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To Flush or Not To Flush

Trash Can vs. Toilet

Post Date:03/18/2020 2:06 PM

We know that the toilet can sometimes seem like a magical trash can, instantly transporting things it might otherwise be more difficult to get rid of. Many may think that once items are out of sight and out of mind, they aren’t their problem anymore.

The reality is that everything that is flushed is actually going SOMEWHERE. Often times that “somewhere” is starting a new clog in your home’s plumbing system or the city sewer system and items can wreak havoc further down the line.

What can you do to help ensure your toilet remains clog-free, reduce the risk of damage to wastewater treatment facilities or municipal sewer systems, and minimize the effects of our sewers on the environment? It’s quite simple: there are only two things any toilet was designed to flush – human waste and toilet paper. If it isn’t one of those two things, don’t flush it.

What about all of the products that say they’re perfectly fine to flush? Well, they’re not. Our sewer systems weren’t designed to handle the materials these modern “flushable” items are made of. Flushable wipes don’t break down the same way toilet paper does, so while they might not cause a clog right away, they do tend to catch other items and act as the building blocks for major blockages. The same goes for flushable cat litter. It may sound like a sensible idea but clay is not suited to travel through pipes. It only takes one clump getting stuck to create a big problem for your home, your neighbors’ homes, or the entire city.

ITEMS THAT SHOULD NEVER BE FLUSHED:

  • Baby wipes (all kinds, including the “flushable” toddler or adult wipes), paper towels, napkins, or any other “paper” product that isn’t toilet paper
  • Cotton balls, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, fabric softener/dryer sheets, or similar fibrous materials
  • Hair (ladies and gents with long hair, please use a trashcan when you clean out your brushes!)
  • Cat litter, even the “flushable” kind
  • Condoms – they basically inflate like balloons and can be a destructive obstruction (don’t flush balloons either!)
  • Band-aids and dental floss – these both tangle up with small clogs to turn them into big clogs
  • Prescription medications and cosmetics – while anything that goes in or on your body might seem safe, these items can be potentially toxic to wildlife and/or leach into our drinking water. Many pharmacies will “take back” leftover medications – check a local pharmacy, hospital or the public health authority for similar disposal programs. The Sioux City Police Department has a drop-off box for prescription drugs available during lobby hours.Please make sure the medicines are in their original containers or properly bagged.
  • Tampons, maxi pads, and other feminine hygiene products
  • Razors, blades, syringes, needles, etc. – these can cause serious injury to municipal sewage/wastewater workers and to wildlife. Contact your local pharmacy or public health authority for safe ways to dispose of this type of item.
  • Gum – obviously something that is a sticky ball will get hung up somewhere

It’s important to understand that minor clogs can happen no matter how diligent you are, but the risk of a highly damaging, expensive to deal with clog in your home or the municipal sewage system is GREATLY reduced by only flushing appropriate things and properly maintaining your toilet. The City may not be liable for damage caused as a result of a backflow into homes and businesses when users flush items that are not compatible with the system.

Save money, be a good citizen, and help take care of our sewage systems!

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