Don’t Flush “Flushables”!

“You’re kidding, right?”

I know.

I spend all the live-long day pestering my toddler to do JUST that, but I’m telling you, when it comes to the so-called “Flushable Liners” and “Flushable Wipes”…

DON’T FLUSH!

Here to explain the big WHY to us, is resident plumbing and city resources expert, our very own co-owner of Fluff & Familia, David Garcia.

383198_10100314563045100_1014682838_nDavid in a tunnel bore for a pipe siphon; one of the initial stages of creating a new sewer line. 

Why should we listen to you, David?

I am a licensed Professional Engineer with 17 years experience in the wastewater collection system industry (a.k.a. sewer systems). I’ve worked in pipeline/manhole inspection, do collection system analysis, and also am involved in pipeline design. Basically, if it’s been flushed, I’ve probably seen it.

Flushable liners- what are they made out of and why can’t we flush them?

So called “flushable” liners and wipes come in many materials ranging from natural fiber, synthetic fiber, and even plastic fibers. They should never be flushed because they are not designed to break down in agitated water. These liners remain solid throughout the sewer collection process and must be cleaned out periodically from the collection system.

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What happens when they are flushed?

When a wipe is flushed, it leaves your toilet and travels through your sewer lateral (the pipeline that attaches your home to the main sewer line) to the main sanitary sewer operated by your municipality. From there, it flows through miles and miles of pipes and pumps until it reaches the wastewater treatment plant, where it has to be physically removed by a screen or worker. Even though the treatment plant may have a grinder to chop items into smaller bits, the liners usually never even make it to the plant and will get snagged on something along the way like roots or a pump. The removal process takes time and the wipe buildup can damage expensive equipment. This adds significant cost to your sewer bill. The problem is even worse in septic tanks because it’s not cleaned regularly like it is as a wastewater treatment plant. Additionally, because a home septic system doesn’t contain a grinder like a municipal wastewater treatment, this can cause unnecessary and costly septic bills to clean it and reset the system due to clogging.

Why would it say “Flushable” on the package if I’m not supposed to, in fact, flush it?

Manufactures use the term “Flushable” because they want to market the product as convenient and easy to use. There is no industry regulation concerning the use of this term, so they are free to apply it to any product they wish, regardless of the validity of the claim. “Flushable” products are causing majorly expensive problems all over the place, especially in highly populated areas like New York City.

Does that mean other products like “flushable wipes” aren’t supposed to be flushed either?

Nope. They should also never be flushed. Neither should things like tissues, paper towels, floss, or other trash. Remember the motto “Toilets are not trashcans,” and only flush the three P’s: pee, poop, and (toilet) paper. For an excellent demonstration showing how flushable wipes DO NOT break down in agitated water, check out NoMoreWipes.com.

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As cloth diaper advocates, we often tout that “poop belongs in the toilet not the trash.” But if we are putting poopy wipes and liners in the trash, doesn’t that negate that point?

Not really since the amount of poop on a wipe is negligible to the main solids that end up being flushed away for treatment.

Is there a better alternative? If so, what should I use instead?

One alternative is to use woven liners which are designed like toilet paper. These do break down in the sewer system, since they are basically just heavy duty toilet paper. Another would be to use a re-usable cloth liner that allows for soak through of liquids but can catch the poop before it touches the diaper, making it easier to spray off into the toilet before tossing the liner to be washed with your diapers.

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Also, if you use cloth wipes, you get even better wiping power than with disposable or so-called “flushable” wipes. You also end up using less cloth wipes than disposable wipes because they have better wiping power. Simply spray those wipes off into the toilet if using them to clean off poop, and toss the wipes in your pail or wetbag to wash with your dirty diapers.

Why do you carry “flushable” diaper liners in your store? Are they good for anything?

We carry these because they truly do offer convenience.  However, we advocate that they be used properly (shake solids into the toilet and toss in the trash) to minimize the impact on wastewater collection systems. We also carry reusable fleece liners that are also excellent for convenience and even more helpful in conserving. To shop for diaper liners, both disposable and reusable ones, check out our selection at Fluff & Familia here!

We do all we can to preserve this beautiful earth we live on, and part of that is educating our customers on how to best use the products we sell. We hope you’ve learned something new today about “flushable” products and will spread the word to not flush anything that will not break down properly!

If you haven’t checked out our awesome Earth Day Sales coming up this weekend, be sure to do so!

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