The stuff of nightmares – what not to flush

The stuff of nightmares – what not to flush

Flushing the wrong thing down the toilet is like playing a risky game of "Plumbing Roulette."

You hope for the best, but the worst will make you wish you never played at all.

Think of a poo fountain spouting from your toilet or oozing into your shower or kitchen sink because so many items were flushed that they caused a backup. Believe us, it happens! Or what about an increase to your wastewater bill because the local treatment plant needed repairs after a blockage of unwanted items caused mechanical issues.

You can protect your pipes, your pocketbook and the pipelines that take waste to a wastewater treatment plant by simply remembering to flush only the three P's: (toilet) paper, pee and poop.

Yes, only those three things. 

That means no flushing of:

•    "Flushable" wipes
•    Baby wipes
•    Cotton products
•    Menstrual products
•    Dental floss
•    Hair
•    Paper towels
•    Tissues
•    Medication
•    Cigarette butts
•    Cat litter
•    Gum
•    Fish
•    Food
•    Bleach

The list goes on and on and on and on. Rather than trying to remember what all you can't flush, just remember what you can. 

How can something like hair or tissues cause such a problem?

Let's review. The process depends on how new your toilet is, but typically when you flush, water moves from the back of your toilet's tank into the bowl and down into the pipes beneath your home. 

Where the wastewater goes depends on whether your plumbing is connected to a public sewage line or not. A septic system is normally used for wastewater treatment in areas where public sewage service is not available. In areas where public sewage treatment is available, homes are usually linked to the public system by pipelines that take waste to a wastewater treatment plant.

The water and its contents (assuming it's not clogged and gets this far) move under your property to the city's sewage lines, through several pump stations, and ultimately to a sewage treatment facility. When it reaches the facility, the water and its contents are separated and cleaned. The water then moves back into the water system, and the solids are usually disposed of in a local landfill.

However, it's when there are unexpected passengers during the process that major problems can occur.

It's easy to assume that wastewater treatment plants can handle anything that gets flushed down the toilet. However, those miscellaneous items often don't break down in the water and instead form a clog, often referred to as a fatberg, which is essentially a rock-like mass of waste matter in a sewer system formed by the combination of flushed non-biodegradable solids. Flushing these types of items down the toilet is not only expensive for homeowners but can also cost you more through increases in city utility fees when the city must pay to clear pipes and wastewater treatment plants of these items.

So, when in doubt, leave it out. Don't be a drain on your drain. Instead be flush with confidence.