12 Things You Should Never, Ever Flush Down Your Toilet

Trust us, you'll be saving yourself from unnecessary stress and excess expenditure if you avoid flushing these items.

Your average toilet flush may handle a lot of natural waste—and toilet paper—but it isn't designed to handle anything else. (Speaking of toilet paper, you might be hanging yours the wrong way.) The best way to increase the longevity of your toilets and avoid annoying plumbing issues (plus lots of extra plunger time) is to keep all other waste and trash away from your toilets. Take a look at the worst things to go down a toilet: Maybe it's time for some new rules around your house.

1. Tissues and Paper Towels

tissuesCourtesy Family Handyman
While they may seem a little like toilet paper, they are not. The materials used to make tissues, paper towels and similar products do not dissolve easily and are far more likely to clog your toilet, as well as cause problems for your septic tank or at your water treatment facility. (While paper towels aren't ideal for flushing, they're great in these nine other situations.)

2. Cat Litter

litterCourtesy Family Handyman
Even if your cat litter says that it is "flushable," don't flush it. All cat litter is bad for your toilet. It lingers in your pipes, refuses to dissolve easily and interacts poorly with your sewer system. If the temptation to use the toilet is too much for a family member in charge of cleaning litter, then put a box of disposable plastic bags or similar poop-scooping solutions by the litter box so that it's less of an issue. Here's what your cat would love to tell you.

3. Disposable Diapers

diapersCourtesy Family Handyman
Yes, disposable diapers tend to get covered in waste. Unfortunately, toilets were not made for any kind of disposable diaper: Trying to flush these diapers is an incredibly common cause of serious pipe clogs that need professional attention. Avoid this problem, and provide another option for dealing with diapers. (Baby suffering from diaper rash? Check out these soothing diaper rash remedies.)

Content continues below ad

4. Tampons

TamponsCourtesy Family Handyman
While the toilet is frequently a handy option to get rid of tampons and other feminine hygiene products, it's also a bad idea. Tampons can easily create clogs deep in pipes and should never be flushed. (Did you know there's such a thing as period underwear?)

5. Condoms

condomCourtesy Family Handyman
Condoms are another case where convenience shouldn't trump toilet care. Throw them in the trash instead of flushing: Both condom materials (typically latex) and associated lubricants are bad for your plumbing. (We've all heard of smartphones, but we bet you didn't know there's a smart condom. Yes, really.)

6. Anything Made of Cotton

cottonCourtesy Family Handyman
This includes cotton swabs, cotton balls, Q-tips, and any other associated product. Cotton is excellent at absorbing water, but it doesn't break down easily. The combination is a dire one for your plumbing. (Here are some genius ways to use Q-tips that don't involve flushing them down your toilet.)

7. Any Type of Plastic

band-aidCourtesy Family Handyman
It doesn't matter if it's packaging plastic or a Band-Aid, you can't flush plastics down a toilet. Plastic doesn't dissolve and can cause many problems in your pipes—if they get that far after a toilet flush.

Content continues below ad

8. Dental Floss

flossCourtesy Family Handyman
Yes, even small items like dental floss can cause trouble for your toilet. It's stringy, doesn't dissolve and can bundle around other objects to form larger clogs. (Here are 21 brilliant hacks for dental floss you'll start using all the time.)

9. Food

foodCourtesy Family Handyman
Any type of food is off limits, no matter how soft it may be. The same is true of any leftover pieces, shells, bones or grounds that you want to get rid of. These belong in neither your pipes nor your garbage disposal. Throw them in the trash or compost.

10. Gum

gumCourtesy Family Handyman
Water does nothing to get rid of gum, so it tends to stick around—literally. You don't want it in your pipes! (It should be practically illegal to flush gum down your toilet. After all, it's illegal to even chew gum in this country.)

11. Hair

hairCourtesy Family Handyman
If you're fishing hairballs from your sink or tub, don't dump them in the toilet: That's just moving the clog from one part of your plumbing to another. Throw it away instead. (Here are some of the worst things you're probably doing to your hair.)

Content continues below ad

12. Pills

pillsCourtesy Family Handyman
TV makes flushing pills look dramatic and effective, but it's a horrible idea. If you have pills past expiration or just don't want them in your house, find a local medicine take-back program or grind them up and throw them away on trash day. Otherwise, those potent chemicals will get into sewer systems and even groundwater, where they can do untold damage
View as Slideshow

Become more interesting every week!

The Reader's Digest "Read Up" Newsletter

We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.