Home Energy Savings 25 Things You Should Never Flush Down the Drain

25 Things You Should Never Flush Down the Drain

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It seems easy to get rid of almost anything by putting it down the kitchen sink or simply flushing it down the toilet, and all manner of things get flushed down our drains. But when you flush items that should be put in the bin, this tends to have some serious and costly ramifications for your home’s plumbing lines.

Your drains are not connected to some black hole where these items magically disappear. Many of them end up on our beaches and oceans. The only things that should go down the toilet are human waste and toilet paper. While it might seem to make life easier for you, putting the wrong things down the drain take time and money (yours’ and taxpayers) to fix, and residents bear the cost with higher water rates.

It’s pretty simple, really. The only things that should go down your drains are human waste and toilet paper. It sounds simple enough, but people flush whatever they think they can get away with.

Here are 25 everyday items that you should never put down the garbage disposal or flush down the toilet.

Diapers

You may feel that a single flushed diaper shouldn’t be a big deal. However, toilets were not made for any kind of disposable diaper. Furthermore, flushed diapers are created from material that expand when they come into contact with water.

The problem is compounded by diaper manufacturers claiming their products are safe to flush down the toilet. They may be flushable, but diapers are absorbent and hard to break down. The blockages they cause can be terrible, and this is a global problem.

Medication

It may seem so easy just to get rid of unused or unwanted medicines by flushing down the toilet or poured down the drain. Some people think that medicine dissolves easily in water so they throw expired pills down the drain. If it can dissolve safely in your bowels, what harm can it do to a drain?

In reality, there’s no filter capable of cleaning the water of contamination for medication. Instead of flushing, it is recommended to return your unused medicines to your local pharmacy. Place your expired medication in a container such as a sealable plastic bag, and throw the container away in your household trash.

Many local communities also have their own drug take back programs. You can also check with your local law enforcement officials to find a location near you or with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to find a DEA-authorized collector in your community.

Dental Floss

Dental floss is made from thin strands of nylon or Teflon. It isn’t biodegradable. Instead, it can combine with clumps of hair, toilet paper, wipes, sanitary products, and other items that should never be flushed to form large clumps that clog sewers and pumps.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds actually help to eliminate odors, but they are some of the biggest causes of drain clogs. Even small scraps of these items can wreak havoc on your drain pipes. And that is because they don’t break down in water. In fact, these small grains clog together and over time, the grounds build up and combine to block your plumbing pipes.

Condoms

A lot of men get rid of their condoms by flushing them down the toilet. However, even the occasional condom flush can have serious consequences for the environment. Latex condoms are non-biodegradable and can hang around in waterways for years and end up in the ocean which is dangerous for marine life.

They also contribute to the formation of ‘fatbergs’. This is an industry term for congealed fat which clumps together with other waste products to form solid blocks. To dispose of a condom, wrap it up in toilet tissue and throw it into the toilet bin.

Egg Shells

Egg shells won’t be broken down if they settle in your pipes. Even if you break an egg shell into little pieces, the pieces can get stuck to each other, and the sharp, hard edges of the shell will collect other foreign objects coming down your drain and eventually create large blockages.

Sanitary Items

Sanitary pads and tampons are generally labeled as “flushable” by their manufacturers, but these feminine hygiene products are absorbent and increase your risk of drain clogs. After use, feminine hygiene products should always be wrapped in a news paper or waste paper and put in a garbage bin.

Wet Wipes

Wet wipes are one of the worst problems in modern sanitary systems. They are marketed to be flushed like toilet paper, but the fact is, these products are responsible for causing half of the global sewer blockages. They are behind up to 80% of blockages in New York sewers, and a key element of the infamous giant obstacles known as “fatbergs”.

In New York City, flushable wipes made up 90% of the solids in a fatberg with 53,000 tonnes caught in 2018. According to water companies, fatbergs cost £100m a year to deal with them.

Starchy Foods

Starchy food like rice and pasta absorb water and swell up as they soak in residual water in your garbage disposal and drain pipes. In water, it takes a long time for them to dissolve, and they can get stuck in the pipes which could easily result in a clog. Scrape your leftovers into the trash instead of putting them down the rubbish disposal.

