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Covid-19 has made everyone more aware on the importance of personal hygiene and the need to take extra care.

As toilet paper, wipes, and paper towels fly off the shelves, it’s important we clarify what you can safely flush down our toilets. More than ever, now is the time to save your sewer system from clogging by being attentively careful when disposing of certain items.

Many items we use daily cannot go down our toilets or drains. Unintentionally and without knowing the gravity of your action, several things you might be flushing down your toilet could be clogging up your sewer system, public sewers and even potentially damage wastewater treatment plants. So, here’s a list of what isn’t flush-worthy hence ensuring that your drainpipes stay clog-free and our wastewater treatment system keeps running smoothly.

Some of them are obvious, but there are also a few that we thought were good to go but should never pass in the sewage system.

Paper towels – It’s true, paper towels might look and feel like toilet paper, but they should never go down the toilet. What makes paper towels so effectual at cleaning spills is the same reason they will cause glitches to your sewer system, if you had to dispose them in your toilet. Moreover, what makes them more a cause of clogs is the fact that they are resistant to dissolving in water.

Disinfectant wipes – Wet wipes are one of the nastiest enemies in modern sanitary systems and since the start of this pandemic, the use of disinfectant wipes caused widespread drainage problems. Though the packaging for this sanitary product may claim these to be flushable, the truth is totally the opposite, since any type of wipes; being disinfectant, wet or for babies, do not disintegrate like toilet paper. Hence, they are accountable for causing half of the world-wide sewer blockages and can lead to very high repair costs.

Similarly, cosmetic wipes do not dissolve in water and have a very undesirable impact on the sewage treatment process. In the case of baby wipes, they’re smooth, gentle, and soft, but they don’t break down like toilet tissue. And just because wipes aren’t harmful to babies, it doesn’t mean they won’t hurt the environment. Baby wipes are not decomposable, so they shouldn’t be flushed. All existing type of wipes remain intact after flushing, which can eventually build up in your drainage pipes to create a clog and therefore damage the sewer system.

Condoms – You might not realise it, but even the occasional condom flush can be very destructive to the environment. The toilets work under the same principles, whether you’re in a hotel or your own house. So, even if you’re in a hotel, you still need to be responsible and not throw your used condoms down the toilet.

Things you should never flush down the toilet

You may have to call a plumber to work on your toilet and sewer system because sooner or later, the used condoms will block the toilet. Since condoms are non-biodegradable, they will only pile up in your sewer once flushed down the toilet.

Cotton Balls, Rounds or Swabs – Although cotton balls, rounds, and swabs might seem small enough to flush, they can cause big problems inside your drain pipes. Many might reason that for example, tiny balls of cotton wool would just get soggy and eventually break down in the pipes, but they don’t. They can gather in bends of drainpipes and cause serious blockages.

Dental Floss – Even dental floss can cause clogging to your drainpipes hence flushing this cord of thin filaments can cause significant damage both to the sewage network and the environmental. Dental floss does not break down easily in water and can build up over time if flushed. If the floss is flushed down, it can wrap around other items flushed after it, creating even larger clumps that will eventually clog sewers and pipes. Moreover, it can also wrap around parts of your septic system and burn out pumping equipment.Therefore, after practicing good dental hygiene, toss your floss in the trash.

Hair – Like dental floss, sending hair down the drain can cause larger problems later. Hair forms a sort of net when you flush it down the drain and gets easily trapped in your drainage pipes. Furthermore, hair never liquefies so it’s an even greater risk for blockages in your sewer system.

Cigarette butts – Cigarette butts are toxic, and they are also another waste item that can introduce potentially harmful chemicals into the water system. Obviously, we surely don’t want that in our water stream! Cigarette butts don’t always go down the drain after being flushed. It’s important that after you had extinguished your cigarette, dispose it in the trash.

Medications – Many people might think that you are doing the right and the safest thing by flushing medications down the toilet, but you aren’t. If you have old pills that you need to get rid of, don’t flush the pills — toilet water doesn’t break them down properly, meaning the medication gets into the water and can cause toxic environmental effects. These drugs can destroy important bacteria which is necessary for the wastewater treatment process, contaminate groundwater and also impact the environment. Thus, if you want to dispose of old medications, bring out of date/unused medicine to your local pharmacy for safe removal.

Sanitary Products – Tampons, sanitary pads, and other sanitary products are designed to absorb liquid and, in some cases, expand to several times larger than their original size. However, for instance, tampons say they’re flushable right on the box, yet, once you realize that tampons, maxi pads, wipes, and other “flush-friendly” products can destroy your sewage system, you’ll think twice about ever flushing them again. To be safe, always dispose of sanitary products in the trash.

Fats, Oils, or Grease – As a rule, you shouldn’t flush food down the toilet at all, and especially when it comes to fats, oils, and grease as they can be particularly problematic for drains. Therefore, just like you shouldn’t put cooking grease down the drain, you should never flush grease. When grease cools, it congeals which makes it thicker and leads to risk in clogging your drainage pipes. So, after cooking, allow fats, oils, and grease to cool completely and solidify before throwing the remains in the trash.

It’s important to understand that our toilets, whether at home or our workplace, are not trash cans made for dumping personal care and hygiene products. They aren’t a replacement for your garbage can. It’s also important to instruct our children to follow good practices in the bathroom.

Whenever you are flushing any of the items mentioned in this article down a toilet, you’re not only damaging the sewer system but also impeding the proper treatment of our wastewater and therefore contributing to environmental pollution. Always keep in mind to protect your drainage system, our sewer networks, our wastewater treatment plants and ultimately our environment. When in doubt, always throw it in your trash rather than flushing and visit the dedicated website www.ppp.com.mt

Every little helps. Be the change!

This content was supplied by the Energy and Water Agency