Septic Systems 101: Are You Damaging Your Septic System By Flushing… Flushable Wipes?
Flushable Wipes are becoming used more and more in our every day lives. In fact, in 2009 alone Americans spent over $4.5 billion dollars on these disposable non woven cloths. That equals out to 250,356 tons of wipes being flushed or thrown away by Americans in 2009 alone. Since wipes are so convenient, this number is expected to raise every year.
Flushable wipes do not break down. They only “flush”.
That equals out to Six hundred twenty five million, seven hundred and ninety thousand personal wipes used in 2009!
Wipes began being used and disposed of commercially in the late 1970’s, becoming a household staple soon after. Flushable wipes are made to be durable enough for rigorous use and cleaning, similar to that of a paper towel, yet are advertised as being “flushable”. The popularity of wipes skyrocketed because they are more effective for cleaning because they don’t break down. Anything flushed down the toilet into your septic system needs to be able to break down.
Wipes can be made of different materials. The most common personal wipe materials include natural fibers like cotton, tree pulp and others.
Personal Wipes also include certain plastic resins like polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyester used as binding agents to give baby wipes that strong, durable feel you love.
Materials are chosen for this exact reason: To provide a wipe that can be used multiple times on different jobs without breaking down or disintegrating.
This also accounts for why flushable wipes Are one of the worst items you can ever flush down your toilet.
The Most common flushable wipes Include:
- Infant care wipes
- Home cleaning and care wipes
- Makeup removal wipes
- Adult hygiene wipes
- Industrial cleaning wipes (lysol wipes, windex wipes, etc)
- Auto wipes
Why You Should Never Flush Wipes
If sewer was perfect, all debris would be able to flow neatly to a processing plant. This isn’t the case, and we still don’t have a perfect sewer infrastructure.
This is due to a number of reasons including:
- Toilets that are outdated.
- Toilets that aren’t maintained.
- Sewer systems that are structurally deficient.
- Sewer treatment systems that are overworked.
- Sewer treatment systems that are outdated or need repairs..
Baby wipes and other personal care wipes do not break up in a sewer system or a septic system. In fact, flushing chemicals, wipes, or other items into your septic tank can cause the waste eating bacteria to die, costing you expensive repairs of your septic system. Getting your septic tank inspected & pumped regularly is a must if you plan on using wipes.
Pumps in sewer, and certain septic systems will be clogged by wipes and other debris. Again, needing expensive repairs costing you tax dollars, or repair costs for personal septic systems. By flushing wipes you could not only look at paying for septic and sewer, but even pay for expensive plumbing repairs depending on the severity of the issue.
To be completely safe, flush only toilet paper. If any other unnatural material enters your septic tank you will be at risk of a critical error or failure.
What Happens When You Flush Wipes
In older residential sewers baby wipes become caught in pipes that are misaligned, or have areas with exposed edges that debris can become attached to.
Wipes and other Debris become caught and form together into one, singular mass until a clog occurs. As more wipes accumulate, it becomes more difficult for sewage to reach processing plants, and becomes easier for a sewage backup to occur, and even enter into your home.
Wipes that are able to make it to a water treatment plant clog intake pumps requiring costly fixes that come from: You guessed it, your tax dollars.
Wipes VS Toilet Paper: What’s The Difference?
Take a look at the image above:
When toilet paper hits water, it dissolves almost instantly. For an at home experiment try cleaning counters with toilet paper and a paper towel.
The toilet paper will dissolve rather instantly, while the paper towel stays strong. Most wet wipes are stronger than paper towels.
If you wouldn’t flush a paper towel down the drain, why would you flush a wet wipe?
Your septic tank cannot process solid material. Every flushable wipe that enters into your septic system brings you another step closer to costly damage that could even result in a total septic replacement costing tens of thousands. If you haven’t had your septic tank checked out in a few years, let us know for a consultation. This is why it’s so important to routinely have your septic tank pumped. With routine pumping, your septic tank will improve your quality of life and give you total freedom from being connected to sewer.
The reason toilet paper is tolerated by septic systems and sewer systems is because of the way toilet paper is made. Toilet paper is woven, and made of only light cotton, causing a near instant disintegration when touching water.
Most all wipes are made spun laced with plastic fibers to keep them strong. This includes personal care wipes, auto wipes, or any conventional wet wipe.
While plastic laced wipes stay strong when being used, they also stay strong when traveling through your septic system or sewer system. So much so that often times it takes decades for wipes to break down, leaving microscopic plastic residue that can damage the environment and the healthy bacteria in your septic tank.
wet wipes won’t even break down in agitated water.
Most all wipes are made with spun laced plastic fibers to keep them strong, and prevent breakdown: exactly what you don’t want. They won’t even break down in agitated water. agitated meaning movement.
Think of placing toilet paper in one blender, and wet wipes in another and turning them on. This is simulating agitated water. In many independent studies, wet wipes simply never broke down. For a septic system, it means the same thing.
Speedy Septic recommends not using wipes. If you have to, throw them away. The only material meant to enter your septic system is from you. There are some wipes on the market that are advertised as “septic safe”. Before believing you can flush these wipes into your septic system, remember that flush-able does not mean that the wipe will break down. Still, if you want to use wipes, schedule your septic pumping regularly to ensure no damage occurs.
A septic safe wipe will need to breakdown in water similarly to toilet paper, and can be easily separated by hand.
The Cost of Flushing Wipes
Not only does flushing wipes cost the city and the sewer system, flushable wipes will cost you the most: By destroying your septic tank, or your city sewer system costing you tax money when sewer systems or water plants reach a critical error. It’s important to also have your septic tank flushed every 3-5 years depending on the number of occupants in your home. If you aren’t sure if your septic service needs maintenance, use this form to call or email us and let us know.