Getting to the bottom of flushable wipes
Published Tuesday, April 28, 2009 8:11PM PDT
They're marketed as an alternative to toilet paper. But flushable wipes might stick you with big plumbing problems.
We've all been told there are certain things you shouldn't be flushing down the toilet and Ken Carrusca with Metro Vancouver's Waste Management Program says it's a long list.
"Anything that might be claimed as flushable or paper towels or liquids or pharmaceuticals, feminine hygiene products anti freeze motor oil, all of those products should be handled separately and shouldn't be dumped down the sanitary sewer or the toilet."
But what about flushable wipes? Manufacturers claim this new product breaks up like toilet paper and are safe for sewers and septic systems.
Charmin's FreshMates say they're septic safe. Cottonelle's Fresh Wipes claim to break up like toilet paper and Scott's Flushable Wipes tout being safe for sewers and septic.
To see how these claims hold up, Consumer Reports put these three wipes, along with plain old toilet paper, through a disintegration test. It simulates what might happen when flushing.
A Consumer Reports top-rated toilet paper breaks down easily in about eight seconds. But with the flushable wipes testers stopped counting after 30 minutes!
"Although they say flushable, our disintegration tests show they don't break down easily, which could pose problems with your plumbing or septic system," explains Consumer Reports' Kim Kleman.
That's something Donna Gunther knows all too well.
"I had a sewage flood, probably about one to two inches. The whole basement was filled with raw sewage," she remembers.
"That's one of the issues of throwing anything down the toilet. If it's on your property in your sewer line... it's you're dime if you want to get that cleaned up," warns Ken Carrusca.
That's expensive. Donna's plumber blamed the wipes. "It said flushable. It says right on there. I only get the flushable and he said, well, they are definitely not," she says.
And flushable wipes cost a lot more than toilet paper.
"If they're a must-have for your family, we recommend bagging them and tossing them out with the trash rather than flushing," suggests Kleman.
And there are other things you shouldn't be flushing down the toilet because of their impact on the environment. Don't forget that old unused medicines -- prescription, non prescription, vitamins and herbal products can be taken back to most pharmacies in B.C. for proper disposal.
That's about 20 tonnes of drugs per year. Twenty tonnes!
Just check with the pharmacist before you bring them in.
And if you are on a septic system you have to take even more care about what you flush down the toilet.