Bathroom wipes to blame for costly sewer backups

Many household and personal cleaning wipes are not designed to be flushed down the toilet.

Household and personal care wipes are on the rise as companies look to offer consumers convenient cleaning products, but they're taking a damaging toll on home and city sewage systems. Many packages do not explicitly state that they are not flushable, others are labeled as safe for sewer systems, but waste treatment officials caution this is not the case. "For the most part they'll flush, so they'll get down the toilet, but they won't disintegrate in your pipes," cautioned Onondaga County Water Commissioner Tom Rhoades. "When it gets clogged in your pipes then either your plumber or the folks from your local sewage treatment department are going to have to come out there to clean things up but you're going to end up having to clean up your house, which is a real mess." Unlike toilet paper, these wipes are made with synthetic materials that do not readily breakdown in water. Their buildup causes blockages that end up costing homeowners, renters and counties millions each year. "We end up going out on about 4,000 house calls a year and maybe 55-percent of those are related to wipes clogging pipes," said Rhoades. "People need to be aware that these wipes can clog the sewer system and it's going to back up the sewage into their own house. "It can happen to an entire block. It can block up a pump station that services an entire neighborhood or development. So these backups can really be a significant problem. Worse than having your own sewer back up into your house would be to have your whole neighborhood back up into your house." Rhoades cautions that there's only one product that's truly safe to be flushed down a toilet: toilet paper. "No napkins. No paper towels. No wipes. Just toilet paper. That's really all that's designed to go down the toilet. "Wipes clog pipes. Put them in the trash and not into the toilet."
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