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How Flushing Wipes and Paper Towels Wreaks Havoc on Homes and Cities

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Last Updated on: January 9, 2024

With a widespread toilet paper shortage in 2020, many people have used similar paper products to get their wiping done. However, anyone involved with the world of plumbing and waste treatment knows that flushing these toilet paper substitutes is a big no-no. Even flushing so-called flushable wipes can cause significant problems–for homes, city sewers, waste treatment plants, and the local environment.

What happens to what we flush?

The toilet is not meant to flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper. When you flush your toilet, the sewage begins to move through your home’s drain-waste-vent system. This system contains waste pipes and drain pipes that come together at the bottom of your house. That’s when the main drain takes over the rest of the process and sends the sewage to your city’s municipal sewer or your septic tank.

Unless you have a septic tank, the sewage continues its journey. It travels through your city’s sewer system until it reaches the treatment plant, where it will end up in a tank and be separated into two portions. One part will accumulate at the bottom of the tank as a solid layer known as “sludge.” The top layer is wastewater that will be taken away so that the plant can remove the pollutants, contaminants, and pathogens. The sludge will also be treated at the plant.

After the water has been treated, some of it will be allowed to return to the local waterways. Most of the treated sludge will be sent to local landfills, but a portion of it will be used for better purposes. For example, some of this treated sludge will be converted into fertilizer, and the other portion will become the fuel that helps run the waste treatment facilities.

Never flush these items!

If human waste can’t move freely through drains and sewers, there’s going to be a massive problem–or multiple massive problems. When toilet paper and human waste combine with water, they quickly break down and go through pipes and sewers smoothly. Paper towels, feminine hygiene products, facial tissues, and personal wipes were not created to break down in water easily, so they are susceptible to causing clogs. These clogs can occur in your home’s pipes, city sewers, and wastewater treatment plant pumps.

When a clog makes a pipe burst in your home, you can end up with an unhygienic mess and a lot of water damage. If a city sewer becomes severely blocked with paper towels, wipes, grease, and other debris, the wastewater can back up into homes and city streets. Sewer pipes can also burst and allow wastewater to enter the ground and local waterways.

Bottom Line

Protect your home and help out your city and the environment by only flushing your bodily waste and toilet paper.

Is something causing a clog in your home’s drains? Our friendly Centreville plumbers at Service Specialties are ready to help! For professional drain cleaning services, give us a call today at (703) 968-0606!

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