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Ten things we shouldn’t be flushing down the toilet

Public Toilets in Glasgow


Ten things we shouldn’t be flushing down the toilet

A new report reveals that households could face up to £3000 in plumbing bills due to everyday toilet flushing habits that unknowingly harm our plumbing systems.

The findings outline the hidden dangers lurking in our daily bathroom routines, specifically, what we should never flush down our toilets.

Ten Items not to flush down the loo

1. Wet Wipes

Often marketed as flushable, the reality is starkly different. Wet wipes, including baby wipes, are a leading cause of sewer blockages. They may persist in our pipes, creating obstructions and environmental hazards. Only wipes certified with the ‘Fine to Flush’ mark meet the rigorous standards for biodegradability. Others, especially those containing antibacterial agents, introduce unwanted chemicals into our ecosystems. Choosing alternatives or disposing of them responsibly can prevent these issues.

2. Bleach

While bleach is a common go-to for toilet cleaning, its harsh chemicals can disrupt aquatic ecosystems and water quality. The high usage rates in the UK underscore the need for safer alternatives. Natural cleaning solutions, like a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, offer effective and eco-friendly alternatives, ensuring your toilet sparkles without compromising the planet’s health.

3. Fish:

Flushing deceased fish down the toilet is not recommended, as it can lead to plumbing blockages, especially with larger species like goldfish. Their size and the potential for decay can cause issues within your home’s plumbing system. To ensure that your plumbing remains clear and functional, a responsible alternative would be burial.

4. Sanitary Products and Nappies

Designed to absorb, these products expand significantly in water, leading to inevitable blockages. Their materials are not designed to break down in water, making them a notorious challenge for sewage systems. Proper disposal in bins ensures that these products do not contribute to plumbing problems or environmental pollution.

5. Cotton Products

Cotton buds and cotton wool, often containing non-biodegradable materials, pose a long-term threat to our environment. With some products taking up to 500 years to decompose, their disposal in toilets exacerbates the issue of waste in our waterways. Bin disposal is a simple yet effective solution to this pervasive problem.

Public toilet, in Camden, London

6. Hair

Seemingly harmless, flushed hair accumulates over time, creating dense blockages that are difficult to clear. This includes both human and pet hair, which, due to its structure, does not dissolve or disintegrate in water. Regular disposal in waste bins can prevent these blockages, safeguarding your pipes and ensuring smooth water flow.

7. Medication

Pharmaceuticals flushed down the toilet introduce potent chemicals into our water systems, with potential harmful effects on aquatic life and water quality. The safe disposal of medication at local pharmacies is a critical step in preventing this pollution, protecting both our health and that of the environment.

8. Cigarette Butts

Containing plastics and toxic chemicals, cigarette butts flushed away can harm aquatic ecosystems and water quality. Their materials are not designed to break down, leading to pollution and potential re-entry of these toxins into our water supply. Proper disposal is essential in mitigating their environmental impact.

9. Cat Litter

Cat litter, especially when flushed, can solidify and cause significant blockages due to its absorbent and clumping properties. Moreover, cat feces may contain harmful pathogens, posing risks to both plumbing and public health. Alternative disposal methods, such as trash disposal, are recommended to avoid these issues.

10. Tissues and Paper Towels

Unlike toilet paper, these products are designed to maintain their integrity when wet, leading to clogs and backups in your plumbing. Their disposal in the toilet overlooks the fundamental differences in material composition, underscoring the need for awareness and correct disposal in waste bins.

Eleanor Potter, Head of Strategic Sourcing at Plumbworld, offered her insights on the findings:

“To tackle the issue head-on, start by integrating simple yet effective practices into your daily routine. For instance, keep a bin next to the toilet for non-flushable items like wipes, cotton buds, and sanitary products. This small step can significantly reduce the temptation to flush them. Moreover, explore eco-friendly cleaning alternatives that are kinder to our water systems, such as vinegar and baking soda, instead of harsh chemicals. Regularly check and maintain your plumbing to catch any issues early, and consider installing hair catchers in showers and sinks to prevent clogs.

“These practical measures can lead to substantial savings on plumbing bills and contribute to the immediate health of your home’s plumbing system.”

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