Since Americans started realizing that we might be staying inside for the long haul, they have been buying necessities, including toilet paper, in bulk. Because of this, stores are running dangerously low on toilet paper. As a result, plumbers and public officials have noticed an uptick in people using items like paper towels, or whatever they can get, as a replacement for TP — and then flushing it down the toilet.
But the plumbers of America have a message: please do not flush anything but toilet paper and waste, as other paper items cause clogs and sewer backups.
“Yes, some brands of wet wipes may be labeled ‘flushable,’” writes Scott English Plumbing in Orange County, L.A. “Some brands are less fibrous and stringy than others, and therefore less likely to cause problems. Just to be safe, don’t flush any of them. The only things that you should flush down your toilet is human waste and toilet paper.”
Wastewater management officials in California are also finding other creative toilet paper replacements in the sewer system. “Pumps were clogged by what appeared to be shredded T-shirts that were used in place of toilet paper,” the city of Redding said in a statement. They added that using a rag or a wipe in place of toilet paper is fine, but offered words of wisdom: “Bag it. Don’t flush it.”
If you or your local stores have run out of toilet paper, there are other items you can use to wipe. Experts say that napkins, tissues, baby wipes, paper towels, and even rags (make sure to wash them!) all work great, as long as you don’t flush.
Another possible contributing factor to the phenomenon is that people are heading outside less, and taking out the trash with less regularity. But according to the City of New York, the only things you should really be flushing are “the four P’s: poop, pee, puke, and [toilet] paper.” Items like condoms, tampons, and paper towels create masses of congealed grease that are costly and difficult (and disgusting) to remove from sewer systems.
“Putting the wrong things down the drain can damage the sewer system, cause sewer backups in your home, and sewer releases to the environment,” writes the city of Portland, OR on their Environmental Services site. “Anyone who uses the city sewer system should be responsible for what they flush or pour down drains.”