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Are Flushable Cleansing Wipes Bad for My Plumbing?

In recent years, wet wipes that have long been used for baby care have grown incredibly popular with adults as well. Wet wipes are made to serve a variety of purposes, from removing makeup and dirt, to applying sunscreen, and even after using the toilet for that extra-clean feeling.

For these wipe manufacturers, major investments in adult products have definitely paid off. Indeed, market research cited in a 2014 Bloomberg News article suggested that between 2008 and 2013 sales of personal wipes had grown by 23 percent!

While the convenience of these wet wipes is a major appeal to consumers and a source of huge profits for industry manufacturers, they have become a major headache for sewer systems around the world, especially in highly populated areas.

As an example, In New York City, officials say that wipes that have been flushed down the toilet have caused over $18 million in equipment problems over the last five years, and the amount of materials extracted from screening machines has more than doubled since 2008. Inside city pipelines, the wipes combine with other materials, such as solidified grease and oil, creating tangled knots of waste matter that cause major clogs and sewage backups.

One piece of the problem is that consumers are in some cases simply unaware that these wipes should not be flushed. Many of these personal care products have also been branded as ‘flushable’, but several wastewater and environmental professionals say that the performance of the product in sewer systems does not support this claim. Even if these wipes don’t specify that they are ‘flushable’ or are labelled with a ‘do not flush’ logo on the packaging, instructions are often easy to miss or are listed in fine print that people usually don’t take the time to read.

Regardless, as an experienced plumber in Costa Mesa, I always advise that people discontinue the practice of flushing these wet wipes down the toilet. Even if they are labelled as ‘flushable’, the majority of wipes don’t biodegrade quickly enough to avoid clogging pipes. Wet wipes are made to be indestructible, and the durable fibers cling to interior pipe walls and clog pumps that transport sewage away to local treatment plants.

We also recommend an annual sewer lateral inspection for all homeowners regardless of whether or not they use wet wipes.  In some cases even the daily use of toilet paper, which is designed to biodegrade, can get caught in pipes due to slight imperfections in the materials or other materials already built up inside your sewer pipes. Without this regular maintenance, sewer lines can become blocked, and over time cause waste material to back up inside your pipes and potentially cause damage to your home or property.

If you are concerned about the integrity of your sewer system, Parzival Plumbing can put your mind at ease by conducting a comprehensive sewer lateral inspection on your home or business. Contact us today to get a free estimate from an experienced plumber in Costa Mesa that also serves the entire Orange County area!

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