Are Baby Wipes Flushable

It’s not quite so cut and dry. The problem is that rarely are any wipes (including toilet paper) designed to break down quickly enough to not disturb plumbing systems. Sometimes even wipes labeled “flushable” aren’t truly suitable for your plumbing or sewer system. Always check the label of your baby wipes and be mindful of flushing them. It’s always a good idea to dispose of wipes in your trash can rather than the toilet.

Are baby wipes truly flushable? Technically, yes. But the truth is, even wipes labeled “flushable” may not be suitable for your plumbing or sewer system. Learn from the experts at Huggies how to pick the safest wipe and help prevent sewer system issues.

Most baby wipes are labeled “flushable” even if the contents are not designed to easily disintegrate when flushed. They can clog plumbing systems, drain pipes, and even septic tanks. Bottom line: They’re healthier for your septic system and less expensive for you in the long run if you throw them out with the rest of your trash instead of flushing them down the toilet.

Baby wipes, even those labeled “flushable,” don’t break down like other toilet paper. In fact, some estimates say they may take 100 years to decompose. These wipes still routinely clog sewer systems, and that has led many cities to push back against their use or have recommended against flushing them.

Yes, you can flush wipes. Sometimes they even come labeled as “flushable,” though that might not be the case. Some toilet papers are designed to break down more quickly than others and thus work better in your plumbing and sewer systems.

Many people assume that because baby wipes have a “flush it down the toilet” label, they can be flushed. The problem is that many of these wipes are not really designed to “flush” down the toilet in an efficient way. Many mean well by trying to avoid throwing more trash into our landfills, but these wipes can clog pipes and wreak havoc on plumbing.

They’re small. They’re disposable. They’re used to clean up sh** that usually ends up in the toilet. But are baby wipes flushable? Seems like they should be and it would be awfully convenient, but…well…they’re not.

Here’s the dealio: Technically, yes, baby wipes are flushable. The problem is that rarely are any wipes or even facial tissues designed to breakdown quickly enough to not disturb plumbing systems. Sometimes even wipes labeled “flushable” aren’t truly suitable for your plumbing or sewer system. And what it eventually leads to are plumbing and sewage system nightmares known as “ragging” and “fatbergs.” 

Okay, you could totally stop reading now and walk away knowing you shouldn’t flush baby wipes, but don’t you want to know what a fatberg is? You know you do.

Here’s how the beast begins.

Phase one of a flushed wipe’s afterlife is as follows:

After wipes are flushed, they can get caught up with other items that are currently in your sewer line. Things like thick toilet paper, dental floss, paper towels, cotton swabs, and toilet cleaning pads are all commonly flushed items that contribute to backups and clogs. When these types of items combine with flushed baby wipes, it creates a kind of sewage snowball – blockage known as “ragging.” And no ordinary plunger can help once you’ve hit this point. You’re going to need a plumber. And fast. Cuz you probably have poo water flooding your basement. 

Even if you don’t personally suffer through a flood of poo, your flushed wipes are contributing to an even bigger problem. The dreaded “fatberg.”

Phase two of a flushed wipe’s afterlife is ragging to the extreme.

Wipe after wipe makes it through your pipes and your neighbor’s pipes and your neighbor’s neighbor’s pipes and so on and so forth – meeting up and making fast friends in the massive municipal pipelines under your city. They combine with what’s being dumped down kitchen sinks and the beast is born. Welcome to the world, fatbergs – monstrous globs of congealed cooking fat held together with the help of wet wipes. 

One of the first fatbergs ever discovered was back in 2013 in London: it was roughly the size of a bus and weighed 17 tons. Several years later, another formed beneath the London borough of Whitechapel. Weighing in at 130 tons, the same as 11 double-decker buses, it gained a sort of sewer celebrity status and was given the nickname “Fatty McFatberg.”  

And, it’s not just the UK. Australia and the US are seeing a rise in these monsters, too. A couple of notable fatbergs in recent US history include one found in September 2017 under the streets of Baltimore, Maryland that caused the spillage of 1.2 million gallons of sewage into nearby Jones Falls. And a fatberg the size of a blue whale discovered in a suburban Michigan sewer this past fall. 

