13 Things You Should Never Flush Down Your Toilet
Trust us, you'll be saving yourself from unnecessary stress and excess expenditure if you avoid flushing these items.
Flushing faux pas
Your average toilet flush may handle a lot of natural waste—and toilet paper—but it isn’t designed to handle anything else. 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. And by the way, here are the toilet paper alternatives you can’t flush down your toilet (and a couple you can).
Tissues and paper towels
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. Do you know the correct way to hang your toilet paper?
After you wipe down a surface with disinfecting wipes, avoid flushing it down the toilet. Even if it reads “flushable,” don’t do it. According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, “Wet wipes—yes, even the ones that say ‘flushable,’ condoms, feminine products, paper towels (and all the other stuff) that you flush down your toilet enters our sewer system and mixes with the grease that you have poured down your sink. This mix of personal hygiene products and grease can create ‘fatbergs’ in our sewers.”
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.
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.
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. Do you know what people used before toilet paper existed?
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.
Any type of plastic
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. Here are our thoughts on why it might be time to break up with toilet paper.
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.
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. Find out the things you should never put down the garbage disposal.
Water does nothing to get rid of gum, so it tends to stick around—literally. You don’t want that in your pipes! If something does get clogged, check out these ways to unclog a toilet without a plunger.
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. And check out these things you actually shouldn’t throw away.
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. And don’t even think about putting them down the sink instead. Now that your toilet is safe, learn about the 12 things you should never, ever pour down the drain.
- New York City Department of Environmental Department: “Trash It. Don’t Flush It.”
- City of Portland Environmental Services: “Don’t Flush This”
- FDA: “Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know”