What Not to Flush
What Not to Flush
In short, toilets are not trash cans. Only water, toilet paper, and human waste should be flushed. Most of the sewers in the County system are only 8 inches in diameter. No matter what the movies say, you cannot walk through them, and it does not take something the size of an alligator to impact their ability to carry flow.
Many personal hygiene and cleaning products are marketed as being flushable, but most of these products do not break apart once they are in the sanitary system. They can then collect with other materials flushed into the sewer, causing clogs and blockages. These blockages lead to sanitary sewer backups or overflows, which cause significant damage to the County’s collection system, plumbing systems on private property, and the environment. It is rare for one person to flush enough of these products to cause an immediate problem. However, if everyone in your subdivision flushes just one or two personal wipes, imagine how big that blockage could be by the time it gets to the entrance of your community.
Wipes and other non-dispersible items can also collect in your plumbing and may not make it through your sewer lateral, which can also cause a backup in your home, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars in plumbing repairs and restoration costs, all of which would be your responsibility.
The same is true with cooking grease and oils. You may get the grease to leave your sink by washing with hot water, but the temperature of the water will cool long before it reaches the public sewer. When it does, the grease will become solid again and coat the inside of whatever pipe it is flowing through. You could have a grease blob in your home plumbing or sewer lateral restricting the flow of waste water out of your home—no amount of hot water in the sink will clear that.
Even items that dissolve in water, such as medications, should not be flushed as they can contaminate local waterways and harm the environment. Home cleaning products should also be used as recommended by the manufacturer. Dumping bottles of cleaners into your toilets could impact your plumbing and the sewer system.
Below are some of the items that should not be flushed. If you have any doubt, don’t flush it!
- Personal hygiene wipes or paper towels
- Rags and towels
- Feminine hygiene products
- Dental floss, q-tips, and other bathroom tools
- Prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Cleaning products
- Fertilizers, pesticides, and weed control products
- Kitchen oil or grease
- Aquarium gravel or kitty litter
- Rubber or plastic items
- Cigarette butts
Disposing of Prescription Medication
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, safely disposing of unused or expired prescription medications is a public safety issue. If not properly disposed, these items can lead to accidental poisoning and misuse. It may be tempting to flush old medications down the toilet, but doing so can contaminate our lakes, rivers, and other waterbodies, affecting water quality and anything that lives in the water.
Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a nationwide event held annually by the DEA and backed by law enforcement agencies, water utilities, and health officials. Proper medication disposal keeps communities safe and prevents water pollution, accidental ingestion, and drug abuse. You can also use the DEA website to find year-round drug collection sites in your area, and the service is free and anonymous.
If you would rather discard unwanted medication at home, follow these simple steps:
- Take your prescription medication out of the original container.
- Mix medicine with an undesirable or unpalatable substance, such as cat litter, dirt, or used coffee grounds.
- Place the mixture into a disposable container that can be sealed, like a plastic bag, and throw it in your household trash.
- Conceal or remove any personal information on empty containers, including the Rx number, by covering it with permanent marker or by scratching it off.
- Dispose of the container.
Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for more information about disposing of your unused medicines.