Think Before You Flush These Items

The ongoing COVID pandemic has had an impact on ways of our lives that many of us would have previously never dreamed, causing shortages of many household goods and making it harder than ever to conduct business as usual.

As a result of COVID-19, many of us are trapped in our homes, and this is having some unforeseen impacts on our lives. One example: The impact it is having on our toilets and bathroom habits.

Across the country, more and more people are spending more time at home. There has, very infamously, been the cause of a major run on toilet paper, resulting in some people not being able to get enough toilet paper for their homes and families. As a result, many people are using items for wiping that they normally wouldn’t use. Unfortunately, this has resulted in some major plumbing problems.

Across the country, plumbers and sewer system operators are repeating a common refrain: The only thing you should ever flush down a toilet is human waste and toilet paper.

Why is this? Well, toilet paper is specifically designed to disintegrate upon contact with the water. As a result, it is safe to flush and usually will not get clogged in your toilet. However, toilet paper and waste is the only thing you should flush down a toilet. Anything else is liable to lead to problems for your plumbing, or potentially even damage your local sewer system.

Want a disgusting example? The Great London Fatberg of 2017. The Fatberg was described by London officials as a 130-ton chunk of terrible. It was, quite literally, a clog of wipes, paper towels, sanitary products, cooking fat and more than caused a massive stoppage in London’s sewer system. It took a solid week to be completely destroyed.

The Fatberg is, perhaps, one of the most disgusting examples of what can happen to a sewer system when items are flushed that aren’t supposed to be.

Unfortunately, this is an all too easy mistake to make. Other items you should never flush include:

  • “Flushable” wipes: Yes, some wipes are labeled as “flushable,” and trick you into flushing them. Don’t. Sure, some wipes may be flushed safely, but many are not, and these can clog up your pipes and damage a sewer system. Furthermore, as experiments by sewer systems have demonstrated, “flushable” wipes simply don’t biodegrade like toilet paper, no matter what their labeling says.
  • Hair or dental floss: What’s the harm in flushing this type of material? After all, isn’t it insanely thin? That’s not the problem. The issue is that they can get caught on a nick in a pipe. From there, other items can get caught, potentially causing major damage and an expensive fix.
  • Old medication: During the COVID pandemic, many people are cleaning out old medicine cabinets and throwing away old and expired medication. During this time, you can be tempted to take your pills and flush them down the toilet. Why is this an issue? A few reasons. First, sewer systems usually wind up being dumped back out into natural bodies of water, and the medication that dissolves in the water may damage the wildlife that lives there. Secondly, no sewer system can truly purify a medication from water, and when that water is consumed again, people may be consuming remnants of their medication.
  • Food: No food is safe to be disposed of in the toilet. In fact, food is probably more likely than many of the other substances listed here to get stuck, as it will not dissolve and is extremely likely to get clogged.
  • Any sort of grease, oil or fat: The issue here is that none of these substances will stay in liquid form. Yes, they may be liquid now, but once they are flushed they are very likely to cool and turn into something more solid. From there, you may have a very expensive and disruptive clog in your pipes.
  • That dead goldfish: Many of us have been there – little Flipper dies and gets a burial at sea. Don’t let Flipper’s last act to be clogging your toilet. As a solid, little Flipper runs the risk of creating an expensive problem for you and your family.


What is the solution? If you run out of toilet paper and are forced to use paper towels or napkins, or if you are spring cleaning or just need to throw stuff out, do not use your toilet. Instead, use a garbage bag, and treat all of the above materials like trash.

Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, accidents will happen. If you are looking for a great plumber in the Winston-Salem area to help you fix your clogged toilet, call Bodenheimer Plumbing Services. We can provide you with an array of plumbing services, helping you take care of your pipes, sinks, clogged toilet and everything in between.

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