Don't flush anything other than toilet paper!
Published: March 19, 2020 Last Updated: October 12, 2020
With the recent panic buying caused shortage of toilet paper across the country, many residents are having to get creative with a replacement while stocks are replenished. The issue with this is that toilets themselves and the plumbing systems that support the removal of wastewater from your home have not changed. Which means that flushing anything other than toilet paper down the toilet, whether you are connected to the mains sewage system, have a septic tank, or a home wastewater treatment plant, would not be a good idea.
The UK’s sewage system is already at risk of complete shutdown due to the myriad of toilet paper substitutes used by residents across the country. Let's not follow their lead.
Let’s look at just a few of the toilet paper alternatives people are using:
Some wet wipes are actually labelled ‘flushable’ which can confuse customers, and in reality, they do flush, quite easily. But unfortunately, that’s all they do. They don’t break down in the wastewater system and have been shown to cause millions of dollars of damage and clearing costs for homeowners, councils, and water authorities across the world.
Despite the labelling wet wipes of any kind, bathroom wipes, baby wipes, cleaning wipes, makeup removing wipes etc, are not safe to flush down your toilet. If you like to use them please dispose of them in a rubbish bin.
Kitchen towel or paper towel is designed specifically to absorb liquids without falling apart which makes it the exact opposite of what needs to happen to toilet paper in the sewage system. They even use words like ‘Strong’ and ‘Tough’ in their advertising campaigns. Do not flush.
Paper napkins or tissues
Paper napkins and tissues are similar to paper towel in their design. Paper napkins need to be used to wipe sticky fingers or sauce from your chin and hold together. Tissues have the important job of keeping your runny nose in check without blowing out at the first sneeze. These products are not suited to being flushed into your wastewater treatment system or the council sewer.
Newspaper, old books, magazines
Recently the NT News created an 8 page lift out in one of their editions complete with cut-out lines to be used in a toilet paper emergency. And you could definitely use newspaper or paper from books or magazines instead of TP however you can’t flush it. It won’t disintegrate like toilet paper and will probably just block your sewer pipes.
There is a range of bidet products on the market, from a full bidet, an adapted toilet seat fitted with a spout attachment, to a handheld hose fitted next to the toilet. The toilet paper shortage has led to a steep surge in demand for bidets and they do present a practical solution.
However, if your home has a septic system or a home sewage treatment plant consideration needs to be given to not overloading your system with too much water. An increased volume of water can disrupt the balance of treatment leading to issues and potential breakdowns.
Ok, to recap.
Q. Can you flush wet wipes?
A. No. Used wet wipes must be thrown in the rubbish bin, not flushed down the toilet. Even the ones labelled 'flushable'.
Q. Can you flush paper towels or paper kitchen towel?
A. No. If you need to use paper towel because you have run out of toilet paper dispose of it in a rubbish bin rather than in the loo.
Q. Can you flush paper napkins or tissues?
A. No. We understand that desperate times need desperate measures but if you need to use paper napkins or tissues instead of toilet paper, throw them in the bin not in the dunny.
Q. Can you flush newspaper or paper?
A. No. Not unless you really want to catch up with your plumber or septic specialist because shortly after you start flushing newspaper or paper you’ll need to call them to unblock the sewage drains of your home. Again, if you have to use them, throw them in the bin.
Q. Should I install a bidet to replace toilet paper use?
A. Great idea but speak to your home wastewater treatment or septic system specialist for advice on how the increased water volume will affect your home sewage treatment system before installing a bidet.
Although, you can use all of the above instead of toilet paper (and probably many other things we haven’t even considered), please don’t flush them down the toilet.
We are all hoping the world will return to it’s stocked up toilet paper normality very soon but in the meantime be cautious with what you flush to protect the council sewer in your area or your own septic or sewage system. And if you do run into problems the Express Wastewater team is on hand to help 1300 722 517.
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