Paper Towels

While paper towels may seem a to be in the same league as toilet paper, they don’t have the same characteristics and are not designed to disintegrate easily or in a timely manner like toilet paper. Flushing paper towels is far more likely to clog your toilet and cause problems for your septic tank or your water treatment facility.

Cat Litter

Cat litter is made from clay and sand which are not flushable. This means it will linger in your pipes and will not dissolve easily. Furthermore, cat waste contains toxins and parasites that should not be in any water system.

Paint

Avoid pouring paint down the household sink or toilet. The toxins and harsh chemicals they contain can disperse and contaminate the water supply.

If you can’t properly dispose of any leftover paint, companies like Habitat for Humanity or PaintCare accept leftover paint in order to recycle it. In addition, you can search for a hazardous waste drop-off facility in your area as Earth911.com

Anything Made of Cotton

This includes cotton swabs, cotton balls, Q-tips, and any other associated product. Cotton is excellent at absorbing water, but it doesn’t break down easily. They eventually gather together in bends of the pipe, causing massive blockages and are responsible for many clogged toilets.

Chewing Gum

Gum doesn’t break down in water. It’s also sticky and can easily get stuck to the inside of your pipes and cause a clog.

Contact Lenses

3.36 billion lenses are flushed every year in the US alone. Used lenses that are discarded down the drain contributes to one of the major environmental concerns in today’s world. Researchers from Arizona State University found that much of the plastic material ends up in wastewater treatment plants. The lenses are consequently spread on farmland as sewage sludge, increasing plastic pollution in the environment.

Tissues

Tissues may be soft and delicate, but they aren’t made to break up the way toilet paper is, so they can end up clogging pipes or the drainage system. Used tissues should be discarded in the trash can.

Cigarette Butts

Because of their size, cigarette butts seem like they would be easily flushable. However, the filter is made of a synthetic material that never dissolves. Cigarette butts also contain loads of harmful chemicals like nicotine which can contaminate the water. You should always dispose of cigarette butts in the trash.

Bleach

Bleach is a powerful, corrosive substance and too harsh a chemical for your toilet and septic system. It can damage your pipes and also react with other substances in your pipes, release fumes and further clog up the system.

Plasters

Plaster and band-aids are primarily made from non-biodegradable plastic. . They will get trapped in your pipes and form a clog. These items should never be flushed down the toilet.

Produce Stickers

Produce stickers don’t easily dissolve in water and can clog your pipes and block  pumps at the water treatment plant. The problem is that they have glue on them and the stickers themselves are made of materials that take a very long time to decompose. Even if they are really small, you should throw stickers away in the trash instead of down the drain.

Grease

Cooking fats should never go down the drain or garbage disposal. The water treatment industry refers to fats, oils, and grease collectively as FOG. Cooking oil mixes with other kinds of wastes and strengthens their clogging powers.

Grease, fats and oils build up in there around the grinder blades and solidify with time. This causes 47% of sewer overflows. Any fat poured down the drain sticks to the inside of your sewer pipes, and over time, it can block the entire pipe. Scrape grease into the trash rather than down the kitchen sink.

Milk

Milk won’t clog your drain but pouring expired milk down the kitchen sink can cause some serious environmental problems when disposed of in large amounts. In fact, pouring bad milk down the drain is a criminal offence for businesses in the UK. And that is because milk is a highly polluting substance because it needs lots of oxygen to decompose.

Bacteria that feed on it use up the oxygen that is meant for fish and other living things in the watercourse. When that happens, fish and other living creatures suffocate. Instead of pouring bad milk down the kitchen sink when it’s really bad, send it to be incinerated as fuel for energy recovery or to a landfill.

Flour

Mixing flour with water together produces a glue-like substance that can attract other waste and form a huge clog. To prevent that from happening, toss it in the trash rather than down the kitchen sink or rubbish disposal.

Hair

Hair is one of the most common reasons why pipes get clogged in the bathroom. Hair forms giant balls that trap odours and create massive blockages in pipes, plumbing and sewers. When the hair goes into the drain, it gets stuck inside and forms a ball that acts like a net for other waste. Instead of throwing it down the drain, you can get a special hair stopper that you can find in any store.

Pulling hair out of the drain

Building Waste

No matter where it came from, you should never put building waste down the drain. This goes for both tiny pieces and even powder like debris. Big chunks form clogs and the small ones can end up on the sides of the drain and lead to even more serious problems for your drains.