Have you ever flushed a baby wipe? During the early days of the 2020 lockdown when toilet paper was flying off the supermarket shelves, those of us caught short had to make do. It may have meant sheet rationing, using paper napkins and unfortunately, on occasion – even wet wipes.
Wet wipes are great for washing hands and mucky faces, cleaning surfaces and of course for freshening up babies’ delicate bottoms. In fact, research has shown that they’re so useful that uses other than baby care now accounts for about half of wipe sales. But whatever you use them for, they shouldn’t be flushed down your toilet.
They disappear down the toilet easily enough, but the problems start once the wipes get into the pipes. The wet baby wipes don’t dissolve easily in the pipes, so prevent the flow of other waste products. The first thing you may know about a blockage is the awful smell and your toilet backing up.
You’ll need to call out an emergency plumber, but it’s a tricky and messy job and could be an expensive problem to fix.
Wipes are made of fibrous material – either bamboo, cotton, or what’s known in the trade as non-woven fibre. This can be wood pulp or non-biodegradable polyester. Bamboo is the most biodegradable, but all types of wipes are much harder to break down than paper. Beware of environment-friendly claims from wipe manufacturers, flushing any type of wipes isn’t good and should be avoided at all times.
Even if your flushed baby wipe makes it to the sewer, bigger problems lie ahead. Combine a load of baby wipes with other no-go ingredients such as cooking oil that’s been poured down the sink and you have a recipe for a so called ‘fatberg’. It’s a murky pungent congealed mass. You may have seen items about these ‘fatbergs’ on the television news. They are a nightmare to fix, almost 400 of these were cleared from a 9,000km sewer network in South East Queensland between June 2019 and July this year. It cost more than a million dollars to clear with the costs passed on to the consumer through higher bills.
But the problems don’t end in the sewage pipes. Dumping of baby wipes in the toilet is one of the major causes of sewage blockage in the world. As well as causing problems at sewage treatment plants, they may also move on and end up in the rivers and oceans harming our natural environment and sea creatures.
So, there’s really no excuse for flushing wet wipes down the toilet. Buy and use a trash bin for these wipes and just use toilet paper down the toilet. Remember, while your wet wipes may travel down the toilet bowl, they can cause a multitude of damage. For any blockages of foreign objects, give us a call at Advanced Plumbing and Gas. We serve the entire Brisbane metropolitan area and offer a friendly, professional service at affordable prices. What’s more we’re available 24/7 for all your emergency needs!