A shocking photo out of Australia shows why you should never, ever flush your baby wipes.
Diaper wipes are a super convenient way to clean up, well, pretty much everything. But you know what’s not super convenient? The giant blob of sewer-blocking sludge they create if you try to flush them down the toilet. It’s why all diaper wipe packaging instructs users not to flush.
Look familiar? Some people clearly aren’t following the directive.
The Lower Hunter Water Authority in Australia recently shared a shocking photo that shows just how destructive those innocent baby wipes can be. In it, a crane — yes, they had to use a freaking crane — is shown lifting a 23-foot, 1,653-pound pile of baby wipes from an obstructed sewer pipe.
— Hunter Water (@HunterWater) February 24, 2016
In case that’s not disturbing enough, that gigantic mass only encompassed a portion of the obstruction. Workers had to remove the remaining 661 pounds of wipes and other garbage by hand.
These “fatbergs” — the technical term for a clump of wet wipes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, and other non-flushable items that wind up in sewers — have actually been a problem for years. In 2014, workers in London famously spent 10 days removing a fatberg the size of a double decker bus from underground sewer lines. A Kimberley-Clarke Corporation study also found that in the U.S., about 90 percent of materials found in sewage systems were not intended to be flushed. What the hell, society?
Hunter Water’s Nick Kaiser tells ABC News the problem has only gotten worse with the introduction of so-called “flushable” wipes, as people think pretty much any type of wipe can be flushed. They can’t.
The majority of diaper wipes don’t decompose. People flush them, or kids use them and forget they belong in the trash, and the wipes enter the sewage system, where they expand rather than breaking down. They contribute to these fatbergs, which in turn can cause sewage to back up into homes and buildings. Plus, they create a ton of extra work for those in water services.
According to Kaiser, the only appropriate place for diaper wipes is in the trash can. Wipes cannot go into the toilet. “The safest way to think about what you can put down your toilet is the three Ps — pee, paper and poo,” says Kaiser. “Everything else should stay out of the sewer.”
Presumably, people are flushing baby wipes down the toilet because they never want to see those filthy things again. But flushing them down the toilet practically ensures that sanitation will eventually wind up having to fish them out with a gigantic crane. It’s a terrible idea, and if you’re in the habit of flushing diaper wipes, this is your official invitation to stop it immediately.