As we know, the best way to prevent the spreading of the COVID-19 virus is through regular hand washing and constant disinfecting. Disinfecting wipes are the easiest way to ensure that your surfaces are clean and virus-free. While these wipes are important and necessary especially in times of a pandemic, it’s also just as important that we’re still thinking about the environment and proper disposal systems for these cleaning products.
Many individuals think that because something like a Clorox wipe resembles toilet paper, it can simply be flushed down the toilet, however, this couldn’t be more untrue. Flushing disinfectant wipes can cause major blockages and damage to your local sewer system, which in the long run is definitely not a good thing, instead, experts recommend just throwing them in the garbage.
“Flushing wipes, paper towels and similar products down toilets will clog sewers and cause backups and overflows at wastewater treatment facilities, creating an additional public health risk in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” California’s Water Resources Control Board said in a news release.
California uses a centralized sewage collection system that relies on water flow and gravity to move waste to where it belongs. While toilet paper is designed to dissolve in those pipelines, things like wipes and paper towels don’t have the same ability. California has already reported issues with blockages in their system.
Due to an increase in panic buying, toilet paper has become one of the hardest products to buy. Some people are turning to flushable wipes in times of shortages, however, experts claim that even products that claim to be “flushable” really aren’t. According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, all wipes labelled “septic safe” of any sort can still cause major damage to sewer systems.
Wipes are made of synthetic materials, and when these materials combine with other personal hygiene products and disinfectant chemicals that are then poured down the drain, they can break down into large pieces that can block pipes and damage systems in general.
“When a product is labeled ‘flushable’ it generally means that it will clear your toilet bowl. It does not mean it will definitely clear your pipes or break down in the sewer system or at a wastewater treatment plant,” according to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
It’s for these reasons that when it comes time to stock up on necessities like toilet paper, we’re remembering to be considerate to all of those in our community and not selfishly hoarding massive amounts of one certain supply for the sake of feeling better about the entire pandemic.
On the other end, The Association of the Non-woven Fabrics Industry, which is a global trade association that works with a bunch of manufacturers including those for flushable wipes, released a guideline for “flushables” back in 2018 that claims if certain wipes pass the test, they’re good to flush.
The wipes must break into small pieces quickly, not be buoyant, and only contain ingredients that will degrade in natural settings, according to the criteria. However, the average individual at home isn’t going to go out of their way to make sure that their disinfectant wipes meet these requirements, so to be safe, throw away any disinfectant wipes and keep maintaining proper hygiene.
When it comes down to it, if the wipes in your home claim to be flushable, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to actually flush them, however, it’s always best to ease on the side of caution, and properly dispose of any and all cleaning products that you’re using inside of the home. Just because we’re in the middle of a viral pandemic, doesn’t mean that our environment has stopped suffering either.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.