Are Flushable Wipes Good or Bad For Sewer System?

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Flushable wipes: a convenience or a curse? If you are one of the many Australians who use flushable wipes for personal hygiene, you may want to think twice before you flush them down the toilet. Flushable wipes are marketed as a convenient and comfortable alternative to toilet paper, but they are causing serious problems for our drainage system and the environment.

Unlike toilet paper, which disintegrates quickly in water, flushable wipes are made of synthetic materials that do not break down easily. When flushed, they can clog up pipes, pumps and screens in the sewerage system, creating blockages and overflows that can damage infrastructure and pollute waterways. According to Sydney Water, up to 75% of blockages involve wipes, and they spend upwards of $8 million removing 500 tonnes of wet wipes every year.

What are Flushable Wipes?

Flushable wipes are pre-moistened wipes used for personal hygiene. While they are designed to be flushed down the toilet, they can still contribute to protecting your plumbing issues and should be used sparingly.

Flushable wipes contribute to fatberg formation, congealed masses of fats, grease, and insoluble material in sewer systems. These fatbergs pose risks to public health and wastewater networks. Legal action against flushable wipe manufacturers for misleading claims has seen mixed outcomes in court.

The term “flushable” is not regulated by any third party, and there is no clear definition of what it means. Consumer advocacy group CHOICE conducted a survey in 2019 and found that 67% of Australians expected flushable wipes to disintegrate just like toilet paper, which is not the case. CHOICE also tested several brands of flushable wipes and found that none of them passed the water industry’s disintegration test.

What Problems Flushable Wipes Cause to Sewer Systems?

  • Clog pipes, pumps and screens in residential and municipal wastewater treatment systems
  • Create fatbergs, large masses of wipes and other debris that block sewer lines
  • Damage sewage equipment and cause overflows, backups and sinkholes
  • Increase maintenance and repair costs for homeowners and utilities
  • Harm the environment by polluting waterways and affecting wildlife

 

Flushable wipes: a convenience or a curse?
Consumer group Choice says Kleenex needs to take greater responsibility for blocking sewers

What Can You Do to Avoid Flushing Trouble?

The best advice is to stick to the “three Ps”: pee, poo and paper. Only flush toilet paper down the toilet and dispose of any other products in the bin. If you really need to use flushable wipes, look for products that have a new logo indicating that they meet a new Australian standard for flushability that was rolled out in 2022. This standard was developed by Urban Utilities and Standards Australia after rigorous testing in a replica sewer.

What to Do if You Have a Blockage Caused by Flushable Wipes?

If you suspect that you have a blocked drain caused by flushable wipes or other materials, do not try to fix it yourself. You may end up causing more damage or injuring yourself. Instead, call a professional plumber– Get Unblocked who can clear your drain safely and efficiently. We are a reliable and affordable plumbing service that operates in Sydney and surrounding areas. We can handle any type of drain blockage, from sinks and toilets to stormwater drains and sewers.

Our Professionals use advanced equipment such as CCTV cameras and high-pressure water jets to locate and remove blockages without digging or damaging your pipes. We also offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee and a free quote for their services. To get your drain unblocked today, call us at 1300 311 511.

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