be Advertised As Flushable If They Aren't?
The simple answer? Lack of regulations and restrictions.
Companies are not required to demonstrate a wipe’s ability to be flushed before making this claim. And it's not surprising given that it appears the majority of them would fail such a test.
A Canadian study tested several market wipes for their flushing efficiency and found that none of them passed. What are the chances that your bathroom flushable wipes are any better?
This marketing strategy is deceptive and is causing a slew of drainage issues. Stricter policies are needed to prevent businesses from misusing the term solely to increase sales. However, efforts to enforce such regulations have only been met with aggressive pushback from the companies that manufacture these wipes.
Are There Any Exceptions for Flushable Wipes?
So the big question: are there any brands whose flushable wipes can be trusted?
Several brands market themselves - and have wipes labelled - as legitimate, flushable wipes. But we cannot be certain. Quite frankly, it is not worth the risk. The damage that can be caused by fatbergs is way more significant than the convenience brought by the use of flushable wipes.
Flushable wipes - and a few other ‘flushable’ products - shouldn't be disposed of by flushing them down a toilet. They endanger household and municipal plumbing systems and have harmful effects on marine life. It's critical to realize that the only things that should be flushed down a toilet are human waste and toilet paper to avoid clogs and further harm to the home's plumbing system.
Additionally, keep in mind that flushable wipes cannot be recycled and must instead be disposed of properly in the garbage.
Alternatives to Flushable Wipes
If flushable wipes should not be used for the sake of your plumbing, what should you use instead? Many people prefer wipes because they are more effective cleaners and not as tedious as bidets. But a bidet may be your best option if you prefer a more thorough clean.
You could also keep the wipes but have a safety disposal bin in your bathroom. One that is similar to what you see in public toilets for the disposal of sanitary towels. There are many safer options for you to choose from.
Contact Tunnel Vision for any Blocked Drain Needs
If you’ve been having trouble figuring out what is causing your drainage and raw sewage issues and have been an avid user of flushable wipes, it may be time for a change for the sake of keeping the wastewater industry - and your sewer - safe.