We’re our plumbing’s worst nightmare. Really. Bad habits that you often don’t think about, like flushing a wipe down the toilet, are actually doing damage to the drains and pipes in your home. Not only are you worsening the condition of the pipes, but you could end up having to pay thousands of dollars in repairs. So, if you want to avoid the mess and keep your plumbing working optimally, it’s time to stop flushing things that are terrible for plumbing.


Relevant: Emergency Toilet Options For When Plumbing Fails


8 Things you really shouldn’t flush down your toilet:


1. Flushable Wipes

Are flushable” wipes actually septic safe? Can you flush them down the toilet without a care? No. Most plumbers will tell you horror stories of massive clogs caused by flushable body wipes and baby wipes. They do not disintegrate. All they do is cluster together (along with other things in the drainage and septic) and make a mess. And if the flushable wipe does make it through the pipeline to the sewer pipes and to a municipal sewage treatment center, guess what happens? Those industrial-sized treatment plants also get clogged. 


But there are a few more reasons why you should avoid flushable wipes. Aside from items like wipes that don’t dissolve in water, it doesn’t help that many residential plumbing systems are now low-flow for water conservation. In the old days, one flush would use around 3.5 gallons (13.2 L) of water. Now, toilets need half that. 


Now, imagine a low-flow plumbing system trying to push a wad of flushable wipes through the drainage system. It doesn’t happen. 


2. Paper Towels

Think about a decent paper towel. You will notice that when you have it soak up water, the material doesn’t fall apart like toilet paper would. Manufacturers want paper towels to be used like a towel—for cleaning up messes or doing cleaning. Paper towels aren’t designed like toilet paper and, therefore, should never go into the toilet. The only thing you will get is a monstrous clog. 


3. Foreign Objects

Here is something that will definitely cause a clog: trinkets and toys. If you have children, there is always a risk that a little one is going to attempt flushing their action figure or a box of crayons. Teach them that the toilet is for solid waste and toilet paper only. And if you accidentally drop something in the toilet bowl that shouldn’t be there, fish it out before you flush. 


4. Feminine Hygiene Products 

You might think tossing a tampon or pad into the toilet is one of the best ways to dispose of it, but these items will clog your sewage system. Why are feminine hygienic products so terrible to flush? Most of the time, things like pads are made of multiple layers of absorbent materials that are meant to hold up against moisture. Feminine hygienic products are so absorbent that they can swell to twice their size. 


5. Cat Litter

Sure, what you’re scooping out of the litter box is technically waste, much like human waste, but that doesn’t mean you can pour kitty litter into the toilet and flush it. Most commercial litter is made of sand and clay, two things that absorb water. Even litter marketed as flushable is going to mess up your plumbing, because the litter will build up in the pipes. 


6. Hair and Floss

Although hair and floss are two entirely different things, they have one thing in common—they are long, thin, and stringy. Both will get tangled up when flushed and stick to other things within the drain line or pipes. The next time you dredge up a clog of hair and soap scum, don’t toss it in the toilet to flush it away, no matter how gross it is. Put it in the trash. 


7. Gum

You can chew gum for hours and hours, and while it may become a tasteless rock in your mouth, it won’t break down. This means gum doesn’t break down in the toilet bowl either. What actually happens is this—the gum hardens and clings to the wall of the pipe. Anything else flushed down the drain is going to get blocked, creating a problem that builds over time. 


In fact, anything like gum should never go down the toilet (or any drain). This includes putty, sticky residue from cooking, and oil or grease. 


8. Plastic and Latex Items

It’s undeniably difficult to avoid plastic these days. However, that doesn’t mean plastic is flushable, nor is it biodegradable in most cases. When you flush something that is latex or plastic down the toilet, such as a pair of latex gloves or a plastic wrapper, you are sending something down a narrow pipe that won’t break down or dissolve. In other words, that plastic piece could get wedged somewhere, start collecting other debris, and form a horrendous clog in the future. And remember the low-flow plumbing system? 


Plastic will only make that flow weaker. 


This “do not flush plastic rule” applies to even the most inconsequential plastic items, as well. Avoid flushing bandages, tape, straws, Q-tips, balloons, toothpaste caps, and other plastic or latex items. Keep those things far from the toilet bowl, and put them in the trash when you are done using them.


Final Thoughts

If you or someone you know has been flushing these kinds of things down the toilet, tell them to stop. Flushing non-flushable items down the toilet spells trouble. There are just some things that are not meant to go down the toilet. If it’s not human waste or toilet paper, keep it out of the toilet bowl, and let others know that the bathroom isn’t for garbage.