Everyone but a 2-year-old knows not to flush Barbie dolls and toy cars down the toilet. But, surprisingly, not everyone knows what seemingly harmless items also don't belong in the commode.
It’s time to take responsibility for using toilets as originally intended, says Mike Agugliaro, co-owner of Gold Medal Service. Doing so has implications far beyond a clogged toilet. Below are 15 things Agugliaro says you should never flush down your toilet.
1. Flushable baby wipes and sani-wipes: No matter what’s on the label, “flushable” wipes do not disintegrate in water as quickly as toilet tissue does. Test it for yourself. Put a flushable wipe and a piece of toilet paper in water for an hour. You’ll see that the toilet paper quickly breaks apart while the wipe stays intact. That means it can lodge in sewer pipes and clog the toilet.
2. Dental floss: Waxed or unwaxed, dental floss becomes a veritable seine net catching all sorts of debris, clogging toilets and sewer pipes. When septic systems are involved, dental floss winds around moving parts and burns out motors.
3. Kitty litter: Some manufacturers say their kitty litter is flushable, but Agugliaro does not recommend flushing it down the toilet. “Today’s water-saving toilets use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush. That’s not enough water to keep the kitty litter moving,” he explains. Plus, it adds more “stuff” that water purification plants need to remove.
4. Dried poop from a litter box: Toilets are designed for water-soluble waste. When cat poop sits in litter, it gets dehydrated and becomes hard as a rock. These “petrified poops” can get lodged in the labyrinth of pipes exiting the toilet and cause a clog. So, from now on, bag up your litter — poop and all — and dispose of it in the garbage.
5. Hair: Hair will never dissolve in water. In fact, it floats and easily gets caught on its way out the toilet, snagging whatever comes its way. So, don’t clean a brush and toss the hair in the commode. And if you wear hair weaves and one falls in the toilet, fish that lock out or you could face a big repair bill.
6. Condoms: Condoms will clog toilets and septic tanks. Toss them in the wastebasket. Period.
7. Bleach: Bleach is a very harsh chemical that does not belong in sewerage lines or septic systems. “The toilet bowl doesn’t need to be cleaned with bleach or an industrial cleaner. It has a glazed finish, so just swish it with a toilet brush to clean it,” says Agugliaro. “If you want to use something stronger, try white distilled vinegar. Toilet bowl stains are caused by the minerals in the water and not from human waste,” he adds.
8. Cigarette butts: Cigarette butts belong in the trash, not the toilet. They can clog the toilet and wreak havoc with a septic tank — especially filtered or plastic-tipped smokes.
9. Diapers/sanitary napkins/paper towels: Think about it. These are made to absorb water, not break apart in it. Dispose of all of these items in the trash.
10. Chewing gum: Chewing gum never dissolves in water and, worse yet, it can adhere to other flushables to form a clog. Wrap it in paper and toss it in the trash.
11. Cotton balls/swabs: These items are not going to dissolve in water. Instead, they’ll clog your toilet, especially swabs, which can easily lodge in pipes and create a logjam.
12. Food: Some may argue that food is biodegradable, and it is. But it can lodge in plumbing and create a stubborn clog while it’s decomposing. Never flush it down the toilet.
13. Grease: It might be liquid when it enters the pipes, but as soon as grease cools it solidifies and creates one powerful clog. It takes a professional to remove this kind of blockage.
14. Fish/snakes/little critters: Flushing live animals down the toilet is not only inhumane, it is stupid. Find a home for unwanted pets instead. About those dead animals: there’s no way they’re going to disintegrate in the toilet water and there’s a good chance they’ll create a clog. Give them a decent “burial” in the garbage can or yard.
15. Medication/Illegal drugs: Toilet water cannot destroy the active ingredients in medicines or illegal drugs. What you toss in the commode has to be extracted from the water in order to recycle it safely. That means your local water treatment facility has to invest in the technology and equipment to do this.
To get rid of old medicines, bring them to DEA-sponsored collection sites. The exception to this would those drugs that the FDA placed on their list of medications. These drugs can be lethal to people and pets and therefore should be flushed down the toilet.
Bottom line: The toilet was invented to dispose of human waste. Using it for any other purpose can not only damage your plumbing, it can also pollute the community’s water supply. Flush smart.