Over the years, I’ve dealt with my fair share of clogged toilets. It’s kind of rite of passage once you become an adult and have to maintain a home. If you are a parent, the frequency with which you find yourself plunging toilets—or snaking out plastic toys from your pipes—increases ten-fold.
I expected that as a parent. I mean, dealing with poop, pee, spit-up, vomit, you name it—that was part of the job, right? But what nothing could prepare me for was when I had poop, pee, and greenish-brown sewage coming out of my toilet and bathtub, at the same time and at a rapid pace.
It was literally one of most disgusting sights and smells I have ever dealt with, and I have had babies vomit on my breasts more times than I can count.
The sewage-spewing-out-of-my-toilet-and-bathtub-at-the-same-time was not an isolated incident, unfortunately. It was part of a larger problem having to do with the pitch of the pipes in our last apartment and how poorly waste material left the building.
I am not a plumber, but I’m given to understand that the gist of our problem was that the sewage pipes that led into the street were at a right angle, rather than pitched directly down, so sewage material could easily becoming clogged if the stars aligned.
When a plumber made an emergency visit to our apartment the night of our sewage emergency, what he found totally surprised me. After he’d snaked the shit out of our pipes, he found the culprit: a baby wipe. Yup, a lone baby wipe. That’s what was causing the puke-tastic issue here.
Now, I lived in an apartment building with several units, so it could have been any of us who disposed of said baby wipe. Tossing baby wipes into the toilet was definitely not a practice of mine. But I did keep baby wipes around because I still had a toddler in diapers. It’s possible he threw a wipe into the toilet.
Who the heck knows. But I’ll tell you this: I WILL NEVER LET A BABY WIPE NEAR MY TOILET EVER AGAIN. And neither should you. Now, clearly we had some more complicated issues with our septic system in that apartment, and I don’t think one flushed baby wipe is generally enough to completely clog up your entire sewage system.
BUT. Baby wipes are a major issue frequently when it comes to toilet clogs. As the plumber who fixed our issue told me: “Don’t put anything besides poop, pee, and toilet paper in your toilet. Ever.”
It turns out plumbers very often find baby wipes to be the root cause of various plumbing problems—often a whole bunch of them stuck together in disgusting sewage-y masses.
And if you thought you were off the hook by using so-called “flushable wipes,” think again. According to Michigan State University, these wipes may not be any better.
“Flushable wipes are marketed in a variety of ways, such as ‘septic-safe,’ ‘breaks down like toilet paper,’ and ‘safe for sewer and septic,’” writes Michigan State University. “The problem is that they appear to take longer to break down when compared to traditional toilet paper, and as a result have caused major blockages in sewer systems.”
Check out this experiment carried out by the Sanitation Districts of LA County, where they put both regular toilet paper and a flushable baby wipe into water for a year and watched the result.
Now look, there may be some flushable brands that fare better than that wipe did, but I wouldn’t take any chances. For most of us, the trash can is just as convenient a place to toss a wipe as a toilet, so I’d advise you to pick the former in every single instance, and make sure your kiddos do the same. I actually had to put our wipes on a high-up shelf on the off-chance that my toddler would grab a wipe and toss it down the pipes.
Besides the sewage issue, did you know that wipes are completely awful for the environment? Most wipes are not biodegradable and wash up into rivers and lakes, potentially harming animals and other wildlife.
Honestly, we should probably all use disposable wipes a whole lot less. I mean, using disposable cloth wipes might not be your cup of tea, but you can at least go for more environmentally-friendly ones.
The bottom line, though, is to never, ever, for the love, flush a baby wipe down your toilet. Trust me.
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