What the Flush?

Flushing toilet

The difference between flushable and treatable might not be a question asked by the city dweller. If the item effortlessly flushed away, all is fine, right? Actually, no, it may not be all right. 

Flushed items don’t just magically disappear when out of sight. Once discarded, they either break down back into the environment, or they don’t break down. Here is where the difference between flushable and treatable becomes very significant to those who maintain city sewer lines. 

A flushable item is one that will physically flush down the toilet, but it will not necessarily  break down into smaller pieces as it moves through the underground network of pipes and pumps. Treatable items, i.e., human waste and toilet paper, will break down during the journey from the house to the wastewater treatment facility. Roger Krieger, Community Services Director for the City of Deer Park explains, “I know some products, such as wipes, kitty litter and others, advertise as being flushable. But being flushable does not mean it is treatable. If an item does not break down, it will eventually create a clog. In addition, it creates wear and tear that really shouldn’t be occurring on the pumps.” He explained the city had to spend $1,500,000 on equipment to help remove the build-up of wipes and other non-deteriorating items within the system. Even an accumulation of underwear had found its way into the system and had to be pulled out! 

It is not only solid items to be wary of; products with labels such as “dangerous, caution, flammable, poisonous, corrosive” or other hazardous warning words should never be flushed into the system. These items dissolve and contaminate the water, altering the ecological balance in a bad way. 

In short, the only items which should be flushed down the toilet are the items that were designed to flush – human waste and biodegradable toilet paper. The toilet is not an alternate trash bin for household goods. Below is an extensive list of items which should never be flushed into a public sewer system. All these items do not degrade in water, eventually causing blockages, wear and tear on expensive equipment and/or contaminate the local ecology:

  • Cooking Grease/Oil
  • Cleaning Wipes and Cleaning Pads
  • Paper towels/tissues
  • Face Masks
  • Dental Floss
  • Hair
  • Q-tips/Cotton Balls
  • Band-Aids
  • Diapers
  • Kitty Litter
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Medicines
  • Needles
  • Cigarette Butts
  • Home cleaning fluids with warning labels requesting “proper disposal”
  • Pesticides and fertilizers
  • Pool chemicals
  • Paints, glaze, thinners, strippers
  • Gasoline, antifreeze

The Washington State Department of Ecology services and maintains county household hazardous waste disposal sites. Free of charge for residents (not businesses) and with certain daily limits, the North County Transfer and Recycling Station accepts a variety of dangerous household waste on:

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