We have discussed—on a few occasions—the pitfalls of using liquid drain cleaners. Despite the claims made on their commercials, they do not instantly clear away plumbing clogs, they can cause damage to pipes, they are harmful to the environment, and they are hazardous to humans. Aside from drain cleaners, there are other products that claim to be safe to flush down our drains that are indeed not safe to flush down our drains.
A recent news story shown on Fox channel 10, in Phoenix, AZ highlighted the issues of flushing flushable wipes down your drains.
The companies selling these wipes claim they will not clog your pipes when flushed, yet in many instances that is exactly what they do. In the aforementioned piece, a plumbing company in Phoenix tells of the variety of items they’ve pulled from people’s drains including an increasing amount of sanitary wipes. Meanwhile, in a USA Today article, the superintendent for the city of Sauk Centre, MN claims that they have had to hire outside contractors to vacuum out a sewer lift station, because of the amount of wipes fouling up the inside of it.
The makers of the so-called flushable wipes are blaming the consumers. They say people are flushing non-flushable wipes down the drain. Most likely there is some truth to that, but no more so than at any time before. There are just some things that are inadvertently going to get flushed that shouldn’t. The distinct rise in occurrences in recent years, however, suggests that flushable wipes aren’t as flushable as advertised.
Flushable Cat Litter
For years, many municipalities forbade people to flush animal excrement in the toilet, because it didn’t break down the way human excrement does. And they especially didn’t want cat litter coming with it. More recently, as people have become more conscience of the environment, there has been a push to flush animal feces along with our own. Environmentalists figure that flushing it, and having it dealt with at a sewer treatment plant, is a better alternative to putting it in plastic bags and depositing it in a landfill somewhere.
To accommodate this growing movement cat litter makers developed what is supposed to be flushable cat litter. Now, however, we’re starting to learn that like the flushable wipes, this new-fangled cat litter is not all it’s cracked up to be either. A Yahoo.com article states that the biggest issue with flushing cat feces down the toilet is a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii. This parasite lives in cat feces and is not broken down at the sewer plant, and is very dangerous to many marine life species, with Sea Otters topping the list.
From a plumber’s perspective there’s a whole other concern. Many plumbers responding to clogged toilets find cat feces and litter completely stopping up the drains. The issues are even more pronounced when flushing to a septic system. Septic systems are not designed to break down cat feces or litter, and if you engage in such a practice, be prepared to have your septic tank pumped out much more frequently.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is simple. Sewer pipes, septic systems, and sewer treatment plants are designed to transport and breakdown human waste and human waste only. Toilet paper manufacturers design toilet paper to breakdown quite easily in the sewer system, and your local sewer plant operator encourages its use.
Cleansing wipes are designed to be discarded with the garbage or in a diaper pail that will have its contents emptied into the garbage. They are not—no matter what the side of the wipe container tells you—supposed to be flushed down the toilet.
As for cat litter, as well as the feline feces contained within it, there are a number of reasons for not flushing them. The feces contains parasites that will not be broken down in treatment plants properly, and will damage marine life; the litter is not septic system friendly and could cost the homeowner a litter box full of money in repairs and cleaning, not to mention that eventually, it will clog the pipes and cause problems for treatment plant operators.
In short: Charmin: good, Tidy Cat: bad, Quilted Northern: good, Kandoo Wipes: bad.