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Flushable Wipes: not so flushable ​after all.

There are many and varied “wipe” products available in the marketplace, with many brands including labels like “Flushable” or “Breaks apart after flushing” on their packaging.  

Compelling evidence suggests those claims to be inaccurate and we recommend against flushing wipes (or other hygiene products, dental floss, cotton swabs, bandages, paper towel, kitty litter, food waste, cooking grease, paint …)  But if you do, Plumbtech Plumbing is always available to clear the drain clog.

Many studies have been done by municipalities around the world and the overwhelming consensus is that there is no such thing as a flushable wipe.  Manufacturers will largely disagree with this assessment and you may trust who you like. But our experience, among that of others, suggests it’s not a great idea and certainly a risk.

Barry Orr, a sewer inspector with the City of London, Ont., and a Masters student at Ryerson University, led a study, believed to be the first test of single-use wipes against rigorous criteria for flushability. Researchers in the Ryerson Urban Water lab studied 101 products, including 23 labelled as flushable. They used a working model of the average home’s lavatory system from toilet to sewer, including typical bends and slope, plus average water pressure seen in urban infrastructure.

The wipes were tested to international wastewater industry specifications for toilet and drain-line clearance, along with disintegration. Not one wipe passed the tests.

“There is absolutely no regulation around labelling something as flushable,” said Orr.

“People need to understand there is nothing safe to flush except for human waste and toilet paper,” he said. “A toilet is not a garbage bin.”

The wipes, which contain plastics and synthetic fibres, don’t break down in water. They mix with other materials in the sewer pipes to create masses that clog pipes and pumps at treatment plants. The Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group estimates non-flushable materials cause $250 million in annual repairs across Canada.

“There are a staggering number of these wipes and they are coming down the pipes all the time,” said Orr. “Many people think that because it says flushable, the government is saying it’s safe to flush. But that’s not the case.”

“Right now, the consumer is trusting that the label is correct,” he said. “But toilets were designed for the three Ps: pee, poop and paper.”


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