Are your toilet wipes really fine to flush?

I used to think flushable wipes were, well, flushable. That was 9 months and 80 quid ago.

Like many parents, tired of a life of endless bum wiping, I decided that flushable toilet wipes would help my littlest to be independent on the toilet. I shopped around and found a brand I liked. I showed the kid how to use them and got on with my life.

Until…

That moment when you flush (because they never do!) and the water keeps rising, rising, rising. You pray to the toilet gods that the blockage will clear before someone else’s poop escapes all over your shoes. You grab the toilet brush and frantically stab at the loo. You only succeed in making a kind of toilet soup. Feathery, half dissolved toilet roll sticks to the brush but the water keeps rising.

Finally, the toilet stops. You breathe a sigh of relief. Your shoes are poop free. You thank the toilet gods for their mercy, phone an emergency plumber and seriously re-think your life choices.

The smug plumber arrives. He doesn’t even ask, he just mutters,”Let me guess: flushable wipes?” This is followed by a mini lecture where he explains that flushable wipes are responsible for 93% of drain blockages, and how fatbergs the size of several double decker buses can be found in many sewage systems across the UK. (Apparently that’s your fault! Fair.)

According to Water UK, which represents water and sewerage companies, there are around 300,000 sewer blockages a year, costing £100 million, with resulting harm to the environment and home and business drainage problems.

So why are companies allowed to print ‘flushable’ on the packaging if they aren’t? There are no laws covering this area at the moment. However, Water UK have developed some new standards. Companies who want to advertise flushable wipes will be able to submit them for testing. Products that break down easily within the required amount of time will be awarded the “Fine to Flush” certificate. They will be able to display the logo on their products, making it easier for consumers to choose a product that won’t lead fatbergs and poop on their shoes.

If you want to know if your flushable wipes are indeed flushable (spoiler- they probably aren’t), just follow my handy testing guide:

  • You’ll need a jug, spoon, water, plus some toilet paper and your ‘flushable’ wipes.
  • First test some toilet roll so you can see what you are looking for. Pour a pint of water on top of 5 or 6 sheets of paper and stir 20 times. The toilet roll should begin to dissolve immediately into a cloudy mush that slides between your fingers when you try to grab it.
  • Now, use the same process with one of your wipes. Pour a pint of water on top of the wipe and stir 20 times to simulate flushing. How does it fare? Is it fine to flush?
  • If you try this experiment, please leave a comment and share what you learned.

The Secret Cleaner

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