We all use the toilet several times a day. However, the spread of COVID-19 has brought upon us a new problem: bare toilet paper shelves. With toilet paper gone missing, many people had to resort to… alternative methods when it comes to personal hygiene. This leads to the question: Can you flush paper towels, baby wipes, and other similar items down the drain?
Flushing anything down the toilet seems tempting, sure. If it can go down the toilet, this means problem solved, right?
Wrong. Not only can flushing things that you shouldn’t flush clog your toilet, but it can also become an environmental hazard.
Not to mention the embarrassment you’ll face when the plumber discovers the cause of the clog!
So can you flush paper towels?
The short answer is no, but we’ll mention some other things that can serve as a toilet paper alternative, and can you flush them as well.
What Happens If You Flush Paper Towels?
Unlike toilet paper, paper towels won’t fall apart in the water. Sure, they will absorb moisture, but they’ll remain in one piece and only get bigger.
If you flush them, they will go down the drain at first. Quickly, though, they’ll get stuck as their surface became bigger.
This may go unnoticed for a while, and a paper towel may eventually even go down all the way. However, sooner or later, if you flush paper towels, you’ll have a clog at hand.
Not only that, but a bad clog can lead to a nasty mess, bad smell and a high plumbing bill.
What to Do If You Flush Paper Towels?
If you didn’t know can you flush paper towels or not and have made that mistake, don’t worry. You might end up with a clog, but luckily, you can take a few steps to fix everything. Here are some of the common ways to unclog a toiled after flushing paper towels.
- Use a Plunger
The first thing everyone should do is to use a plunger to try to unclog the toilet. With the plunger, you push and pull air through the pipe, creating pressure. This alone can get rid of most of the clogs.
- Use an Auger
Sometimes, a plunger just isn’t enough. On rare occasions, the clog is too persistent, so you’ll have to use more potent tools. If this happens, a plumbing auger may be the way to go.
You take one end of an auger and push it down the toilet. With the other hand, crank the opposite end. This creates physical pressure that can get rid of any stuck materials.
A plumbing auger isn’t as a standard member of household items as a plunger. However, it can prove to be very useful. Sure, it’s more expensive than a plunger, but it can prove to be worth every cent.
This is especially true if you commonly have clogs in your house.
- Use drain cleaning kit.
It may be used for various types of clogs including a clogged toilet with paper towels.
Call a Plumber
If these methods won’t work, the only option you have left is to contact a professional plumber. A good plumber has all the necessary tools to get rid of even the most severe clogs.
Don’t be surprised if your whole toilet bowl needs to be removed! Paper towels can create so bad clogs that they are extremely hard to fix.
Calling a plumber can end up being rather expensive, especially if your house has a septic system. This is one of the main reasons you wouldn’t want to flush paper towels.
However, if the answer to “Can you flush paper towels” is “No,” how do you dispose of them?
Flushing paper towels is a bad idea. We’ve figured that part out. So then, what are the options when it comes to their disposal?
First and the most obvious option is to simply throw them away. Paper towels can’t be reused, so the logical thing is to throw them in a trash bin.
A better option is to compost them. Not everyone has a compost in their house, though, which is why home recycling is rare.
Paper towels are rich in carbon, which is why they are considered brown material. This makes them useful for your yard and garden.
Keep in mind that sometimes recycling a paper towel simply doesn’t make any sense. If you used it to clean a chemical spill, composting would do more harm than good.
Also, before doing so, make sure your paper towels don’t contain any harmful chemicals or ingredients. Some paper towels have a special coating, which makes them unrecyclable.
You may have no other option but to use a paper towel instead of toilet paper. This is why it’s always a good idea to have a small trash can inside your bathroom.
This way, you can dispose of paper towels instantly, without flushing them.
How to Prolong the Life Span of Your Paper Towels?
It’s always sad to throw away something that you could’ve had more use from. This is why there are several ways you can prolong the life span of your paper towels. Below are some of them.
- Reuse Them
Some brands produce durable paper towels that can be reused. Even if this may sound disgusting, there are a few tips for doing so.
First off, let’s make this clear. If you’ve cleaned any chemicals or body parts, you don’t want to reuse that paper towel. However, if you wipe up something that isn’t too dirty, such as water, you can let your paper towel dry.
Once this is completed, you may simply reuse that towel once again. Most durable paper towels allow you to use them two to three times before having to throw them away. Not only is reusing paper towels environment-friendly, but it can save you a lot of money, as well.
- Use Smaller Pieces
Typically, paper towels are cut in square sheets that are quite large. Some brands offer half sheets, which may be a better option.
These sheets are half the regular one, which means you can use one packaging for longer. In the end, you most likely aren’t needing a full-size sheet anyway.
Most of the things you want to clean are small enough for these half sheets.
If you can’t find these special packaging, you can always rip a sheet into smaller pieces. For example, if you want to wipe a small spill, there is no need to use an entire section. Simply rip off a bit and save the rest for some other time.
What Other Things You Cannot Flush?
Desperate times call for drastic measures. If you’re out of toilet paper, you are probably wondering what other things are safe to flush. Here are a few things you really shouldn’t flush, ever.
- Baby Wipes
Baby wipes are another item that should never be flushed. Even those wipes that state they are flushable can clog the toilet, creating chaos. No baby wipes can disintegrate the same way as toilet paper. This is why you should always throw them away in a bin.
- Pads and Cotton Balls
Pads, cotton balls, and tips also don’t disintegrate in the water. This is why you should always throw them away instead of flushing them. They can clump together deep inside the pipes and cause severe damage to the entire plumbing system.
- Menstrual Products
One of the most common causes of the clog are various menstrual products. A lot of women find it bothersome or embarrassing to throw these away outside of a toilet.
This is why they will commonly end up flushed, which will later create clogs. Not only they don’t disintegrate, but they expand in contact with liquid. This makes them terrible for your plumbing.
Tissues are one of the things most people use instead of toilet paper. Believe it or not, most tissues shouldn’t be flushed as they don’t break down as fast as toilet paper.
This increases the chances of clogging. In case you need to use tissues instead of toilet paper, have a small trash can nearby for disposal.
Nappies are more similar to menstrual products than you might think. They are already too big to be adequately flushed, and they’ll only expand in contact with water.
This highly increases the chance of them getting stuck in a pipe. You really shouldn’t flush them.
Theoretically speaking, yes, you can flush paper towels. However, by doing this, you are risking:
- High utility bills.
- Damage to the pipes.
- Damage to the environment.
So, in short, we don’t think you’d want any of that. The only things that you should be flushing are toilet paper and bodily fluids.
Throw in anything else, and you are risking severe damage to your wallet and your property. If you aren’t sure whether or not something can be flushed, throw it in a trash can. It’s better to be safe than sorry!