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Performance Plumbing Blog

DIY Wet Wipes (Why Flushing Regular Wipes Will Clog Your Drains)


There’s no doubt that flushable wipes have become the preferred bathroom companion in households everywhere. Not only do they clean more thoroughly than toilet paper ever could, but they’re also just as easy to dispose of. However, there’s a darker side to flushable wipe that you might not be aware of.

Although simply flushing something away gives it the illusion of making it disappear forever, flushable wipes simply go out of sight. They can linger around in your pipe system and cause clogs that are expensive to repair, and can even cause expensive damages to your city and state sewage systems.

The Problem with Flushable Wipes

In 2013, the city of London had a massive problem on their hands when they had to remove a greasy, 15-ton mass of congealed grease from the city’s already overburdened sewer system. Disposable wipes were a big part of the mess, which took over three weeks for city workers to clean up. A spokesman told The Guardian newspaper that congealed grease and wet wipes were the main culprits in the “sewer abuse” crime.

The reason flushable wipes are such a problem for household and municipal pipe systems is that they potentially cause blockages.

All wet wipes, be they flushable wipes, baby wipes, or wet wipes used for household cleaning, are made of a material called non-woven cloth. This cloth is created when machines use jets of air to form and press cotton or wood fibers into sheets of material.

Non-woven cloth is very sturdy, which is one reason why consumers prefer flushable wipes over toilet tissue. However, the sturdiness is a double-edged sword. Non-woven cloth can easily block a pipe and prevent anything else from flowing through it. If the problem goes on for long enough, you could end up stuck with drain cleaning bills that you could’ve avoided.

Also in 2013, city of New York environmental specialists estimated that flushable wipes had caused over $18 million in damages to the city’s sewage system. New York’s sewers are already under a heavy burden. In some areas, as little as one tenth of an inch of storm water per hour can cause flash flooding.

The added problem of disposable wipe clogs only makes matters worse.

The problem is so pronounced that is has resulted in lawsuits and pushes for legislation. Cities including New York are putting legal pressure on wipe manufacturers to clearly label their products as flushable or non-flushable. Wipe brands are famously vague in this area, as they aren’t obligated to specify whether or not their product is pipe-friendly. If they do include “Do not flush” instructions on the package, they’re usually hidden and written in tiny print.

If legislation efforts are successful, then they’ll be required to clearly include “Do not flush” warnings on their packages.

Create Homemade Flushable Wipes

There’s no doubt that flushable wipes cause more controversy the more popular they get. However if you find you simply can’t live without them, then try this cost-effective flushable wipes alternative.

They’re safer for drains, and they’re also made from common household items you probably already have.

You’ll need:

  • Paper towels
  • Scissors
  • One Tupperware container
  • Liquid baby wash, body wash, or liquid castile soap
  • Water

To make these wipes:

  • Cut the paper towels in half to make wipe-sized sheets.
  • Place them in the Tupperware container.
  • Combine one part soap or body wash with three parts water.
  • Pour the soapy solution over the paper towels until they’re saturated.
  • Keep the container tightly sealed.

And there you are, simple yet effective flushable wipes that won’t put your pipes in peril. They’re easy to make, inexpensive, and you can even make batches of them to store for later use. You can also make them on a batch-by-batch basis.

Whatever your needs are, these are a great alternative to store-bought flushable wipes.

Are Paper Towels Really Safer?

As noted earlier, disposable wipes can be difficult to deal with since the material doesn’t break down in water. Paper towels don’t break down the way toilet tissue does, but it’s also not as sturdy as a flushable wipe. For this reason, they’re less likely to leave your bathroom in need of toilet repair.

You should use these wipes mindfully, however. Using them in excess could also clog your toilet, so use discretion in order to avoid drain cleaning costs.

Cloth wipes probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but efforts are being made to limit the damage they cause to homes and sewage systems. In the meantime, you can trust that these homemade wipes will save you both money and headaches when it comes to toilet repair expenses.

For fast, professional plumbing services in your St. Louis, MO home, call Performance Plumbing Inc. at (636) 332-8220 to speak to a helpful representative.

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