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Top 5 things to not flush down a toilet

Make no mistake, a toilet is a powerful appliance. Using, on average, 1.3 – 3.6 gallons of water per flush, and seeing constant daily use, it becomes very tempting to send objects not originally intended for disposal in a toilet down that watery vortex. Help avoid problems with some basic toilet maintenance. After all, with one flush, most things become out of sight, out of mind.

However, this could easily backfire, in a very literal way, and what you send down a toilet could lead to costly emergency toilet maintenance and pipe repairs. Worse yet, items you flush down today could end up contributing to massive blockages in city sewers — known as “fatbergs” —  causing sewage overflows or even blocking off water flow for multiple city blocks. For instance, one such mass was found in London’s sewers in 2017, that weighed as much as 19 African elephants and took two months, at £1 million a day, to completely clear!

With that in mind, take a look the 5 most common items to never flush down a toilet:

  1. Flushable Wipes/Baby Wipes

While they’ve long been a regular staple for babies and younger children, in the last few years, moistened sanitary wipes have gone mainstream for adult use in the bathroom as well. Despite what the name — and usually, the prominent wording on the packaging — would have you believe, common sanitary wipes labeled as “flushable” are actually a major clog hazard for your pipes. This is because the wipes do not break down quickly — they do disintegrate over time, but not nearly at the same rate as toilet tissue. This means the wipes are able to bunch up within pipes, and become the starting point to collect additional debris to form a blockage.

  1. Dental Floss/Hair

A common theme amongst this list is the ability for items to degrade — or rather, their lack thereof. Take, for example, both dental floss and hair. Both of these items seem innocuous enough, as they are rather thin and unobtrusive, but unfortunately, neither of these items break down quickly within the water. They also both have relatively high tensile strength for their size, so while they work their way through pipes and drains, both hair and floss have a tendency to act as nets, ensnaring other items into knots and clumps until a larger mass forms, stopping up pipes, and causing real trouble. Because of this, it’s best to just toss your floss and loose hair into the trash, to avoid any potential issues after flushing.

  1. Grease/Food

Grease, oils, and food products should never make their way down your toilet drain, or any of your drains in general. Food products are unable to break down fast enough before they begin piling into clogs that lead to toilet maintenance, and grease and oil are not water soluble, meaning they will never dissolve into the water. Additionally, in colder temperatures, grease and oils will solidify at higher freezing points than water. So, while they flush down as liquids, those fatty substances will become solids in the pipes.

  1. Sanitary Products/Diapers/Cotton Balls/Paper Towels

Much like flushable wipes, it may seem like these products would be designed to be flushed down the toilet. However, the fundamental property all these items have in common — due to the cotton in their design — is absorbency. As such, as these items make their way past the flushing vortex, they begin taking on more and more water, ballooning up to many times their original size, and lodging themselves deep within pipes. The best course of action for an absorbent sanitary product is to throw it in the trash, which is a handy reason to have a dedicated bathroom trash can.

  1. Animals

An age-old trope in coming-of-age tales is the watery send-off of the dearly departed family fish, teaching youngsters the delicate balance of life and death. Of course, there is nothing delicate about what any animal will due to inner pipe works when sent to the great beyond of the porcelain throne. While it makes for a fitting final resting place in fiction, in reality, pets are best laid to rest in the backyard, or really, anywhere else other than down the toilet. It goes without saying that they will not break down so easily, and will inevitably lead to a very costly service, leaving you mourning the death of a toilet over the death of a fuzzy family companion.

In general, the only items that should make their way down a toilet are toilet tissue and correctly graded toilet cleaning products. That said, should you find yourself in a situation where something unwelcome has made its way into your toilet or pipes and is causing issues, the professionals at Duane Blanton Plumbing, Sewer & Drainage are ready to jump in and set your toilet straight. Reach out over the phone at (815) 781-2567, or schedule an appointment online at the first sign of toilet trouble!

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