Disposable wipes might sound like a genius idea to you. When you need something a little tougher than toilet paper but that can still be flushed away, disposable wipes seem to answer the call. But they can be more like a siren’s song, leading you to a big clog instead of flushable convenience. While marketers say that these wipes can be flushed, you would be hard-pressed to find a plumber who agrees and who hasn’t spent an afternoon fishing a clog from a “disposable” wipe out of a drain.
So, what’s going on here? Why do some homeowners say that they flush disposable wipes and haven’t had a problem, while others can quote you their plumbing bills from a messy clog? And should you really flush disposable wipes? Here’s what you need to know.
Disposable Wipes are Tough
Toilet paper is made of simple natural fibers that pull apart when you apply enough pressure. And that is one of the things that prevent it from making clogs. Disposable wipes do not have this convenient feature.
Instead, these wipes are made of synthetic or very tough materials, including rayon or cotton mixed with polypropylene. Yes, these are kinds of plastic spun into thread and then woven together. It’s a very thin material that is very strong, which can be convenient when you’re cleaning up big messes. However, but us very tough to get these materials out of the drain. They fold up thinly and then resist pressure and pulling.
Disposable Wipes Collect Waste
Your toilet drainpipe is likely only four inches wide. When a wipe passes through this tiny space, it rubs against the thin layer of waste that has collected on the sides of the pipe. It can create a clog by collecting all of this material. Toilet paper, on the other hand, it already in such fine strands by the time it goes down this pipe that it does not collect the grime.
Disposable Wipes are Not Biodegradable
There is also an environmental argument to not use disposable wipes. They are not biodegradable. That means they will not break down into tiny particles but will remain a gross sheet for a very long time. Not only does this increase its odds of making a clog, but it is bad for the environment. It’s kind of like plastic straws. Why create all of that waste when you can just use paper straws instead?
Alternatives to Disposable Wipes
Sure, using a disposable wipe or two is not going to make a clog every time. But, once you’re used to them, and you have them in the house, you are eventually going to make a clog, and it will be a particularly tough one to remove. However, there are alternatives. You can use disposable wipes and simply place them in your garbage instead of flushing them. If the smell is the issue, put them in the smaller bathroom garbage bin and take the bin out when you use the wipes. Or, try to buy a thicker grade of toilet paper.