Flushable wipes clogging the toilet

It wasn’t too long ago when the entire world was going crazy over toilet paper. Even supermarkets in Australia were running out and until today, many still impose purchase limits. While supermarket shelves emptied, many Australians began looking into alternatives. The most popular option in the market were flushable wipes. With good packaging and marketing, many individuals believed that the labels of such flushable products are correct and have proceeded with flushing these down the toilet. This may come off as a surprise, but these ‘flushable’ wipes have since resulted in plumbers all over Melbourne receiving calls about serious plumbing issues. 

What are flushable wipes?

Flushable wipes are similar to regular wet wipes. They are essentially disposable sheets made of pulp and strengthened with additional fibres for support. The difference between a flushable wipe and non-flushable wipe is flushable wipes contain fewer man-made fibres that provide extra strength. Flushable wipes generally use shorter fibres than non-flushables and may include treatments that increase the rate of disintegration. 

How does it cause problems?

As they need to remain intact when wet, wipes are often more robust than regular toilet paper. Even though these wipes do eventually break down, they take a longer amount of time to do so. This means that as long as a small part of the flushable wipe has not broken down sufficiently, it can block pipework and pumps in sewerage systems. Flushable wipes have also been known to contribute to ‘fatbergs’ – congealed lumps of fat and wipes caused by oils found in your pipes binding to these wipes. The accumulation of fatbergs can block pipes and often have to be removed mechanically by a professional plumber. This means more money out of your pocket!

Flushable wipes also contain microplastics that do not disintegrate properly. Once flushed and upon reaching the sea, they last for decades and can cause havoc with marine life. Bits and pieces of these wipes that do not break down properly get ingested by sea creatures such as turtles who mistake these for jellyfish, and eventually die. 

How do I get rid of my flushable wipe? 

This depends on whether your flushable wipe is labelled as biodegradable or not. If you purchase biodegradable flushable wipes, these can be composted! As they’re made of natural materials, they will break down over time and are safe in the environment. However, this does not imply they can break up easily when flushed down the toilet. Breaking down will take time and flushing it through your sewage system isn’t long enough for this to happen. If your wipes aren’t biodegradable, the best way to get rid of them is to treat them like a normal wet wipe – you’ll need to chuck them in the bin. All in all, if you don’t have time to identify if your products are biodegradable or not, the simplest way to get rid of your wipes is to throw them in your bin or better yet, not use wet wipes at all!

Plumber unclogging a blocked toilet

What can and cannot be flushed? 

Designed to flush and forget, toilet paper can be considered the only thing that can be safely flushed. Despite labels claiming the ‘flushability’ of certain products, many plumbers recommend only ever flushing toilet paper. Every year Australians flush thousands of foreign objects down their toilets and this alone is the most common cause of drain blockages. Among the long list of items that should not be flushed, the common ones are menstrual products, cotton buds, diapers, and dental floss. 

How do I unclog my toilet clogged with flushable wipes?

If you find yourself with a toilet clogged with flushable wipes, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, you can grab your plunger and plunge away at the blockage until it gets dislodged. While that can help clear the blockage, it is only temporary as there could be underlying issues further down the pipes that you do not see. The best course of action is to get a professional plumber out for proper inspection and cleaning.

JPG Plumbing can help inspect and fix all your clogging problems for suburbs all over Melbourne. Our expert Emergency team are available 24 Hours 7 days a week to assist you with all your plumbing matters so get in touch with us today by filling in our contact form or calling 0400 978 442.