Fatbergs can cost taxpayers millions of dollars to clean up. And you can’t help but feel atrociously horrible for the poor sewer workers tasked with breaking the beasts up. Ew. Ew. Ew for days.

What’s the moral of the story here? Don’t feed the fatberg. Put wipes (and grease) in the garbage where they belong.

Are Pampers Baby Wipes Flushable

More than once, Nicole Slaughter Graham’s husband Byron, who works as a plumber, warned her not to flush baby wipes down the toilet. But Slaughter Graham couldn’t help but think that her husband was overreacting. The packaging always said “flushable,” so she kept doing it.

One day, while she was washing dishes, Slaughter Graham noticed one side of the kitchen sink wouldn’t drain. When she showed her husband the issue, he immediately knew that it was a clog that would require more than a plunger to fix.

Even if the packaging on baby wipes says ‘flushable’ that doesn’t mean it’s safe to put down a toilet

baby wipes
Packaging on baby wipes may say “flushable,” but that’s misleading, plumbing experts say. 

He climbed up to the roof of their home in St. Petersburg, Florida and used a long cable, called a sewer snake, to clear the blockage. 

“He got everything cleared up,” Slaughter Graham told Insider. “But it was like an hour before he would talk to me.”

Baby wipe manufacturers will often market their products as being safe to flush, but that doesn’t mean the description is actually accurate.

The issue is that baby wipes don’t break down in water the same way toilet paper does. That makes them more likely to get stuck somewhere in the pipes and accumulate until water and waste cannot pass through. This becomes much more than a matter of personal inconvenience in cases where a backup can cause raw sewage to flow back into a home. 

Baby wipes don’t break down and can cause major clogs, where sewage flows back into the home

“Most of these [baby wipe] companies don’t do a lot of research and when they do, it’s usually in a laboratory or a controlled environment,” said Byron Graham, who works as a plumber at a hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. “These [wipes] will flush, but it’s what happens when it gets to your sewer line, that’s the issue.”

Even if the wipes manage to make their way through your household plumbing system, they can wreak havoc on a city’s wastewater treatment plant. 

baby wipes
New York City spends nearly $19 million a year repairing pipes and machinery that are clogged with wipes, 

This is the case in New York City where the Department of Environmental Protection spends nearly $19 million a year repairing pipes and machinery that get overrun with wipes, said Tara Deighan, director of customer engagement for the New York City Environmental Protection Bureau of Public Affairs and Communications. 

At the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, the largest of its kind in New York City, raw sewage flows through trenches below the ground. It then passes through screens designed to catch debris, which originally had branches and trash in mind. But as more and more people have been flushing wipes down their toilets, including makeup wipes, and wet wipes, those items have been increasingly getting stuck in — and clogging up — the screens, Metro reported. 

Baby wipes also cause damage at local treatment plants where they clog up the screens where sewage passes through

“Just because something might pass through your household plumbing,” Deighan said, “doesn’t mean it’ll make it through the sewer system or won’t damage our plants.” 

baby wipes
Baby wipes will get stuck in the screens that sewage passes through, which was designed to catch branches and trash. 

On the residential front, there’s more of a risk in older homes with cast iron pipes, which can rust and flake. Repairing and replacing household plumbing facing such issues can cost homeowners anywhere from $250 to $10,000. 

It doesn’t actually make a difference whether a wipe is branded as “flushable” or not when it comes to potential plumbing issues, said Raul Romero, a collection system superintendent for Johnson County Wastewater in Johnson County, Kansas. 

People should only flush poop, pee, puke, and paper

What matters more is how much water is being used to flush the product, how many wipes are being flushed at one time, and the condition of a home’s pipes. In some homes, especially older ones, flushing wipes will create a clog within weeks or months. In others, the homeowner might never have an issue.

It’s not just baby wipes that need to be kept out of a home’s pipes. The same is true for tampons, paper towels, and grease that’s been put down a kitchen sink, Deighan said. 

“It’s really best to only flush the four P’s: poop, pee, puke, and paper,” Deighan said. “Those are the only things that break down before they hit the wastewater treatment plants.”

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