Are Flushable Wipes Really Flushable?

Are flushable wipes really flushable? This question is a controversial debate topic that has led to lawsuits and federal court cases. On one side of the issue are septic companies, homeowners, plumbers, water treatment plants, environmental agencies, and local and state governments. The opposing side consists of large companies like Kimberly-Clark and Proctor & Gamble.

Flushable Wipes Facts

Are Flushable Wipes Really Flushable?In the United States and United Kingdom, a whopping 80 percent of the homes have disposable wet wipes in the bathrooms. Consumers explain that they are looking for a better level of hygiene and do not find that toilet paper enough. Unfortunately, disposable wipes are the culprit for the rise in the blockage in many sewage systems and increase in septic tank repair.

London’s largest sewerage solutions company, Thames Water, said flushable wipes were the main cause of London’s enormous fatberg in 2013. A 15-ton glob of grease and other non-biodegradable materials clogged London’s sewer system and took over three weeks to dismantle and dispose. The company adds that fat and wet wipes are the leading cause of sewer problems in London and most of the England cities.

The Future of Flushable Wipes to 2023 report by Smithers shares, “In 2018, flushable wipes accounted for $2.1 billion in sales, and consume 1.9 billion square meters or 98,900 tons of nonwovens. This is up from $1.2 billion, and 1.1 billion square meters or 57,200 tons in 2013. Projections are for sales of $3.5 billion, 3.6 billion square meters or 182,900 tons by 2023.”

Another study conducted by Ryerson University in Ontario, tested 101 flushable wipes and none of them passed a flushability test. All of the wipes failed to fall apart or dissolve safely in tests. Concluding that even if the cleaning, diaper, or bathroom wipes are labeled “flushable” or “septic safe”, they are not!

City officials from the outskirts of Washington, D.C. told the Washington Post that flushable wipes may be responsible for a 35 percent increase in broken pumps and clogged sewer lines they’ve seen over the last few years. In addition, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said that hundreds of man hours have been wasted removing wipes and repairing broken equipment. Last year, the commission reportedly spent $1 million installing a special grinding system, which is meant to shred wipes and other non-flushable debris before they could reach sewer pumps.


Flushable Wipes Causing Septic Issues

Any septic system company will tell you that flushable wipes wreak havoc on septic systems. One of the most efficient ways to clog a septic pipe and spend unnecessary money on plumbers and septic companies is by flushing “flushable” wipes. The wipes can clog your system, leading to a backup, which can flood your house with sewage.

Wipes that are being marketed as “flushable” are in fact choking sewer lines and septic tanks and causing terrible problems for homeowners. The packaging material on these wipes may make the claim that they are “flushable” or “safe for sewer or septic,” but experience is proving that these claims are misleading. Even after 24 hours, the wipes often remain completely intact.

The issues that make wet wipes such a hazard for a sewage system will almost certainly be a problem for your septic tank. While toilet paper will mostly break down inside a septic tank and healthy bacteria can also feed off some of the organic material they are made with (cellulose in the paper fibers), wet wipes often contain a mix of fibers including cotton and rayon as well as plastic resins like polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene. This adds to the solid sludge layer at the bottom of the tank and since it really doesn’t dissolve it will need to be pumped out which is the biggest recurring expense of maintaining a septic system.

Septic tank service companies, such as Young Excavating, LLC., are in the field fixing septic tank issues on a daily basis and they can provide expert advice for preventing septic system issues.

One of the basic rules of keeping a healthy septic tank avoids the use of harsh chemicals (like solvents, bleach, drain cleaners, and Lysol) and use septic safe toilet cleaner and septic safe laundry detergents.  This, along with limiting the things you throw in the toilet (cotton balls, dental floss, hair, and wipes) will help maintain a healthy septic system.

The best advice would be if you’re unsure about if something is flushable… throw it in the trash and definitely do not flush flushable wipes.