The only things you should flush in a toilet are the main things you expect to go in one. Human waste and toilet paper are all safe to flush, of course. Really, these are the only things that are one-hundred percent safe to go down the drain.
But, maybe you have questions. There are some common items people flush down the drain all the time – are those safe to flush, too? The answer is probably no. To make it clear, here's a list of things that you absolutely should not pour down the drain:
- Baby wipes
- Moist towelettes
- Paper towels
- Any "flushable" wipes
As it turns out, you can't dump any old paper product down the drain. Paper is weakened and dissolved by water, but not quickly or completely enough to pose no damage to your sewer system. This can be even more confusing given that some paper products market themselves as "safe to flush." This is never true, however, and several companies that make this claim are being sued for damages to city sewer systems.
You also cannot flush:
- Cat litter
It's easy to see why these should be safe to flush since they're all bodily waste products. Where do bio hazards go if not in the toilet? But a lot of these products are made from heavy fibers and plastics, which will not break down at all in the pipes. The last, cat litter, is made from rock materials such as gravel, and just one instance can cause very serious damage as it scrapes inside the pipe.
- Some other miscellaneous non-flushables are:
Pills and medications – you might think this is a good and easy way to get rid of old pills. Better down the drain than in the hands of someone who might misuse them, right? And the pills will dissolve in the water like they do in your stomach.
Except, the chemicals medications release when they dissolve often can't be filtered out by water purification systems. So while it might not cause a back-up, it can create dangerous and untreatable water, which gets released back in the environment to make animals or other people sick.
If you have old meds you need to get rid of, look up alternatives online. Companies willing to find unneeded meds are just a google search away.
For the same reasons as with medication, flushing cigarettes or cigarette butts is never a good idea. They also put dangerous chemicals in the water, and run an even higher risk of clogging up the pipes.
- Fats and oils
Everyone's done it, but it's actually very harmful to your pipes to flush cooking materials down the toilet or the drain. "Liquids" such as butter, bacon grease, or other fats and oils can cool and solidify inside of your pipes, causing solid blockages that ruin the system. It's best to avoid it entirely, and just throw them in the trash.
It's not much, but writing out everything you shouldn't flush would make for a long list. Sewage pipes are small, and materials such as toilet paper are designed to disintegrate quickly and easily in them. Everything else runs the risk of blocking the pipes, which can cause major damage to your own property, or even a blockage in the city's system, effecting other homes and people. So when thinking on what can and can't be flushed, use your common sense, and stick to the main three.