Seven Toilet Paper Alternatives That Should Never Be Flushed Down the Toilet

Major Restoration Services, a veteran-owned damage restoration company, has been serving South Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland since 2006. The highly-trained technicians provide restoration services for water, fire, mold, and biohazardous events in residential and commercial buildings. With years of experience in the industry, the team is ready to tackle all types of water damage disasters, including water and sewage damage from an overflowing toilet.

Toilet Paper Alternatives: One Flush Away From a Water Damage Disaster

The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges, one of which was finding enough toilet paper. Consumption did not suddenly skyrocket when the pandemic struck. What caused the shortage? Consumption moved from the workplace to home as millions of employees shifted to work-from-home scenarios. Sixty percent of toilet paper usage had occurred in a commercial setting, such as the office, factory, or school. Overnight, tens of millions of employees and students were under lockdown, in quarantine, or working and studying from home. Adjusting supply chains to accommodate the paradigm shift took some time. Thankfully, store shelves are well-stocked, and toilet paper is more respected and appreciated than ever.

Households that ran out of toilet paper were forced to find alternatives, many of which created a bigger problem than the shortage itself. Sewage systems and septic tanks are not able to handle many of the substitutes, resulting in clogs and overflowing toilets.

Overflowing toilets are not the only issue resulting from a clogged sewage system. When a sewage system stops up, the pipes fill with water and waste. The weight of the water — eight pounds per gallon — and the pressure in the pipes, especially in two-story homes, have the potential to crack pipes and cause ruptures at the joints. The results can be catastrophic throughout the house and in the basement or crawl space. Homeowners should be wary if their toilets suddenly start to flush properly. The free flow may indicate that raw sewage is flooding the basement or crawl space or spilling out through a ruptured pipe inside the home. A check of the sewage system, including the basement and crawl space, is advised.

If initial attempts to unclog the system fail, immediately contact a reputable and qualified plumber to address the clogged system. Avoid flushing toilets, bathing, washing clothes, or running the dishwasher until the problem is remedied. The average bath uses thirty gallons of water. A typical ten-minute shower uses twenty gallons with a low-flow showerhead and twenty-five gallons with a standard showerhead. Every lineal foot of four-inch sewage pipe contains a little over one-half gallon, while a five-inch pipe holds almost a gallon of water. The pressures that build up in a backed-up sewage system can be extreme.

Professional plumbers urge homeowners not to flush anything down the toilet except toilet paper and waste. Err on the side of caution and follow the “no-flush” rule for items not approved for sewage systems. Listed below are several toilet paper alternatives that are likely to clog pipes.

The “No Flush” List

     1. Non-flushable and flushable wipes

Lysol wipes, baby wipes, and other wipes designated as “non-flushable” should never be flushed down the toilet. “Flushable” wipes are included on the list because they do not degrade fast enough to safely flush down the toilet, even though it may say “flushable” on the packaging.

     2. Paper towels and napkins

Paper towels have a heavy weave that enhances their scrubbing ability. Because this feature slows down their ability to break apart and decompose, do not flush them down the toilet.

     3. Newspaper or magazine pages

The high fiber content of newsprint may make it an acceptable substitute for TP in a pinch, but newspaper and magazine pages should never be flushed down the toilet. Also, the ink on newsprint may cause irritation to the skin.

     4. Coffee filters

Coffee filters are designed to come in contact with water and remain intact. Though a popular substitute for toilet paper, coffee filters should not be flushed.

     5. Toilet seat covers

Though designed to be “flushable,” toilet seat covers should not be flushed because their decomposition rate is too slow. Because the paper seat covers are so thin, they also do not provide the user with any real protection from bacteria and germs.

     6. Facial tissue and tissue paper

Though soft and fluffy, facial tissue was not designed to be disposed of down the toilet. Tissue paper used for gift wrapping should also never be flushed down the toilet.

     7. Anything cotton

Fabrics made from cotton and other natural or man-made fibers resist decomposition. They may function well in a crisis, but they should not be flushed.

Any of the items mentioned above can be called into service when needed. Many of the “unflushables” will perform the task well. The safe solution is to discard the soiled items properly, and in most cases, this involves sealing the items in a plastic bag and discarding them in the trash.

Whether a property has suffered from water, fire, mold, or other disaster damage, Major Restoration Services delivers seamless damage restoration services. Transparency, support, and impeccable communication are core values. The team works with all major insurance companies to ensure all clients receive maximum coverage from their claims. The staff and technicians seek to answer any questions and guide the client through this difficult time.

For information about water damage restoration and sewage cleanup, contact the company by phone at (717) 855-2367 or email [email protected]