Should you really flush flushable wipes?

Our answer is no. If you want to know why, read on.

Even though many large companies write the word ‘flushable’ on their packaging, it doesn’t mean it’s true. And to back this up Sydney Water, for example, estimates that 75% of domestic household blockages are caused by ‘wipes’. In fact, it costs them more than $8 million per annum to remove over 500 tonnes of wet wipes.

And before you ask, baby wipes and adult wipes are the same thing. There’s no difference other than the packaging and product positioning.

There have been a series of high profile court cases in the last decade whereby companies such as Kimberley Clark have been accused of their marketing being false. Whilst the ACCC was unsuccessful with their case(s), the courts dismissals only stated that was not sufficient evidence to show that the wipes were the absolute cause of the blockages – it didn’t conclude that wipes do not cause blockages.

Without going down the rabbit hole of legal debate here, the definition of flushable has been challenged and it’s proposed that some form of regulation be introduced. It’s not enough that the wipes pass through your sewer pipes, it’s important to consider what happens after then when the wipe(s) reach the wider sewer system.

So why aren’t they flushable?

Because they behave differently when submerged in water when compared to regular loo paper. CHOICE conducted some tests and found that regular toilet paper breaks down in approximately 3 minutes when submerged in water and agitated. How do you think the wipes fared?

You guessed it. Not very well. In fact after 20 hours the wipes remained completely intact …

So the question is of course, how should you get rid of the so-called ‘flushable’ wipes?

Like any other type of wet wipe, it should go in the bin. If you’re using biodegradable versions they can be composted but that’s a personal choice you have to make.

Of course, adult humans have managed for eternity without using wet wipes so simply not using them seems a rather pragmatic solution. Baby wipes are more understandable but at least now you know the pitfalls of all wipes and how to dispose of them with the risk of backing up your sewage pipes and the system to which it’s connected.

If you find yourself in a situation with a backed up sewer pipe we’d recommend giving us a call so one of our licensed service technicians can come and take a look. If you’re keen to have a go yourself we wrote an article about that HERE.

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