Myth vs. Fact

The Truth About Disposable Wipes and Sewer Clogs

MYTH:

Flushable Wipes clog sewer systems.

FACT: Flushable Wipes account for less than two percent of debris identified in forensic studies of clogs and accumulations in various sewer systems in the United States and United Kingdom. Non-flushable products like baby wipes and paper hand towels consistently make up the largest portion of debris – sometimes up to 60-70 percent – identified in these studies. Household surface wipes and feminine hygiene products are among the other categories of non-flushable products identified and typically are labeled "Do Not Flush".  

Data collected by wastewater system operators indicate that most clogs are caused by tree roots and fats, oils and grease (commonly referred to as FOG). According to data from the California State Water Resources Control Board Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Reduction Program, 73 percent of all sanitary sewer overflows in California since 2007 (about 60,000) were caused by tree roots, FOG and debris. 

MYTH:

Only “Pee, Poo and Toilet Paper” are safe for plumbing and sewer systems.

FACT: Wipes labeled “flushable” are specifically engineered to be flushed and safe for plumbing and sewer systems that are properly designed and maintained. They use fibers that are exclusively tree- or plant-based and are manufactured using advanced non-woven technology to allow the wipes to maintain wet strength in the package and during use, then lose strength after flushing and be compatible with wastewater infrastructure and processes. 


The industry has a rigorous set of flushability assessment tests for products that may be labeled “flushable.”  The seven industry tests provide a holistic assessment of physical and biological material characteristics required for a product to be compatible with wastewater plumbing, infrastructure and treatment. Given that forensic studies in various wastewater systems in the United States and United Kingdom show Flushable Wipes to be less than two percent of material collected and identified, it’s clear that wipes labeled “flushable” are designed to be safe for plumbing and sewer systems.

MYTH: 

Flushable Wipes contain plastic.

FACT: Wipes labeled “flushable” DO NOT contain plastic, the fibers in these wipes are exclusively tree- or plant-based. These wipes are manufactured using advanced non-woven technology to allow the wipes to maintain wet strength in the package and during use, then lose strength after flushing and be compatible with wastewater infrastructure and processes.

MYTH: 

There’s no difference between wipes labeled “flushable” and other
kinds of “wet wipes.”

FACT:“Flushable” is a very specific term for products uniquely designed to pass established industry testing – seven test methods to ensure the product doesn’t just clear the toilet, but can break down and ultimately become unrecognizable in wastewater collection and treatment systems.  

Other categories of wipes – such as baby wipes, surface/sanitizing wipes and hand-and-face wipes – are NOT labeled “flushable” and are 93 percent of the wipes on the market. Baby wipes are designed to be thrown away in a diaper pail or wrapped in a disposable diaper and tossed in the trash.  

Surface/sanitizing wipes typically are designed with more vigorous wiping strength and contain cleaning solutions, which require them to be disposed in the trash. On the other hand, Flushable Wipes are designed and labeled specifically for adult toileting purposes and are therefore intended to be flushed.

MYTH: 

Anything that is
physically able to
fit down the toilet is “flushable.”

FACT: Just because an item can be flushed, doesn’t mean it should be. Many hygiene products used in the bathroom are flushed out of convenience and because they simply can go down the toilet but they shouldn’t be. Baby wipes, paper hand towels, tampons and dental floss are items frequently found in forensic studies of sewer system clogs or accumulations that are not designed to be compatible with sewer systems or wastewater treatment.