The universe gave us toilets, and the Universe gave us trash cans (and seriously, thank heavens for both). Each are to be used responsibly or else the Universe gets mad (clogs and global warming, respectively). That said, I want to explain 10 really, truly, awful things that you may be flushing down the toilet that should never be flushed. In fact, I’ll tell you the correct way to dispose of each item. Keep in mind, flushing anything not created by your body’s digestive system shouldn’t be flushed, since one flush on a regular flow toilet wastes 3 gallons of water. And for all my non-American readers, a gallon is equivalent to 3.78 litres, which mean a flush sucks back close to 12 litres of water. Booooo!
#1 Dental Floss
Dental floss isn’t biodegradable and while one small piece of floss may not seem like much, just think about what happens when a whole bunch of it starts to tangle together. Enter bad visual of plaque-laden strings combining together to create one monster floss glob flowing through your sewer pipes. So, after you floss (and snaps for flossing, by the way), just throw your dental floss in the trash.
#2 Grease, Oil & Fat
Better yet, any food at all. If it’s designed to be eaten by you, let your body process it before it ends up in the toilet. Grease, oil, and fats may go in as a liquid, but sooner or later they will cool and build up on the sides of your pipes, and over time, will make the pipe opening smaller and smaller—exactly like a clogged artery! Eventually, the pipe can get so clogged that it can back up and lead to some very unpleasant messes. That’s why restaurants have grease disposal services; you can’t dump oil down a sink! What I do is keep a zippered bag beside my trash in the kitchen (it’s totally concealed) and pour any oil, grease or fat into the bag. When the bag is full, I throw it away.
I remember a friend’s mom who used to flush leftovers or waste from cooking down the toilet. I think she thought it was a good disposal system that helped manage fridge space and odors. But let me tell you—that bathroom always smelled strange and one day, I hate to say it, I’m sure there’s going to be a major plumbing issue in that house.
Most bandages are made from plastic, which isn’t biodegradable and can lead to clogs. So, it’s best to just put your used bandages in the trash (even ones made from cloth shouldn’t be flushed).
#4 Medication & Drugs
Now, clogs really aren’t the issue when it comes to flushing pills, but contaminating our water supply is a huge issue. Movies never think about this when the bad guy proceeds to dump 3 kilos of something expensive down the toilet. Regardless, it sends the message to viewers that flushing is an acceptable method of disposal, and it is totally not Ok. The water in your toilet is water that ends up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans, and sewage systems don’t remove medicines from the water. So, please, dispose of your pills and other medications through your local pharmacy—they usually have a safe disposal program and all you need to do is drop it off.
#5 Disposable / Flushable Wipes
This is a super contentious issue in my view. While these products are called ‘flushable’ or ‘disposable’, it is generally known that they are far too thick to be flushed—even the ones that say they’re safe for sewers or septic systems. Ok, rant over. If you’re going to use these products, just throw them in the trash. If you want to learn learn more about why you shouldn’t flush disposable wipes go ahead learn about Fatberg. Yes, sewer abuse is real.
#6 Tampons & Pads
There’s a very good reason why every restaurant, mall, or pretty much any public bathroom, has a sign telling you NOT to flush feminine hygiene products down the toilet and provide you with a courtesy bin for safe disposal. You know why? Because they don’t wan to spend the dough extracting your used *ahem*, products from the toilet. So why don’t they flush? Well, they are inherently designed to absorb moisture and expand. The expansion makes them unsafe to pass through pipes and sewers. This also applies to cotton balls and cotton swabs. Just wrap politely and dispose of them in the trash.
#7 Paper Towel
Paper towel doesn’t break down nearly as fast as toilet paper, it’s thicker and larger (hence all the ‘more absorbent than thou’ ads). This stuff will clog your toilet quicker than you can call a plumber, and you can bet your lunch money one flush of this stuff will necessitate a call later on.
I won’t get into any gory details here, but just heed this advice—don’t ever, ever, ever flush condoms down the toilet. Wrap them discreetly (condom and wrapper) and just throw them away in the trash. You can hide it just as well in a few layers of toilet paper.
Just because it’s a part of our body doesn’t mean it can be safely flushed down the toilet. Hair clogs up showers, sinks and toilet plumbing. Like dental floss, it forms giant balls which trap odours and create massive blockages in pipes, plumbing and sewers. In fact, hair clogs more drains then arguably anything else on this list. When cleaning your brushes or combing wet hair, just throw your hair into the garbage or you can even compost it.
#10 Kitty Litter
Kitties have their own toilets, so unless you train your cats on how to use the human toilet you can dispose of their waste (litter and solid) in the trash, compost, or by properly recycling it.
Basically there are three things that can be flushed down the toilet—number ones, number twos, number threes? (vomit) and toilet paper. Don’t risk it because plumber calls are AWKWARD TIMES. And, they usually happen at the most embarrassing and inconvenient times to boot. Trust me, I’m trying to save you from spending money and experiencing life-chaning embarrassment here.