Can I Flush Wet Wipes Down The Toilet?

Sir John Harrington, inventor of the flushing toilet (hence ‘the john’), would roll over in his grave if he could see what we are putting down our shitters and sinks today.

After chatting to a spokesperson from Sydney Water, I’ve learned of two major items most people don’t realise simply aren’t up to the task of toilet travel.

1. “Flushable” wipes

Known to some as the remover of makeup and others as wiper of baby bums or an occasional substitute shower, wet wipes are the notorious mastermind of pipe crime.

An estimated 500 tonnes of wipes are removed from the wastewater networks every year and are responsible for about 75% of all wastewater blockages.

Like true criminal masterminds, the manufacturers of wipes are sneaky with the use of the word ‘flushable’ in their marketing, but don’t let this trick you into believing they have a place in our pipes.

Not only do wet wipes cost the water industry millions of dollars to remove, but the resulting blockages can cause overflows into local creeks, rivers, and even beaches – a gross thought for those of us already recoiling from seaweed’s slimy caress or flinching when our toes touch slippery creek beds.

More importantly, these spills pose a huge environmental risk to our ecosystems. Even the duck biting eels down at my local nature reserve don’t deserve to be swimming in our mess.


2. Fatbergs

While getting the bathroom situation under control, let’s also spare a thought for what’s lurking in our kitchen pipes.

The term ‘fatberg’, was both unfamiliar and chuckle-worthy when it surfaced in my chinwag about Sydney Waters Clean Up Not Down Campaign

The rancid phenomenon goes like this: When cooking oil and grease hit the cool water in our wastewater pipes, they harden and combine with other waste (like wet wipes) to form a hard blockage known as a fatberg.

Just as the iceberg was ultimately responsible for the submerged decks of the Titanic, the fatberg is a health and environmental nightmare causing wastewater to back up and flood hazardous waste into houses, backyards and local waterways.

So, do you bit for the waterbirds and:

  1. Catch food scraps with a sink strainer
  2. Collect them for your compost
  3. Wipe greasy pans with a cloth and;
  4. Pour any used oil, fatty liquids or old milk into a container that gets placed in the bin.

The ducks will thank you.

Anybody got a gas mask?

3. And in case you have to be told…

Wet wipes and fatbergs are in league with a dirty dozen other items that don’t belong in your pipes.

Please, for the love of God, don’t put these down your drains:

  • Cotton buds
  • Cleansing pads
  • Toilet roll tubes
  • Medicines
  • Cigarettes
  • Disposable nappies
  • Plasters
  • Tampons
  • Tampon applicators
  • Sanitary pads
  • Dental floss
  • Condoms

There’s a couple in there, that for a long time I believed could be disposed of correctly with a push of the half flush.

But with campaigns such as Keep Wipes Out Of Pipes, Sydney Water is urging us to think before we flush, and dispose of these trashy twelve in a toilet-side bin.

The bottom line…

The next time you’re Instagram scrolling on the loo or humming a ditty as you scrub the sink remember that our pipes can only dispose of things that will flush and disintegrate:

If it’s not human waste or two-ply paper with convenient perforations every ten centimetres, it doesn’t go down the john.

The alternative? Contemplating our destructive and environmentally questionable tendencies while swimming in whitewash and wastewater.

This article was written by Rose Alateras.

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