It’s simple, the toilet is only meant to flush the three P’s—pee, poop and (toilet) paper. Human waste and toilet paper should be the only thing going down the toilet. Unfortunately, over the years, people have turned the toilet into a trash can. From medications and sanitary products to deceased pet fish and cigarette butts, if it fits, people flush it. Flushing these types of items down the toilet causes home pipes to clog, wastes water (up to 5 gallons of water every time you flush) and most importantly, can have a huge impact on our sewers and our ocean.
Below is a list of items that people commonly flush that should not be going down the toilet:
Sanitary Products, Paper Towels, Diapers, Baby or Bathroom Wipes, and Facial Tissues
These products are made of materials that don’t break down and can cause all pipes to clog. Even if they are labeled as "flushable" or "biodegradable" by the manufacturer, they are not. The trash is the place for these items.
Prescription Drugs, Over-The-Counter Medications
Keep in mind that sewage is treated and recycled, so we want to keep our wastewater as chemical-free as possible. Wastewater treatment plants were not designed to remove all those chemicals from the water. The best way to dispose of items like these is to visit a designated medicine drop-off location in your community that accepts expired or unused medications and correctly disposes of them. Click here to learn more information about the Safe Drop medicine disposal program at SMWD.
Kitty litter, especially clay kitty litter, will clog your pipes, even the ones that claim to be “flushable.” Far more problematic is Toxoplasmosis, a parasite found in cat waste that is harmful to marine biology. It’s better to keep your cat waste out of wastewater and just put it in the trash.
Condoms, Dental Floss and Hair
These cause more problems than you’d imagine. They are not biodegradable and can cause pipes to clog. Dispose of them in your trash can. You should also keep hair from going down sink drains by using a drain screen to catch hair so you can dispose of it properly in the trash.
The only thing that should be going down the drain is what comes out of the faucet!
The toilet is not the only drain that people are using to get rid of unwanted waste; people are also known to use the kitchen sink as a trash can. Since the invention of the garbage disposal, which claims to grind even the hard stuff such as small bones and fruit peels, people have turned the sink drain into a common destination for kitchen waste. Again, as long as it fits, people throw it or pour it down the drain. Letting trash flow and go down the kitchen sink (or any other drain in the house) may cause pipes to clog and can eventually lead to sewage spills that harm the environment.
Here is a list of the most common things that people dump into their sinks instead of disposing of them properly:
Fats, Oils and Grease
These should never be poured down the sink or garbage disposal. Fats, oils and grease stick to the interior surface of the sewer pipes, hardens over time and eventually may cause sewage to backup and lead to a sewage spill in your home or on our streets. Running hot water as you pour the grease down the drain will not help either. Many people are unaware that pouring hot water and detergent down the drain only breaks up grease temporarily. The best way to get rid of FOG is to let it cool/harden, mix it with other absorbent materials, place it in a bag or container and then throw it in the trash.
Food should not go down the sink. The best way to get rid of food is to compost what you can and wipe or scrape the remnants into the trash. Use a drain screen in your sink to catch any remaining bits of food as you wash the dishes. Use your garbage disposal sparingly. Using the drain as a dump will have unforeseen consequences of clogging sewer lines and possible backups in your home.
Coffee grounds and eggshells
These should be properly disposed of in the trash. Never put them in the garbage disposal. Crushed eggshells and coffee grounds can also be used for making garden compost.
Household hazardous materials
Motor oil, pesticides, paint and solvents should never be poured down the drain. All of these are highly toxic and will cause long term damage to the environment. Dispose of these items by contacting the nearest household hazardous waste collection center where these and other household items can be dropped off. If there is just a little unused paint left, put the can in a safe place (inaccessible to children, pets, or ignition sources) and remove the lid so the remaining contents can dry out. Once the contents have dried out, replace the lid and dispose of the can in the trash or recycler.
So, let’s keep our wastewater flowing and our oceans clean. Educate yourself and others. Know What to Flush and what to put down the drain. Protect our sewers and environment!