Don't Flush Tampons — Trust Me & My Expensive Plumbing Bill

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 
Apparently When They Say 'Don't Flush Tampons,' They Mean It
WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock / Scary Mommy

When I read an article (on this very site!) a few years ago sharing the mind-blowing news that we shouldn’t flush tampons down the toilet, I filed that information away in the “Meh, Whatever” category.

It’s not that I didn’t believe this advice to be true and accurate; it’s just that I couldn’t wrap my mind around this reality. I mean, I had been flushing tampons down the toilet for 25 years without problem. All these horror stories about clogged pipes and expensive plumbing bills must be in old houses with old plumbing. Surely this couldn’t be true for everyone. Could it?

For a few months after learning this new – and quite frankly, life-changing – information, I felt a bit guilty every time I changed a tampon. I kept flushing tampons, but now I did it with fingers crossed and a little prayer that it wouldn’t come bubbling back up. I mean, c’mon. If I didn’t flush it, what was I supposed to do with it? Put it in the garbage? No thanks.

Sure, I’d see the signs in public bathrooms and on the back of the box telling us not to flush tampons, but they were talking about the applicator, weren’t they? Of course, I never flushed those. But that bloody stump that you pulled out of your body, that could be flushed, right? Surely, that’s the only option that makes sense.

Fast forward a few years and I have now re-filed “don’t flush tampons” into the “Lessons Learned the Hard Way” category. Along with things like a shower curtain bar isn’t strong enough to withhold the weight of a teen. #TrueStory

A few weeks ago, we started noticing a funky smell in one of our bathrooms. Like rotten eggs. Huh, that’s strange, I thought. Then my son complained that the bathtub wasn’t draining. Like at all. Then the toilet stopped flushing completely, and no amount of plunging did the trick.

Sigh. I think we have to call a plumber, I told my husband.

Well, you can guess where this story is going…$800 and a “stop flushing feminine products” finger-wag from the plumber later and the problem was fixed. In fact, he told me not once, not twice, but three times, that he had pulled out “a lot of feminine products.” (And yes, he kept saying “feminine products” like a high school health teacher from the ‘80s.)

Now that I’ve had some time to recover from the expensive price tag, my response is: WTAF?! Tampons caused this? I still don’t believe it. I mean, I’ve been flushing tampons for more than 30 years without a problem. I’d like to say that I learned my lesson and I’ll never flush another tampon, but I’m a realistic person and old habits die hard.

Part of me still thinks that problem was caused by the two paper towels my son tossed and I was too lazy to fish out of the toilet. It was just bad timing that this coincided with my period. Right? RIGHT!?!?!

But let’s just say this is true – that flushed tampons were the cause of this expensive plumbing debacle – what the fuck are we supposed to do with them? Are we really supposed to put this bloody cotton ball in the garbage?

Life just got so much harder.

My period is due in a few days and I gotta say, I’m kinda panicking about it. How am I supposed to break myself of this 30-year habit of flushing tampons? Am I gonna be taking out the garbage four times a day? Should I just switch to a menstrual cup? It all sounds fucking terrible, if you ask me. Kinda like the time a tampon string was hanging out of my swimsuit at a high school swim meet and everyone got a view when I bent over on the starting blocks. Goddammit.

Menopause isn’t looking so bad right about now.

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