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Can you flush wipes down the toilet? How the COVID-19 uptick of those “flushable” products impacts your watershed
Water

Can you flush wipes down the toilet? How the COVID-19 uptick of those “flushable” products impacts your watershed

Water departments around the country are reminding the public that #wipesclogpipes.

Another unintended consequence of the coronavirus contagion: clogged pipes.

Pandemic-driven shopping left store shelves empty in Philadelphia as locals stocked up on toilet paper, “flushable” and baby wipes, paper towels, tissues, cleaning products and more.

So can you flush “flushable” wipes?

Each of those products can be put to use in the bathroom, but only toilet paper should be flushed, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water.

All those non-TP items may leave the bowl – but just like that time your kid flushed her Avengers action figure – they’ll get stuck somewhere along the way, clogging your toilet or causing a sewer-line block.

If it’s not toilet paper, toss it in the trash.

And don’t let the “flushable” label on single-use wipes fool you.

A 2019 study from Ryerson University in Canada tested 101 often-flushed products, including 23 that had the “flushable” marking, and found that not one was suitable for sewer systems.

If keeping your quarantine clog-free isn’t enough to convince you, Ryerson researchers also point out that flushing wipes can be harmful to the environment.

When system clogs occur, overflows – the release of untreated or partially treated sewage into the Delaware River Basin – can happen.

Not only do wipes up the chance of clogs, they also contain synthetic fibers (think: plastic) – which can harm wildlife and put more strain on the treatment process that makes water drinkable.

So remember, toilets are not trash cans.


Photo by Isaac Quesada on Unsplash

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Alison Burdo
Alison Burdo is a project manager with Green Philly, focusing on the development and execution of its coverage of the Delaware Watershed. A Philadelphia-based journalist for the past seven years, Burdo most recently supported the launch of the Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting. Her experience includes reporting exclusive, enterprise stories on the 2015 papal visit and the 2016 Democratic National Convention; leading an investigation into the epidemic of unsolved missing persons cases; and regularly breaking news related to Philadelphia's precedent-setting soda tax. View all posts by Alison Burdo

1 thought on “Can you flush wipes down the toilet? How the COVID-19 uptick of those “flushable” products impacts your watershed

  1. People need to learn to wash up with a hand cloth, soap and hot water. No need for any paper products at all. We may be using more water in washing ourselves and the laundering, but no cost in clogged up pipes!

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